Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) takes her first step as an author -- of legislation. Her initial bill in the U.S. Senate seeks to help the tribes by creating a Commission on Native Children.
She says Native children have the third highest rate of victimization in the country, and suicide is the second leading cause of death -- 2.5 times the national rate. She also notes only about 50% of Native high school students graduate.
So why does the Senator believe this effort will produce results, when other programs have been less than successful?
"It's really important what we're trying to do is not look at each discrete statistic and come up with a reaction to that, but to put our arms around the entire problem and begin to have a systemic, long term discussion about how we're going to effectuate change for so many of our Native children."
The Senator emphasizes no one has ever given this issue the status of a Commission, which will be dissolved after three years when the study is complete. The study will cost two million dollars-- paid for with unexpended funds from the Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, and Department of Health and Human Services.
Joining Heitkamp's effort is Senator Lisa Mukowsky, an Alaska Republican. All five North Dakota tribes endorse Senator Heitkamp's bill.
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