WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. senators from Alaska and North Dakota introduced a bill Wednesday that would establish a commission to study the challenges facing Native American children and propose ways of improving their welfare.
The measure was introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and would create a Commission on Native Children to study high rates of poverty and unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime and substance abuse, as well as a lack of opportunity.
"Last week at the Alaska Federation of Natives, we heard a group of kids from Tanana speak up with tremendous courage and express that they have had enough of violence, alcohol, drugs, and suicide in their communities," said Murkowski. "Their call for us to take a pledge to protect our communities against suicide is a call to action for all of us."
It would be funded with up to $2 million to establish an 11-member commission, which would deliver its recommendations within three years and then disband, leaving it up to federal, state and tribal leaders to follow through on the proposals.
The commission would be named after Alyce Spotted Bear, the former chairwoman of North Dakota's Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, and Walter Soboleff, an Alaska Native elder and statesman.