Chair McCollum Statement at Tribal Programs Public Witness Hearing
Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's second day of public witness hearings on tribal programs:
Good morning! Welcome to the second day of public witness hearings on tribal programs under the jurisdiction of the Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee. This year, in the hopes of having a more in-depth focus on issues facing Indian country, we have organized witnesses according to the following topics:
- health care;
- land, trust, and natural resource management,
including climate change;
- public safety and justice;
- education; and
- tribal government and human services.
Yesterday we heard from witnesses about urgent health care needs, and the important needs and issues impacting land, trust, and natural resources, including climate change. This morning, we will finish the remaining panels on resources, before moving to panels on public safety and justice. We will conclude this morning’s hearing with witnesses on education issues.
I welcome today’s distinguished elected and non-elected tribal leaders, all of whom play an important role in educating others on Native issues and challenges. The issues we’ll be hearing about this morning are part of the treaty and trust obligation that the United States owes to Native Americans.
When it comes to public safety and justice, Indian tribes face challenges that many other governments do not – rural, isolated areas with barely passable roads, and insufficient staffing and communications equipment that is often not compatible with other law enforcement agencies. On top of that, some tribes are still operating out of buildings that have been or are about to be condemned. The situation is just as disheartening when it comes to education.
It is not uncommon for students at BIE schools to have classrooms with leaking pipes, asbestos, and improper wiring. Inadequate pay and housing affects teacher recruitment and retention. Roads are so bad that they cause delays and multi-hour bus rides. We need to do more to face these challenges so that Native youth can receive a quality education in safe, supportive schools.
Tribal colleges also face unique challenges – with spread out campuses and insufficient funding. Although tribal colleges educate non-Natives, many receive no local or state assistance to help cover the additional costs. Despite the numerous obstacles facing tribal colleges, they have done an outstanding job educating native and non-native students with the resources they have.
I am eager to learn more about your priorities, and I look forward to our discussions on these issues because your testimony is going to inform us as we begin to develop the 2020 appropriations bill. Before I turn to Mr. Joyce, I would like to cover the hearing logistics. I will call each panel of witnesses to the table, one panel at a time. Each witness will have 5 minutes to present testimony, and we will be using a timer to track the time. When the lights turn yellow, the witness will have 1 minute remaining to conclude his or her remarks. When the light blinks red, I will lightly tap the gavel and ask the witness to conclude their remarks so the next witness can begin.
Each witness’s full written statement will be introduced into the record, so do please do not feel pressured to cover everything orally. After we hear the testimony of each witness on the panel, Members will be have an opportunity to ask questions.
I would like to remind those in the hearing room that Committee Rules prohibit the use of cameras and audio equipment during the hearing by individuals without a House issued press credential.
After this morning’s hearing concludes, we will adjourn, and reconvene at 1:00 p.m. for the afternoon hearing.
And with that, I am happy to yield to my friend, Mr. Joyce, for his remarks.