Senator Lisa Mukowski is calling for a national commission to investigate challenges facing Alaska Native and America Indian children. She introduced the legislation today, along with a Democrat from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, who sits on the Indian Affairs committee with her. Murkowski spoke on the Senate Floor and echoed a group of children from Tanana who gave a courageous talk at AFN.
“We have to speak out. Even though we have been told don’t talk about this, don’t talk about this because it might shame your family, these children had the courage to step forward and say this is not right. We are taught to respect our elders, but when our elders don’t respect us, we are going to speak out,” said Murkowski.
The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children would conduct a study into concerns like high rates of poverty and unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, and drug abuse. Murkowski acknowledged that some people doubt the effectiveness of new commissions, but said this could help inspire some hope.
“We are trying to look at this holistically, through the education system, the health care system and through the justice system. And I am really quite pleased to be able to work with my colleague on this initiative. I don’t think that there is anything more important that we can be doing for our young people than to offer them a ray of hope,” said Murkowski.
The 11-member group would make recommendations on ways to better use current programs and resources. The commission would also seek to build partnerships with private organizations and improve the quality of data about native youth.