Yellow Bird: High hopes for Indian health bill

"The $35 billion Indian Health Care Improvement Act passed the Senate on Tuesday. It will “renew and improve a broad range of Indian health programs . . . to combat the chronic shortage of health care services,” according to a news release from the office of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

This all-important American Indian health care bill has been limping along at a coyote's pace for 16 years. It has been whipped and beat-up and is damp with tears, but it's now through the first and maybe the most difficult challenge, the Senate.

Why do Indian people get funding for their health care when there is a health care problem in the nation?

First, many American Indians otherwise would have no access to health care. Second and more important, when the tribal nations in this country gave up millions of acres of land to the federal government, the compensation was the government's promise that it would provide services such as health care, education, housing and so on.

During the early years, the federal government also signed legal agreements called treaties with tribes. In those agreements, the government agreed to provide services.

Dorgan compared the funding for American Indians to the funding for people in jail: “There is more funding for health care for prisoners, than that promised for American Indians,” he said in the Senate hearings."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: A welcome measure to improve Indian health (The Grand Forks Herald 2/29)

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