Rep. McCollum urges tribes to 'adopt' all members of Congress

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: State of Indian Nations 2016

Every tribe should "adopt" a member of Congress in order to keep lawmakers informed of the issues facing their people, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) said at the State of Indian Nations on Thursday.

McCollum, who serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, noted that there are 567 federally recognized tribes. That's more than enough to cover all 435 members of the House and 100 in the Senate.

"Pick one," McCollum said as she provided a Congressional response to the speech at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. "Share the voices and the stories of your people, educate their staff, invite them out to visit your nation."

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) speaks at the State of Indian Nations in Washington, D.C., on January 16, 2016. Photo from Facebook

"I can tell you from personal experience, there is just no substitute for visiting a tribal community," McCollum added.

As evidence, McCollum pointed to a trip she made with fellow lawmakers to the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe last year. Seeing the conditions of Bureau of Indian Education and hearing from students first-hand helped secure a significant boost in funding for school replacement and construction, she said.

"By the end of that trip, we had brainstormed half a dozen new ways to fund BIE schools because it was clear to us just how urgent the need was," said McCollum, who sits on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the panel that controls the budget for Indian programs.

The fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that became law last month includes a total of $138 million for BIE school replacement, maintenance and other fixes. The amount is $64 million higher than the 2015 level.

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