Indianz.Com > News > Kevin Killer and Alicia Mousseau: Meeting the needs of Native nations
Kevin Killer
Kevin Killer, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is seen on the far left during a meeting on Native voting rights with Vice President Kamala Harris, center, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, third from left, and tribal and Native leaders at the White House on July 27, 2021. Photo by Lawrence Jackson / White House
During budget reconciliation, President Biden and Congress must take action to meet the needs of our Native Nations
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Oglala Sioux Tribe

Across the country, American Indian Nations and Tribes face many difficulties and challenges.

The conditions on our Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota are representative of the conditions on many reservations: we face extraordinarily high rates of poverty and unemployment, extreme unmet needs in the areas of education, housing, and health care, and the lowest life expectancies in the country. As President Biden and Congress work to finalize the federal budget reconciliation package, we ask them to take special notice of the needs of our Native Nations—and action to meet those needs.

For Native Nations, our challenges start young, with our sacred children. Enduring generations of economic disadvantage, our children start with poor nutrition and many families have a true need for funding to feed, clothe, and raise their children. Many times, young families and working mothers are the most in need. With our population growth, we need childhood funding. In many Native Nations, 40% or more of our overall population is under the age of 18. The child tax credit is essential for Native communities.

Pine Ridge Reservation
Youth at the Lakota Waldorf School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Native Nations desperately need our early childhood programs and funding. We need head start, pre-school education and enrichment, so our children can have an equal opportunity in American society. Native Nations desperately need school construction funding. The Administration and Congress know that our Bureau of Indian Education Schools are crumbling, unsafe and unfit to operate as schools. When BIE proposes school replacement the bureaucratic red tape means that Native American schools today have less capacity than our schools did in 1960.

The lack of funding for BIE and Tribal Schools is robbing our children of an equal education opportunity. We ask the U.S. Congress to keep our funding for BIE and Tribal schools in the Reconciliation Bill.

Native Americans suffer some of the worst overcrowded housing in America. All too often, we have multiple generations living in a single small house. Long-term overcrowding contributes to stress, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Native America needs Congress to fund Indian Housing. Some of our Native Nations have people who are living in tent cities in 110- degree heat in the summer and minus-20-degree cold in the winter—those are actual temperatures, and the wind chill is much worse.

Native Nations need hospitals and health care funding. Our Indian Health Service hospitals and health clinics are crumbling, and as they lose physical integrity, our I.H.S. health care funding falls and we lose staffing, soon the functionality of our health care facilities diminishes to the point that we are merely revolving doors to ambulance rides and life flights to other facilities.

Congress must maintain and increase the $2 billion in hospital facility funding to $5 billion. The House proposal of $2 billion for I.H.S. hospitals and health clinics only brings us forward to 1993.

During the national COVID-19 public health emergency, the terrible, poor health care and poor health status of our people has been revealed: Native Americans suffer the highest rates of any people in America in terms of serious injury, hospitalization and death from COVID-19—a rate 2.5 times the rate of white Americans. Congress must fund Indian hospitals and health clinics because Indian health care is a Treaty right and trust responsibility!

Roads funding is critical for our Native Nations. Our roads are in desperate shape. We need a surge of roads funding to promote ease of transportation, safety, and economic development on our Indian reservations.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe maintains 560 miles of Bureau of Indian Affairs roads and bridges on our reservation. However, our average funding from BIA is only $860 per mile, compared with $4,020 per mile for South Dakota. We need far more long-term, sustainable funding to bring our roads up to the status of other areas.

With deep respect, we call upon President Biden and Congress to help the most vulnerable Americans: Native Americans.

Kevin Killer is the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Alicia Mousseau of Vice-President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

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