Issue Position: Hillary Clinton Unveils South Dakota Native American Agenda
Hillary Clinton unveiled her proposal to provide increased opportunity and improve the quality of services for South Dakota's Native American community today. Her plan, grounded in the principle of tribal sovereignty, focuses on job creation, improving the quality of health care and combating crime.
"For seven years, the Bush Administration has failed to live up to its commitment to the Native American community in South Dakota and across the nation," Hillary said. "By making targeted investments to create good-paying jobs and ensuring everyone has access to quality, affordable health care and by continuing to partner with the Native American community within the government to government framework, we can begin to undo some of the damage President Bush's neglect has caused."
Four of the five counties with the lowest per capita income are in South Dakota's Indian country, reversing a trend of successful economic growth in the 1990's. As President, Hillary will invest in work force development programs to ensure Native Americans are prepared for the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the 21st century. She will also fund research in renewable energies, including wind and solar, which will help lower energy costs and create good jobs in Indian country.
"Native Americans had a productive partnership with the Clinton administration during the 1990's, and Hillary understands the importance of that partnership in improving the quality of life in our community," said Lula Red Cloud. "Native Americans in South Dakota need a President who will provide economic opportunities and curb the health, addiction and crime problems that are sweeping across our communities, and Hillary has the proposals and the experience to do just that."
Hillary's plan will expand access to affordable health care by increasing funding for the Indian Health Service budget and elevating the director of the Indian Health Service to the Assistant Secretary level. She will declare war on juvenile diabetes to counter the skyrocketing incidence rate of the disease among young Native Americans.
The plan also targets increased crime rates, particularly crimes related to the sale and use of crystal meth, by providing additional resources for Indian country law enforcement.
Hillary's full Native American Agenda for South Dakota is below.
Hillary Clinton's Native American Agenda for South Dakota: Provide Vital Services to Strengthen Tribal Economy, Health Care and Education, and to Combat Crime
Today, Hillary Clinton reaffirmed her support for tribal sovereignty and her respect for the government-to-government relationship between the tribes of South Dakota and the federal government. Hillary announced she will partner with the nine tribes in South Dakota to improve the economy, health care, education and housing throughout the state.
Native Americans are the largest minority in South Dakota with a population of approximately 62,000.[i] About 42,500 American Indians in South Dakota live on reservations. As President, Hillary is committed to expanding health care to all Native Americans and providing better housing arrangements on the nine reservations in South Dakota, which include Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Flandreau, Lake Traverse, Lower Brule, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton. The Rose Bud and Pine Ridge Reservations are the poorest areas in the United States, with a third of their population considered homeless. Thousands of Native Americans in South Dakota continue to live without health coverage despite the attempts of the Indian Health Service to make health care services available to everyone.
Unfortunately, our government has not always acknowledged its commitment to Native Americans. Hillary has pledged to re-open the doors of the White House to tribes in South Dakota. "I stand with you in your fight for affordable housing, a better economy and access to quality health care and good schools," she said.
As President, Senator Clinton will:
Work to Improve Health Care for Native Americans: The average life expectancy for Native Americans is 71 years of age-- nearly five years less than the rest of the population.[ii] In South Dakota, Native Americans on the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations have the shortest life expectancy of any minority group in the United States, and approximately 16,000 Native Americans across the state do not have access to proper health care.[iii] 30 percent of Native Americans do not have health insurance, compared to the 16 percent national average of Americans without health coverage.[iv] In addition, American Indians experience troubling rates of diabetes, mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and influenza. They are 650 percent more likely to die from tuberculosis, 420 percent more likely to die from diabetes and 52 percent more likely to die from pneumonia or influenza than the United States average, including white and minority populations.
In the Senate, Hillary has taken steps to improve the access and quality of health care for Native Americans by co-sponsoring the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendment of 2007, a comprehensive piece of legislation that passed the Senate in February and will improve health care for American Indians in South Dakota and throughout the country.
As President, Hillary is committed to meaningful increases to the Indian Health Service (IHS) budget to provide all Native Americans access to quality, affordable health care. She will address the troubling health care disparities Native Americans experience by elevating the director of the Indian Health Service to the Assistant Secretary level in order to place more emphasis on the health care needs of American Indians in the Department of Health and Human Services. The IHS is severely underfunded, and a lack of available facilities forces citizens in remote locations to travel great distances for routine check ups.[v] On average, Native Americans in South Dakota must travel 50 miles for routine check ups with IHS family physicians. Hillary supports increasing the budget of the IHS to make health care accessible to everyone.
Declare a War on Diabetes for Native American Youth: From 1994 to 2004, the rate of diabetes diagnoses in Native Americans fifteen years old and younger nearly doubled from 1.3 percent to 2.2 percent of the population[vi]. Native American youth with diabetes are usually diagnosed with type 2, which is associated with risk factors such as obesity and inactivity.[vii] In South Dakota, Native Americans are more likely to die from diabetes by a rate of 9.1 percent compared with 2.9 percent of whites.[viii] By increasing funding for the IHS, Hillary will institute a new initiative to take on diabetes through an aggressive campaign to stop and reverse the increasing incidences among Native Americans nationwide. A better funded IHS will provide preventive tools and better services to those affected by diabetes at any stage in life.
Strengthen the Economy for Native Americans: Strengthen the Economy for Native Americans: Four of the five counties in the United States with the lowest per capita income are on South Dakota Indian reservations. Even more troubling, over the last seven years, income levels for Native Americans have remained stagnant. In South Dakota, less than 40 percent of the reservation population is employed, which is compounded by a significant lack of private sector jobs on most reservations. Hillary believes we need to recapture the successful rates of economic growth that occurred on reservations in South Dakota during the 1990s. She has a plan to revive this nation's economy by investing $2.5 billion per year, which includes investments in tribes, in order to strengthen the nation's work force development efforts. Her plan to prepare our workers for the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the future builds on her bold agenda to create good, high-wage jobs in America. Hillary has made a commitment to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011, and index to congressional salaries after that. She has also proposed expanding the earned income tax credit, tripling the current benefit for single workers and making the benefit more generous for larger families. Her plan will also restore funding for the New Market Tax Credit and Empowerment Zones programs, which help attract private capital and businesses to low-income areas, such as those in South Dakota.
Encourage Energy Efficient Development on Reservations: The average home heating bill in South Dakota costs between $1080 and $1380 a year.[ix] Hillary supports the rights of tribal governments to adopt and regulate their own environmental policies, but she also understands the important role the federal government plays in catalyzing energy efficiency in Indian Country. Her $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund will invest in renewables and clean energy technologies that will help create at least 5 million green collar jobs. As president, Hillary will create and expand federal-tribal partnerships to promote the use of solar and wind power in Indian Country. In addition to creating new jobs, the weatherization of Native American homes will curb rising costs and improve energy efficiency. As part of a major nationwide weatherization initiative, Hillary will work to fund the weatherization of all low-income homes in Indian Country.
Improve Native American Housing: Native American families live in overcrowded homes and lack plumbing, telephone service and kitchen facilities at rates far exceeding the general public. Approximately one-third of the population of Pine Ridge is considered homeless.[x] While thousands are not sleeping on the street, small, poorly built family homes are overcrowded. Hillary supports efforts to improve the acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction of affordable housing on Indian lands in South Dakota. Specifically, Hillary would increase funding for the Native American Housing Block Grant and modernize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. These increases will make more housing options available to low-income Native Americans.
Increase Funding for the Indian Head Start Program: A September 2007 study from National Geographic revealed that tribal languages are the most vulnerable to extinction in the world. Hillary supports Pre-K schooling programs that support a child's native language. Consistent with all Head Start programs, the American Indian Head Start Program supports the rich and diverse culture and heritage of the children they serve, and encourages teachers to incorporate language and culture into their curriculum and program goals. The two main languages spoken by tribes in South Dakota are Lakota and Dakota. Hillary will encourage the teaching of these languages in Tribal Head Start in South Dakota. Her national pre-K initiative will extend access to high-quality pre-K in South Dakota that can either be partnered with existing Indian Head Start programs or be used to establish other tribally sponsored pre-K programs. She will ensure that tribally-sponsored pre-K programs in South Dakota receive federal matching dollars just as state programs do. Her program is designed so that children from low-income families and children from limited English households can enroll in pre-K programs at no cost.
Increase Support for Tribal Colleges and Institutions Serving Native Americans: Since the late 1960s, the nation's tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) have played a critical role in promoting tribally-determined higher education. Currently, there are three TCUs in South Dakota providing culturally-relevant teaching, community outreach, and research services to tribal communities throughout the country. Hillary supports increased funding for tribal colleges. She voted for the recently signed College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which includes $10 million to help create a program for Native American Serving Institutions. Hillary wants to increase the number of Native American students graduating from public high schools from 66 percent to eighty percent in South Dakota helping to fund efforts being taken by the South Dakota Department of Education and the tribes designed to encourage more Native American youth to graduate from high school and pursue college degrees.
Law Enforcement for Indian Country: American Indians experience violence at rates more than twice the rate for the country as a whole.[xi] In 2007, 63 percent of defendants charged in South Dakota were Native American.[xii] There are only about 2,500 Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal uniformed police officers serving an estimated 1.4 million Indians covering more than 56 million acres of tribal lands in the lower 48 states. On tribal lands, 1.3 officers must serve every 1,000 citizens, compared to 2.9 officers per 1,000 citizens in non-Indian communities with populations under 10,000.[xiii] These staffing levels are simply insufficient to meet the law enforcement challenges facing Indian Country. Amnesty International recently released a report that concluded that one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime. And, in recent years methamphetamine has disproportionately devastated Native American tribal communities- Native Americans are more than four times as likely as whites to use crystal methamphetamine.[xiv] In South Dakota a rate of about 2.9 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 25 reported methamphetamine use.[xv] An informal survey of the seven FBI offices located primarily in Indian Country estimated that approximately 40-50% of violent crime cases investigated in Indian Country involve meth.[xvi] Hillary supports providing resources for law enforcement in Indian Country, promoting state-tribal cooperative agreements where appropriate to reduce crime, and improving the collection of data on Indian Country crime and how those crimes are handled by authorities.