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Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act of 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HERSETH SANDLIN. Mr. Speaker, I want to first thank Chairman Rahall for yielding me time and for his outstanding leadership of the Natural Resources Committee and his Office of Indian Affairs in moving this important legislation forward.

I would also like to thank the Judiciary Committee chairman, Mr. Conyers, as well as my good friend, Mr. Scott, chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Through their efforts on the Judiciary Committee, the bill has been strengthened in its final form.

I would like to thank my good friend the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Cole) and his staff for his strong partnership in moving this important bill through the House.

I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill that passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The Tribal Law and Order Act will improve law enforcement efforts and combat sexual assault and drug smuggling in Indian Country. It reauthorizes existing programs designed to strengthen tribal courts, police departments, and correction centers, as well as programs to prevent and treat alcohol and substance abuse, and improve opportunities for at-risk Indian youth.

A vote against this bill is a vote to keep the status quo, a status quo where it's estimated that one in three American Indian women and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetime.

A vote against this bill will maintain the status quo, a status quo where drug trafficking organizations are targeting Indian reservations to manufacture and distribute illegal substances because of the lack of law enforcement on Indian land.

Native American families, like all families, deserve a basic sense of safety and security in their community. Law enforcement is one of the Federal Government's trust obligations to federally recognized tribes. Yet as tribes all across the country know all too well, Congress is failing to meet that obligation.

The situation is particularly challenging for large, land-based reservations in South Dakota and elsewhere. Officials from the Oglala Sioux Department of Public Safety recently had six officers to cover the Pine Ridge Reservation, an area larger than the States of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

The kinds of problems that arise from such a limited law enforcement presence include the case of a young woman living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She'd received a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend who battered her. One night she was home alone, woke up as he attempted to break into her home with a crowbar. She immediately called the police, but due to a lack of land lines for telephones and spotty cell phone coverage, the call was cut off three times before she reported her situation to the dispatcher. The nearest officer was about 40 miles away, and even though the police officer who took the call started driving to her home at 80 miles an hour, by the time he arrived the woman was severely bloodied and beaten and the perpetrator had escaped.

Today, the House has an opportunity to deal with these issues, to deal with these issues and so many others to make a difference in the lives of Native Americans across the country. The Senate has already unanimously approved it.

Senator Jon Kyl, the Republican whip, said when the bill passed the Senate, ``Many tribal communities today lack the support and tools needed to combat the terrible violence and crimes they experience. That's why I applaud the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, which authorizes desperately needed funds for law enforcement in Indian Country.''

Senator John Barrasso, vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee added, ``Through this bill we are sending a strong message that Indian reservations will not be a haven for criminal activity, drug trafficking, gangs, or abuse.''

The Tribal Law and Order Act also has the support of the administration, the National Congress of American Indians, and many other tribal, State, and local governments and organizations.


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