Murkowski Calls to Advance Alaska Specific Legislation During Senate Indian Affairs Hearing
Aims To Improve Health Care and Protect Alaska Native Cultural Items
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took part in a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs legislative hearing which included two Alaska specific bills of which Senator Murkowski is the sponsor: S. 3099, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019 and S. 3100, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019. The hearing also addressed a bill of which Senator Murkowski is a lead cosponsor, S. 2165, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act of 2019, which is strongly supported by tribes in Alaska.
Senator Murkowski began her opening remarks by outlining the importance of her land transfer bills, explaining that both bills were necessary to ensure Alaska’s lands and health care resources are used in the best possible way.
“SEARHC services an area over 42,000 miles of the Southeast Alaska panhandle. There’s no roads connecting most of the areas that they serve, and so what SEARHC is seeking to do is to construct a hospital that is able to meet the needs to improve patient care and provide the best possible care for generations. We also recognize that when you have lousy facilities, it’s really tough to recruit good providers, so an exchange of 10 acres is actually going to help,” said Senator Murkowski.
Senator Murkowski also spoke to the STOP Act, a bill introduced by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) which helps ensure that only legally obtained items, such as Alaska Native and Native American cultural items, are eligible for removal to other countries. She went on to share an Alaska-specific example to help emphasize the importance of advancing this legislation.
“In Alaska I have heard on numerous occasions from one of our strong Native Cultural Leaders, Dr. Rosita Worl of the Sealaska Heritage Institute. She tells the story time and time again, how her people have attempted to repatriate their at.oowu. These are the sacred objects held by entities overseas. Their objects are basically auctioned off to the highest bidder. These sacred objects, of course, are very personal to the Native people, believed to host the spirits of their ancestors. But then when you see these objects are sold to individuals, often times sold to folks who place them into private holdings, further alienating them from the communities where they belong—it is yet further injustice,” said Senator Murkowski.
ADDITIONAL BILL DETAILS:
S. 3099, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019
In December of 2019, Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced S. 3099, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019. The bill would transfer 10.87 acres of U.S. Health and Human Services land to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health (SEARHC) located in Sitka, Alaska. The land to be conveyed is comprised of two parcels to be considered for renovations and expansion to MEH facilities. The property transfer authorized by this bill would enable the SEARHC to renovate existing, and construct, new health care facilities providing improved services to several communities in southeast Alaska. Founded in 1975, the SEARHC is one of the oldest and largest native-run health organizations in the country. SEARHC is a non -profit tribal health consortium that provides health and social services to 18 native communities, including the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples, in southeast Alaska.
S. 3100, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019
In December of 2019, Senators Murkowski and Sullivan introduced S. 3100, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019. The bill would transfer two parcels of U.S. Health and Human Services land to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). The land to be conveyed of title by warranty deed will assist ANTHC with providing more health services.
S. 2165, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2019
In July of 2019, Senator Heinrich introduced S. 2165. Senators Murkowski, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Udall (D-NM), and Lankford (R-OK) are original co-sponsors.
The STOP Act:
- Creates an explicit prohibition on exporting cultural heritage obtained in violation of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA), or Antiquities Act. The bill also sets forth an exporter certification system to accompany the export prohibition.
- Confirms the President's authority to enter into agreements under a 1970 international treaty in order to request the return of tribal cultural heritage from other countries.
- Creates a federal framework to support the voluntary return of Native American tangible cultural heritage.