Murkowski Urges America’s Native Peoples to Fight for Share of Federal Dollars

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the face of fresh efforts to reduce federal spending, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today said that America’s Native peoples must be prepared to fight hard for federal dollars that go towards the Indian Health Service and other federal Indian programs which have suffered from chronic underfunding.

“In an era in which the federal spending pie is shrinking, competition for a slice of the pie will be fierce,” Murkowski said. “But our resolve to fight for the funding levels must remain high. We cannot be deterred in our fight to achieve the funding levels our Native people deserve.”

Murkowski made her remarks to a gathering of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Alaska’s senior senator delivered the congressional response to the annual ‘State of Indian Nations Address’ delivered by the Honorable Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI.

Murkowski, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and former vice chair of the panel, said the well being of America’s Native people is a unique federal responsibility that is grounded in three provisions of the Constitution – the Indian Commerce Clause, the Treaty Clause and the Property Clause.

“This is not ‘nice to have’ spending,” Murkowski said. “This is ‘must have’ spending to fulfill the trust responsibility founded in the Constitution. So as you visit the offices of my colleagues this year, I invite you to keep your copy of the Constitution handy and bookmark the provisions I’ve discussed.”

Murkowski listed several of her personal priorities in the 112th Congress, including ways to attack the high suicide rates among American Indian and Alaska Native youth, and ensuring that Indian Country is included in national energy policy.

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Congress must focus on the relationship between energy costs and the economic sustainability of Native communities.

“Indian land contains an estimated 10 percent of all energy resources in the United States,” she said. “Yet energy resources on Native lands are vastly underdeveloped. I am one who believes that America needs an ‘all of the above’ energy policy – oil, gas, coal, alternatives and renewables. And all of the above means that we must include American Indian and Alaska Native lands in our national energy policy. We must support our Native people in their efforts to develop energy resources on Native lands, whether for use in Native communities or to generate income to support our tribal governments and tribal enterprises. I hope that we will all work together to make this a reality.”