Kilmer Seeks to Shine a Spotlight on Disparities Facing Tribal Communities
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) led a bipartisan group of Members of Congress urging the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to update a 2003 report to provide clear details on the disparities facing Native American communities. The original report, A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country found that federal investments too often failed to provide quality health care, education, and housing among other basic needs.
In the letter, Kilmer and 19 Members of Congress noted that since the original report was published, the needs of Native American communities have continued to grow, while investments have not kept pace. Kilmer stated that the Commission should produce a new review so the federal government can continue to fulfill its trust and treaty obligations.
“Native communities nationwide lack adequate housing, health facilities, schools, justice centers, roads, telecommunications, water, and other basic infrastructure that makes it difficult to deliver needed support services and programs to reservation residents,” said Kilmer in the letter sent today. “In order to help ensure that the federal government is making progress in fulfilling its trust and treaty responsibilities, we respectfully request the Commission produce an update to this report as soon as possible.”
“I applaud and am grateful for Congressman Kilmer's leadership and the Members of Congress joining him to request an update to the 2003 Quiet Crisis Report,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest. “An in depth analysis of the continued and growing humanitarian crisis in Indian country is long overdue. The updated report will serve as a critical tool to assist Congress in ensuring the Federal government upholds its solemn treaty and trust responsibilities to Tribal Nations.”
“The National Congress of American Indians commends the bipartisan effort of members of Congress requesting current measures of how well the federal government is meeting the treaty and trust obligations owed to Indian tribes,” said Denise Desiderio, Policy and Legislative Director for the National Congress of American Indians. “Tribal leaders throughout Indian Country seek the same outcomes as other government leaders: to protect the health, safety, and prosperity of the people they serve. An update to the Quiet Crisis report will assist Congress in fulfilling the federal trust responsibility.”
Since 2003 problems such as budget cuts due to sequestration, increasing threats from natural disasters, and a continued lack of quality housing, educational support, and economic development opportunity have impacted Tribal communities.
The text of the letter follows.
Martin R. Castro, Chairman
Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Vice Chair
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20425
Dear Chairman Castro, Vice Chair Timmons-Goodson, and Commissioners,
Over a decade ago, the Commission completed a comprehensive report reviewing the federal government’s efforts to address priority needs of indigenous peoples. The 2003 report, A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country (Quiet Crisis Report), found "evidence of a crisis in the persistence and growth of unmet needs," including the “cross-cutting and universal […] absence of basic infrastructure in Native communities.” We have heard concern that this lack of basic infrastructure has only grown over the past decade. Native communities nationwide lack adequate housing, health facilities, schools, justice centers, roads, telecommunications, water, and other basic infrastructure that makes it difficult to deliver needed support services and programs to reservation residents.
In order to help ensure that the federal government is making progress in fulfilling its trust and treaty responsibilities, we respectfully request the Commission produce an update to this report as soon as possible.
Throughout the course of American history, the United States government has signed treaties, passed laws, and made pledges to support and protect the Native American population. For years the federal government has failed to live up to these promises. The Quiet Crisis Report found that federal funding in the areas of health care, education, public safety, housing, and rural development failed to meet the basic needs of the Native American population. Since the Quiet Crisis Report was issued, tribes have faced significant budget cuts due to sequestration, increasing threats from natural disasters, and a continued lack of quality housing, educational support, and economic development opportunity.
An update to the report should include an assessment of whether the federal government is now better meeting its responsibilities to tribal members; what efforts the federal government has taken to implement the Commission's 2003 recommendations – specifically with regard to infrastructure development; and what actions, if any, are needed to best address the unmet needs in Indian Country to uphold the federal trust responsibility and achieve self-governance for Indian nations.
Thank you for your attention to this request.