August 26, 2016

Kilmer Joins Chair of Commission on Civil Rights to Hear Directly from Regional Tribes on Challenges They Face

Taholah, WA – Today, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) joined the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Martin Castro, along with local tribal leaders at the Quinault Reservation for a summit to discuss funding disparities facing tribal communities. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is currently putting together an update to a 2003 report called Quiet Crisis that found federal investments too often failed to provide adequate health care, education, natural resource protection, and housing among other basic needs.   

Kilmer and Chairman Castro were joined by Quinault President Fawn Sharp, who is also President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians; Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Chair Ron Allen, and other tribal leaders from across the state at the forum. Chairman Castro provided Kilmer and the tribal leaders with updates about the progress being made on the final report. He also heard testimony about gaps faced on reservations. After the listening sessions the group took a tour of the Quinault Reservation.

Too many tribes across the nation aren’t getting the investments they need to thrive,” said Kilmer.Tribal communities are essential to creating jobs, protecting our environment, and helping our country grow. But they face significant challenges in health care, education, natural resource protection, and economic opportunity.  Discussions like the one we had today -- involving people who are directly impacted by the shortcomings in federal policy -- can help establish a path forward.  I'm committed to working with the Commission and with local leaders to address these challenges. We have to do better.” 

“It is an honor to meet with the leadership of the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest to hear directly from them about the unmet needs and the opportunities in Indian Country and to share with them our continuing work on updating our "Quiet Crisis" report. It is part of the Commission's historic commitment to focusing on the civil rights of our First Nations,” said Chairman Castro.

“We are thankful that Congressman Kilmer and some members of the US Commission on Civil Rights were able to hear the profound impacts that inadequate funding has on our tribal communities. It’s not a quiet crisis of unmet funding needs, but a humanitarian crisis.  Indian Country suffers from shocking levels of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, violence and deteriorating health. Today, tribal governments must contend with the legacy left behind by a long, painful history of vacillating federal-tribal policy, ranging from paternalism, assimilation, and termination. Settlement of this country was made possible through treaties with Indian nations. In exchange for ceding millions of acres, tribes received promises that have not been fulfilled,” said President Fawn Sharp.

Since 2003, problems such as budget cuts due to sequestration, increasing threats from natural disaster, and a continued lack of quality housing, educational support, and economic development opportunity have impacted tribal communities.

In 2015, Kilmer led a bipartisan group urging the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to update the 2003 report. The members noted that since the original report was published, the needs of Native American communities have continued to grow, while investments have not kept pace.