The National Indian Health Board is a dedicated advocate in Congress on behalf of all Tribal Governments and American Indians/Alaska Natives. Each weekly issue contains a listing of current events on Capitol Hill, information on passed and upcoming legislation, Indian health policy analysis, and action items. To view all of our legislative resources, please visit
May 17, 2022
News From Capitol Hill
DOI Releases Boarding School Report and House Natural Resources Holds Hearing on Boarding School Bill Within Days of Each Other 

Last week on May 11, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland released the first Volume report of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. Secretary Haaland announced the introduction of The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative of June last year.  

Under the supervision of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, the report for the first time acknowledged the federal governments direct involvement of cultural assimilation policies in Indian boarding schools. The report found the federal government, between 1819 and 1969, operated or support 408 boarding schools across 37 states, including 21 in Alaska and 7 in Hawai’i.

With COVID-19 restrictions, closing of research facilities, and operating under continuing resolution and limited appropriations, the Assistant Secretary recommends additional research and a second volume of the report to further identify names and Tribal affiliations of children, number of federal dollars spent supporting the boarding schools, and identify schools that were operated on land-in-trust.

Last year, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), joined the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in recognizing September 30, 2021 as the National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools. On the same day, Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Native American Caucus Co-Chairs Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act H.R 5444 / S. 2907. This bill would establish a commission to investigate and document the detrimental Indian boarding school policies and historical trauma resulting from those policies and to make recommendations, among others, for federal resources and assistance to aid in healing from that trauma.  

On May 12, 2022, the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States held a hearing on H.R 5444 where boarding school survivors and Tribal organizational leaders testified in support of H.R 5444 and shared their personal experiences during forced attendance of boarding schools. Witnesses include James LaBelle of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, Matthew War Bonnet, Boarding School Survivor of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Dr. Ramona Charette Klein, Boarding School Survivor of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Ben Barnes, Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, Deborah Parker, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, and Dr. Janine Pease, Founding President of the Little Big Horn College.  
The Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States is accepting electronic statements for consideration of H.R.5444 until May 26. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition encourages survivors to submit their stories to the House Committee on Natural Resources by email to[email protected].  
NIHB has led efforts in Congress and the Administration to secure more behavioral health care services as well as in-patient behavioral health treatment facilities, particularly through the Budget Reconciliation measure pending before Congress and in other legislation and administrative means. To further honor and remember these Native children, NIHB hosted the National Tribal Health Conference October last year titled “Our Trauma: A Discussion to Address the Legacy of Federal Indian Boarding Schools and Looking to the Future."

Read NIHB Resolution no. 22-01 Boarding School Healing Resolution that was adopted at the First Quarter and Annual Board Meeting on February 23 and 24, 2022.  

Vice President Kamala Harris Gives Historic Recognition of Native Maternal Health  

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) was honored to have Vice President Kamala Harris who provided a video message on the ongoing desperate outcomes of Native women, their maternal health journey, and what she and the Administration are doing to address it during the National Tribal Public Health Summit (TPHS) 2022. 

Vice President Harris remarked, “Native maternal health must be elevated as a national priority” as she spoke to the need for culturally competent care throughout Indian Country delivering her remarks to over 800 Tribal leaders, practitioners, researchers, and policy experts. she encouraged research at minority institutes including Tribal serving institutes to study the social determinants of health. Importantly, Vice President Harris acknowledged the need to invest more in the Indian Health Service (IHS) and expand essential post partem coverage to women. She ended with, “There is more work to do together; we must fight for a better future, a future in which every woman has access to the health care she needs.” NIHB stands ready to work with the Administration and the nation to address these critical issues. 

Read NIHB’s letter to Vice President Harris praising her Call to Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and informing her NIHB is prepared to work with her office in its efforts. 
Meet Your Member
Representative Carlos Gimenez (R-FL-26)

Representative Gimenez is currently serving his first term in the U.S House of Representatives and is seeking re-election in the 2022 elections. Gimenez serves as Miccosukee Tribe of Indians representative. His top issue areas include economic reform, immigration reform, gun reform, and supports healthcare insurance for individuals with pre-existing conditions. 

Indian Healthcare Legislation
Representative Gimenez co-sponsored H.R 1667 Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act. The bill provides for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to, among other things, establish a program to award grants to Indian Tribes or Tribal organizations to support the training of health care students, residents, or health care professionals in evidence-based or evidence-informed strategies to address mental and substance use disorders and improve mental health and resiliency among health care professionals. The bill was signed by the President and became law on March 18, 2022.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Senator Rubio was elected to the U.S Senate in 2016 and is serving his second term. He is seeking re-election in the 2022 election year. Rubio's policy areas focus on foreign policy including immigration reform, national security, human rights, and coastal climate change mitigation. 
Ranking Member, Committee on Intelligence
Indian Healthcare Legislation
Senator Rubio co-sponsored S.1512 Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act. This bill would expand coverage of telehealth services under Medicare, including removing “originating site” restrictions for expanding telehealth coverage in native health facilities and providing greater flexibility for patients visiting Native health facilities
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23)
Representative Wasserman Schultz is currently serving her ninth term in the U.S House of Representatives. Congresswoman serves as the Seminole Tribes representative. Her top issues areas include veterans' affairs, healthcare, gun reform, and natural resources. 

Indian Healthcare Legislation 
Representative Wasserman Schultz co-sponsored H.R 6311 Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act of 2021 that is to confront the substance use epidemic funding $125 billion over 10 years. Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must establish a program for purchasing and distributing opioid overdose reversal drugs for states and Indian Tribes.
Congressional Spotlight

IHS Acting Director Provides Update on Sanitation Infrastructure Projects at Indian Affairs Committee Hearing

On Wednesday, May 4, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The purpose of the hearing entitled "Setting New Foundations: Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for Native Communities" was to hear from Tribal leaders and administration officials regarding the implementation status and how it is benefiting Native communities thus far. 
In his opening statement, Chairman Brian Schtaz (D-HI) remarked the longstanding historic infrastructure needs of Tribal communities in which the IIJA provided $11 billion in resources and funding for those infrastructure needs. Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) noted in her opening statement that robust Tribal consultation, interagency coordination, and intergovernmental collaboration are integral to the success of the IIJA funding as well as all other Tribal funding. Ranking Member Murkowski had received comments from Alaska Natives and Tribal leaders, whom are optimistic of this historic level of funding, but have had difficulty in accessing the resources and funding opportunities. Ranking Member then started more technical assistance for Tribal capacity in accessing these opportunities is needed. 
Elizabeth Fowler, Acting Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS), in her opening statement, applauded the historical funding of the IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction (SFC) program that was funded at $3.5 billion. At the end of 2021, 1.9 percent of Alaska Native/American Indian (AI/AN) homes lacked water supply or wastewater capabilities and 29 percent of AI/AN homes require some form of sanitation improvement. Those homes that are geographically remote require higher capital costs than of those homes with similar infrastructure needs. Homes without access to adequate water service are associated with higher hospitalization rates for pneumonia, flu, and respiratory viruses. Likewise, higher illnesses are associated with lack of adequate water services to wash hands. Thus, Fowler purported IHS support is an integral component for the prevention of diseases outlined. To date, IHS has had three consultations to seek input of funding for allocation plans and are nearing publication of the funding allocation decisions for the $700 million FY2022 funds. 
Under the IIJA funding, no more than 3 percent is to be used for salaries, expenses, and administration purposes. However, Fowler, in response to Ranking Member Murkowski, noted that the 3 percent allocation will extend the timeline of sanitation project duration because it cannot be used for Tribal technical assistance - it is limited to federal purposes. As a result, the sanitation and infrastructure projects could be greater than the current average project duration of 3.6 years. On the same topic, Senator Ben Lujan (D-AZ) asked if IHS SFC has the staffing and technical capacity since the historical levels of funding could possibly contribute more to IHS's workload and effect the staffing shortages IHS already experiences. If IHS does not procure more staff support, stated Fowler, the duration of sanitation projects of 3.6 years will be extended beyond several years. Senator Lujan and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) asked Fowler if HIS SFC could provide the committee an oversight report for the implementation of IIJA SFC funding.

Watch the recorded hearing here.
Other News and Events
Congressional Members Provide Tribal Healthcare Remarks at Tribal Public Health Summit 

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) hosted the annual Tribal Public Health Summit with over 800 registrants including Tribal leaders, practitioners, researchers, policy experts. The biggest Tribal Public Health Summit ever! NIHB appreciates and honors Members of Congress who provided remarks during the Opening and Closing Plenary sessions at the summit speaking on Tribal health care issues and policies.   
Tom Cole (R-OK) 
“What we need to do for Native Americans is what we have done for our Veterans is making sure there is never a disruption in vital health care services on reservations or any place in Indian Country” 
Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) 
“But I guarantee you with your help and working with people like me and Tom Cole, one of these days we are going to see [Indian Health Service] fully funded."

Sharice Davids (D-KS) 
“Each and every member of Congress has a trust responsibility to Tribes.” 

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 
“We in Congress are working aggressively so that when it comes to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiians and health needs, that it is all aspects of health, and we have much work to do."

Elizabeth Warren (D-MS) 
“It is long past time that the federal government reckoned with the intergenerational trauma that it has inflicted through the Indian boarding school policies.”