I am proud to recognize and share my appreciation for Montana’s first residents during National Native American Heritage Month in November – and every month of the year.
The tribal communities in Montana are a fundamental part of who we are as Montanans, and I value our government-to-government relations. They are a vibrant part of our history and play a vital role in ensuring a bright and prosperous future for our state.
A few weeks ago, President Obama pledged that the White House would not forget the issues facing tribal communities across the United States. I second the president’s commitment. I’ve been fighting to ensure Indian communities get the support, funding and attention they deserve, and with the president’s backing there is even more we can accomplish.
We’ve already done a great deal this year. I fought to help make more tribal members eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program so they can get the care they need, when they need it. Sen. Jon Tester and I pushed for over $3.5 billion in federal funding to help tribal communities create good-paying jobs and boost tribal economies with resources for improving classrooms and health clinics, cleaning up drinking water and building community development projects like dams and irrigations facilities.
I’ve introduced the Crow Tribe Land Restoration Act to establish a loan program to help the Crow Tribe preserve their land, and co-sponsored the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 to make sure that tribal law enforcement officials have every tool possible to do their jobs. I included provisions of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act earlier this year. As part of ARRA, we included $2 billion for Tribal Tax Exempt Bonds.
These are only a few examples of the work that’s been done, but there is always more to do. There are still plenty of folks who need help – whether it’s with health care or jobs, education or law enforcement. I am going to keep working hard for Montana Indian communities.
I’ll make sure health care reform is right for Montana’s tribal communities, that they get the resources they need for law enforcement, education, and economic development, and that their voices are heard in Washington.
Montana’s tribes have a rich history and together we will make sure we can be just as proud of their future.
Max Baucus is Montana’s senior U.S. Senator and is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.