We praise the continuing efforts of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to raise the profile of many Indian issues in Washington. The chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has been making good on his word to listen to the voices of Indian people and advocates.
The most visible support by Dorgan has been his efforts to push for the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. The chairman has pledged to deal with the serious health problems gripping many Indian communities, and has fulfilled his promise, so far, to listen to tribes as they describe the disparities they face as a result of increasingly limited resources. He's heard their stories and is drumming up support by retelling them in Washington.
Dorgan has twice spoken on the Senate floor to recount experiences of Indian people as they piece together health care with the few resources available to them. He has reminded the president and colleagues of the terrible conditions that exist in Indian health clinics and of the onus that is on the federal government to improve them. ''We have a trust responsibility,'' he said of Indian health care. ''We don't meet that responsibility very well.''
Among his recent actions on behalf of Indian country, Dorgan also urged the Senate to confirm Carl Artman as the new head of the BIA. The position has been vacant for two years, since the departure of former BIA head Dave Anderson in February 2005. The lengthy vacancy is shameful, said Dorgan, ''considering the serious problems we face in Indian country.'' Artman, a member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, has strong support in Indian country, including an endorsement from the National Congress of American Indians.
With many Indian issues - health care, education, housing and law enforcement - in need of critical funding, we need the legislative power of leaders such as Dorgan and certainly the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. To win, we must have players on the field.