WASHINGTON – The National American Indian Housing Council has put its shoulder to the wheel of a push for a permanent Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives, according to remarks during a media teleconference Nov. 29.
Marty Shuravloff, the NAIHC chairman from the Alaska Native village of Leisnoi on Woody Island in the Kodiak Archipelago, left no doubt that the council has added its advocacy to that of the National Congress of American Indians; the National Indian Gaming Association; and various members of the Congressional Native American Caucus in the House, including Reps. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., and Tom Cole, R-Okla. Dennis Daniel, acting executive director and research coordinator, added that the council was in contact with NCAI about the proposed committee on Nov. 28 and put a signature to a joint editorial that will appear in the press shortly.
NCAI, representing 250 member tribes nationwide, has named establishment of a standing Indian committee in the House the top priority of Indian country in the 110th Congress, beginning in January.
The House has never revived a full Indian Affairs committee, extinguished in 1946. In the 1970s and again in the 1990s, the House named subcommittees on Indian Affairs, but eventually located jurisdiction in, first, the Interior Committee, and then at the full committee level of House Resources.
In correspondence with incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., NCAI President Joe Garcia identified the tribes’ primary problem with the House Committee on Resources, currently the committee of jurisdiction on most Indian-specific proposals taken up in the House. “Far too often tribal concerns are pitted against the concerns of members who are trying to move non-Indian related legislation out of the House Resources Committee,” Garcia wrote. “Time and time again, Indian legislation has been sacrificed for individual parochial interests on non-Indian issues.”
A distinct Indian Affairs committee would lead to the consideration of more Indian-specific proposals on their merits, said a leading lobbyist on the issue, Larry Rosenthal of Ietan Consulting.