McCain: Building relationships, achieving results


Over the years, I have received the support and friendship of many people from Indian country, and I am firmly committed to ensuring that they are treated justly and fairly. I continue to believe very strongly that the federal government has a special ethical and legal responsibility to help make the American dream accessible to American Indians. As president, I will continue to work in close consultation with the tribes in order to build on my record of achieving results for Indian country. I believe in protecting tribal sovereignty and I recognize the unique government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes and the trust responsibility.

As former chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and a current member of the committee, I have consistently sponsored legislation and enacted laws that have helped improve conditions on Indian reservations and have strengthened the ability of tribal governments to provide essential programs and services.

Tribal self-governance is incredibly important to Indian country and, over the course of my 25 years in Congress, I have worked hard to take power out of the hands of Washington bureaucrats and to place it in the hands of tribal governments. As president, my dedication to tribal self-determination will reinvigorate the policy of tribal self-governance. I have also worked tirelessly to strengthen law enforcement on reservations, including improving tribal courts and detention facilities. In authoring the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Protection Act, I was an early leader in addressing victims' rights, family violence and child abuse.

I have worked consistently to improve health care for Indians, including reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, championing efforts to combat diabetes, and supporting efforts to address chronic mental health and substance abuse problems on reservations. I have also fought for greater autonomy with regard to health care, advocating for permanent self-governance authority for the IHS to enable Indian tribes to directly administer tribal health facilities and programs. Furthermore, I authored legislation to designate an Assistant Secretary for Indian Health to prioritize and simplify health services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The long history of misuse and abuse of Indian resources held in trust, coupled with unreasonable and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, has stifled new and expanded economic opportunities on reservations. I fought to enact the American Indian Trust Management and Reform Act of 1994, and have sponsored legislation to help tribes protect both their natural and cultural resources and to reform the broken trust system. I introduced the first comprehensive legislation to resolve longstanding litigation over trust accounts and reform the trust system; and, as president, will make comprehensive reform of the trust system and resolution of the trust accounting litigation a priority. I sponsored the Reservation Employment Tax Credit and the Accelerated Depreciation Allowance for reservation businesses and have consistently fought to protect the right of tribes to engage in gaming on Indian lands.

Long before the No Child Left Behind Act, I pushed for reforms to BIA schools and an increase in resources for tribal education programs. I fully understand that providing educational opportunities to our nation's Native children is critical to preparing them for productive livelihoods, including the preservation of American Indian languages and cultural identity. We must continue the BIA schools construction initiative, which has provided nearly $1 billion for the construction of new schools and refurbishment of numerous others on reservations, and provide the resources necessary to make those schools safe learning environments for Native youth.

I have been very supportive of American Indian veterans, including championing many of the efforts to get the recognition deserved for the many code talkers who have proudly served our nation. I have led congressional efforts to build the Native American Veterans' Memorial, and will continue my fight to honor our national commitment to our veterans, including Native veterans, who have devoted their lives to ensuring our freedom.

It is essential for the federal government to live up to its responsibility to help ensure that the American dream is fully accessible inside Indian country. As president, I will continue to work hard to protect tribal sovereignty and improve the federal government's relationship with Indian tribes.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is the presumptive 2008 Republican presidential nominee. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.