Elizabeth Morris: Heitkamp Pushing Wrong Approach To Tribal Child Abuse Problem


On June 10, 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing “Addressing the Need for Victim Services in Indian Country.” We fully agree victims of assault in Indian Country, as everywhere, need help. We disagree with giving more money to tribal leaders.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]The Senate Committee and the BIA has long been aware of well-documented and rampant sexual abuse and suicide of children on many reservations.[/mks_pullquote]

There is the adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But there is also a reality that crime and corruption are never made better by giving those responsible for the crime and corruption more money.

  1. One witness at the hearing reported there’s one rape or child sexual abuse reported every other day and another witness stated violence accounts for 75% of the deaths of Indian children between the ages of 12 and 20.
  2. It was admitted that many people in leadership positions contribute to the abuse

Senator Heitkamp stated she is “horrified” to hear these things – despite having been told about it numerous times by many sources over the last few years. A few minutes later, she admitted the stats are the same as in the 90s when she was AG. She went on to tell everyone that additional funding to tribal government is the only solution.

The Senate Committee and the BIA has long been aware of well-documented and rampant sexual abuse and suicide of children on many reservations. It is appalling that, in light of these reports and the circumstances surrounding them, Senator Heitkamp says she still doesn’t understand why these children are going into foster care in disproportionate numbers.

It is well known how crime is rampant on many reservations due to the protection many receive under ‘tribal sovereignty.’ The last two U.S. censuses show that 75% of tribal members do NOT live in Indian Country. Many of our organization’s members state they left due to the crime and corruption. Many, despite the claims of tribal leaders, are not interested in what tribal leaders deem culturally appropriate and necessary. Despite the many deaths of children and mass exodus from Indian Country, Federal government has looked the other way while tribal leaders claim to speak for everyone. Federal government has literally made the decision to protect tribal sovereignty at all costs – even at the cost of our children.

Please insist our political leaders put children first. Tribal “leaders” do NOT speak for everyone of heritage nor know what is best for every individual child of heritage, and giving some of these leaders additional money and control over abused children is not necessarily the best or only way to help the victims of this corrupt system.