S.1200/H.R.1328 and the Future of Native American Health

Yá’át’tééh  Shik’is!, and hello everyone. Since this is my first post here, let me begin by introducing myself.

I’m a (mostly) white grandfather with a bit of Mohawk in my background, and I live on the border of the Onondaga Nation in Central New York, USA. I’ve been disabled since 1995, and am a “handyman”, computer whiz and googlegeek, or as my kids used to say: “My Daddy can fix anything!” (not true)

There’s more…

I come here by way of Daily Kos and Navajo (Asdzáni Tso of the Diné), shik’is for several years now, and the reason I started “learning” Navajo words – it’s MUCH easier than Mohawk, of which there is very little online. (If you see only letters+numbers when we post words in Navajo, it’s because Navajo and I have a Navajo language font on our machines; I can dig it up for you if you ask – it contains all the inflection marks. There’s also a great site, hanksville.org I believe, that has spoken files – it’s such a beautiful sounding language.) I have a great deal of respect for Navajo and we have become good friends – she did me the great honor of letting me write a eulogy for her brother Spencer when he passed; she had asked me to join and Moderate NetRoots some time ago, but (as some of you may know) I have been in mourning for the last year, and only recently began writing again.

I had never looked deeply into my NA past before becoming friends with Diné, but have done some digging since then; along with the fact of living within 150 miles or so of the following Tribes of the Northeast, the Haudenosaunee (i.e., the indigenous peoples, the Six Nations, the Iroquois, or People of the Longhouse) – Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Mohawk, Tuscarora, and Seneca. I won’t go into the various divisions of those Nations, which now are really more for Federal recognition than historical relationships, and no, I’ve only visited some of them – they resemble hamlets, if anything; the total population in the 11 current locations of the Haudenosaunee of New York State is only about 25,000.

So, I’m more familiar with the Haudenosaunee than any other Peoples, and that means you’ll have to bear with me a bit as I try to tackle what I think is going to be a momentous piece of legislation; “S. 1200 Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007” (which is more likely to be dated 2009 or 2010 before it is signed into law), and what it means to NA Nations. The Indian Health Care Improvement Act P.L. 94-437, is the single most influential Act affecting Native health matters ever passed, and it’s no secret that until now, the Act has been poorly implemented, funded, and managed, so the Amendment has a chance to redress some of the worst faults, depending on what it contains when it finally lands on the POTUS desk. (For purposes of this series, I’m “combining” the Senate and House versions of the bills under S. 1200 for ease of use, and will highlight any substantial differences if necessary; it will of course morph into an entirely “new” piece of legislation before reaching the POTUS, but for now only the Senate version has passed – the House version is still in Committee.)

As a beginning, I’ll explore the roots of the Act and its current state of authorization; then we’ll look at the Amendments and their strengths and flaws; finally, I hope to help with a piece on how we can influence passage. If you find this series helpful, please don’t hesitate to copy anything and pass it along to others; we’ll need to bring a lot of influence to bear if it has any chance of passing in a truly meaningful form! Keep in mind that this is likely to be THE defining legislation for NA health issues in our lifetimes. Already, there are sections I find well-crafted, and parts that are repugnant, but overall it IS an improvement IMHO. We’ll see, shall we?

For now, let me leave you with this section, at the end of S. 1200, just because I find it so noteworthy at this time; I never expected to see THIS in any piece of legislation from the 110th!


     (a) Findings- Congress finds that–

           (1) the ancestors of today’s Native Peoples inhabited the land of the present-day United States since time immemorial and for thousands of years before the arrival of people of European descent;

           (2) for millennia, Native Peoples have honored, protected, and stewarded this land we cherish;

           (3) Native Peoples are spiritual people with a deep and abiding belief in the Creator, and for millennia Native Peoples have maintained a powerful spiritual connection to this land, as evidenced by their customs and legends;

           (4) the arrival of Europeans in North America opened a new chapter in the history of Native Peoples;

           (5) while establishment of permanent European settlements in North America did stir conflict with nearby Indian tribes, peaceful and mutually beneficial interactions also took place;

           (6) the foundational English settlements in Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, owed their survival in large measure to the compassion and aid of Native Peoples in the vicinities of the settlements;

           (7) in the infancy of the United States, the founders of the Republic expressed their desire for a just relationship with the Indian tribes, as evidenced by the Northwest Ordinance enacted by Congress in 1787, which begins with the phrase, `The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians’;

           (8) Indian tribes provided great assistance to the fledgling Republic as it strengthened and grew, including invaluable help to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their epic journey from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Coast;

           (9) Native Peoples and non-Native settlers engaged in numerous armed conflicts in which unfortunately, both took innocent lives, including those of women and children;

           (10) the Federal Government violated many of the treaties ratified by Congress and other diplomatic agreements with Indian tribes;

           (11) the United States forced Indian tribes and their citizens to move away from their traditional homelands and onto federally established and controlled reservations, in accordance with such Acts as the Act of May 28, 1830 (4 Stat. 411, chapter 148) (commonly known as the `Indian Removal Act’);

           (12) many Native Peoples suffered and perished–

                 (A) during the execution of the official Federal Government policy of forced removal, including the infamous Trail of Tears and Long Walk;

                 (B) during bloody armed confrontations and massacres, such as the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 and the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890; and

                 (C) on numerous Indian reservations;

           (13) the Federal Government condemned the traditions, beliefs, and customs of Native Peoples and endeavored to assimilate them by such policies as the redistribution of land under the Act of February 8, 1887 (25 U.S.C. 331; 24 Stat. 388, chapter 119) (commonly known as the `General Allotment Act’), and the forcible removal of Native children from their families to faraway boarding schools where their Native practices and languages were degraded and forbidden;

           (14) officials of the Federal Government and private United States citizens harmed Native Peoples by the unlawful acquisition of recognized tribal land and the theft of tribal resources and assets from recognized tribal land;

           (15) the policies of the Federal Government toward Indian tribes and the breaking of covenants with Indian tribes have contributed to the severe social ills and economic troubles in many Native communities today;

           (16) despite the wrongs committed against Native Peoples by the United States, Native Peoples have remained committed to the protection of this great land, as evidenced by the fact that, on a per capita basis, more Native Peoples have served in the United States Armed Forces and placed themselves in harm’s way in defense of the United States in every major military conflict than any other ethnic group;

           (17) Indian tribes have actively influenced the public life of the United States by continued cooperation with Congress and the Department of the Interior, through the involvement of Native individuals in official Federal Government positions, and by leadership of their own sovereign Indian tribes;

           (18) Indian tribes are resilient and determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their unique cultural identities;

           (19) the National Museum of the American Indian was established within the Smithsonian Institution as a living memorial to Native Peoples and their traditions; and

           (20) Native Peoples are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

     (b) Acknowledgment and Apology- The United States, acting through Congress–

           (1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;

           (2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;

           (3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;

           (4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;

           (5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;

           (6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and

           (7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

(Passed the Senate, February 26, 2008)


  1. Yes, it’s …

    Take the voyage! She has links to pronounciation of many Navajo words, and it’s a fascinating tour of the Southwest. You won’t be sorry.

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