A bill granting the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice two additional years to complete a study on the needs of Native children is on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska introduced the bill earlier this year after a commission’s work on the comprehensive study stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic, which made it much harder to safely travel and conduct interviews.
The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, which was authorized in 2016 and finally launched in late 2019, was supposed to have completed the study and report next year under the auspices of the Office of Tribal Justice. The president is expected to sign the bill, which gives the commission until 2026 to finish its work.
“Providing an extension will give the Commission the opportunity to ensure proper Tribal engagement and allow the Commission adequate time to hold hearings and receive testimony from the public to inform their report and recommendations,” Murkowski said.
A House companion bill was introduced by Rep. Don Young (R) of Alaska.
“This is a very good day for Indigenous people across the country,” Young said. “As the father and grandfather of Alaska Natives, I know that our nation’s Indigenous children face unique barriers and adversity which require innovative solutions to overcome. However, the fact is that we cannot even begin to find solutions until we accurately and thoroughly identify the cultural and socioeconomic challenges facing Native youth.”