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Senator Murray: “As a voice for Washington state’s Tribes in the United States Senate, I will always advocate for Indian Country and fight to ensure the federal government lives up to its sacred commitment to Indigenous peoples across our country”

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S FLOOR SPEECH HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, in the midst of Native American Heritage Month, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor, calling for continued federal support for Tribes in Washington State and across the country. During her speech, Senator Murray highlighted progress made since the beginning of the pandemic to invest in Tribes, and called for further action to build upon the important work this Congress has done so far to support Native communities, including through the Build Back Better Act.

“Action in the American Rescue Plan has helped Tribal members in my home state stay housed, get back to work, keep their small businesses open, and continues to make a difference in a thousand different ways,” said Senator Murray. “Now, these outcomes weren’t inevitable—they happened because of intentional and specific policy decisions that this Congress made to support Tribal Nations. So if we’re serious about showing a real commitment to Tribal communities during Native American Heritage Month, then we need to continue to prioritize Tribal communities in all of our policymaking.”

“This Native American Heritage Month—let’s resolve to build on the important work this Congress has done so far to support Native communities,” Senator Murray continued. “As a voice for Washington state’s Tribes in the United States Senate, I will always advocate for Indian Country and fight to ensure the federal government lives up to its sacred commitment to Indigenous peoples across our country.”

As a voice for Washington state’s Tribes in the Senate, Senator Murray has been committed to supporting Native communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and to creating economic opportunity for Native families. In the American Rescue Plan signed into law earlier this year, Senator Murray helped secure the largest ever federal investment in Tribes to support Tribal communities as they confronted the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. This included $20 billion for Tribes to combat COVID-19 and provide support to communities in need, more than $6 billion for the Indian Health Service to provide medical and public health support to Tribes, more than $1.2 billion to help provide affordable housing and homelessness services, and more than $1 billion for Native education programs to assist with learning during the pandemic. Senator Murray also fought to include more than $10 billion in support for Tribes in last year’s CARES Act to help fight COVID-19 and provide assistance to local Tribal communities.

In her role as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has consistently fought to secure additional funding for Tribal communities. She has successfully secured increased funding for the Indian Housing Block Grant Program, which helps to combat the housing issues that specifically plague tribal communities and provide housing assistance to Native Americans with low-incomes. This year’s appropriations bill in particular is set to include $18.1 billion in direct support for Tribal communities, including funding for health care and public health, mental health programs, infrastructure improvements, and more. The bill would also help address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women cases in Indian Country, review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies, and would promote Tribal climate action.  

Earlier this year, Senator Murray also recommended Lauren King, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, to the Biden-Harris administration in early 2021 to serve a lifetime appointment as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Washington. Murray secured Judge King’s confirmation to the federal bench in October. Judge King is the first Native American federal judge in Washington state’s history, the 4th currently serving, and just the 6th ever in America’s history.

Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery are included below:

“M. President, I rise today in recognition of Native American Heritage Month.

“As a Senator from Washington state I am proud to represent 29 federally-recognized Tribes.

“In Washington, we understand the importance of the sovereignty of Tribal governments.

“And anyone who knows me knows that I believe a commitment is more than just words—it’s about action.

“At the start of the year, when we passed the American Rescue Plan to get America up and running again, it was the single largest federal investment in Tribes ever—more than $32 billion for Tribal Nations.

“Since then, I’ve spoken to so many Tribal leaders in Washington state about what this has meant for Tribal communities.

“A housing grant to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe helped provide homes for an additional 25 families.

“The Lummi Nation created new opportunities for education and job retraining.  

“The American Rescue Plan helped the Tulalip keep Tribal owned businesses, who have been struggling since the pandemic, afloat.

“Action on our commitment has helped Tribal members in my home state stay housed, get back to work, keep their small businesses open, and continues to make a difference in a thousand different ways.

“Now, these outcomes weren’t inevitable—they happened because of intentional and specific policy decisions that this Congress made to support Tribal Nations.

“So if we’re serious about showing a real commitment to Tribal communities during Native American Heritage Month, then we need to continue to prioritize Tribal communities in all of our policymaking.

“Infrastructure in Indian Country—everything from roads, bridges, to broadband—has been underfunded for far too long.

“The bipartisan infrastructure bill—which is now signed into law—will make $13 billion in direct investments in Indian Country, with tens of billions more in federal grants and future funding opportunities available.

“This will mean clean drinking water, access to high-speed internet, transit to connect communities, and so much more.

“And now we have another opportunity to show our commitment to Tribal communities with the Build Back Better Act.

“Just like everywhere else in this country, child care is a crisis for Native communities.

“Right now, about one out of every four Native Americans in this country is experiencing poverty. That’s higher than any other group.

“So when 1 in 10 Native American parents have to quit or change their job because they can’t find or afford child care, we’re making a tough situation worse. 

“My child care proposal in Build Back Better is going to cut the cost of child care by thousands for Tribal families—with many paying nothing at all for child care—and it’s going to help get more slots open everywhere we need them, so parents aren’t stuck on waiting lists for months on end.

“It’s our government’s duty to make investments like this one in Indian Country, because if we really believe in tribal sovereignty and acknowledging the role our government has played in the centuries of persecution Native peoples in this country have faced—we also must take action to create real opportunity for people.

“Action on quality, affordable child care, housing, home care, and more.

“Build Back Better is going to make a big difference for Native communities, but there is more we need to do to address the specific needs of Native communities.

“We have to build on President Biden’s Executive action to address the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples, especially to protect Native women and girls.

“We must reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and strengthen this legislation to empower Tribal Nations to hold perpetrators of crimes committed on Tribal lands accountable.

“And living up to our commitments is also about representation and a seat at the table.

“I was overjoyed to strongly support the confirmation of Deb Halaand who is already blazing a trail as a historic Secretary of the Interior and a powerful voice for Tribal interests.

“I was proud to recommend Lauren King—a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and a Tribal law expert—to serve a lifetime appointment as a federal court judge in Washington state, the first Native American federal judge in my state’s history and just the 6th ever in America’s history.

“And I’m glad to see more than 50 Native Americans serving in key political positions throughout the Biden administration, and I look forward to seeing many more.

“So M. President, this Native American Heritage Month, let’s resolve to build on the important work this Congress has done so far to support Native communities. 

“As a voice for Washington state’s Tribes in the United State Senate, I will always advocate for Indian Country and fight to ensure the federal government lives up to its sacred commitment to Indigenous peoples across our country." 

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