(Washington, D.C.) At the invitation of Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), United States Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) agreed with 6 other Senators last week to form the Senate Native American Caucus.

The purpose of the Caucus is to improve coordination among Senators for whom Native American issues are a priority.

The Caucus will help to move tribal initiatives through the many Senate Committees with jurisdiction over Native American issues.

"I am delighted Senator Inouye has decided the time is right to create a Senate Native American Caucus," Senator Murray said today. "I hope many of my colleagues will join the Caucus so we may more formally work together on behalf of Indian Country."

Senator Murray was joined by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Pete Domenici (R-NM) and John McCain (R-AZ) to create a core group of Senators initiating this effort. The 8 Senators sent letters to the Senate Leadership, Senators Daschle and Lott, and the 90 other Senators inviting them to join the Caucus.

Since joining the Senate in 1992, Senator Murray has consistently supported tribal sovereignty and increased funding for Native American programs. This session of Congress, she has cosponsored the Native American Health Care Improvement Act, the Indian School Construction Act, the Native American Languages Act Amendments, the Fiscal Integrity of Indian Settlements Protection Act and many other pieces of legislation important to tribes and Native Americans.

The House of Representatives formed a Native American Caucus in 1997, which is co-chaired by Reps. Dale Kildee and J.D. Hayworth. The House Caucus has 110 members.