Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Indian Affairs

Senator Heitkamp is dedicated to making sure our Native American brothers and sisters are not forgotten. For far too long, the extreme poverty on reservations has been ignored, and Senator Heitkamp – a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – has made a commitment to play a major role in educating her colleagues and the public of the need to work together with Native Americans to improve conditions in Indian Country. 

Improving the Lives of Native Children

The first bill Senator Heitkamp introduced as a U.S. Senator offers a comprehensive plan to find solutions to the complex challenges facing Native American children in North Dakota and throughout Indian Country. Since working as Attorney General in the 1990s, Senator Heitkamp has fought for Native families. 

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children would conduct an intensive study into issues facing Native children – such as high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and make recommendations on how to make sure Native children are better taken care of and given the opportunities to thrive. The legislation has been widely praised, and endorsed by all five North Dakota tribes.

Leading the Charge to Improve and Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

Senator Heitkamp played a key role in improving and passing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The legislation included language Senator Heitkamp specifically pushed for to provide tribal governments the authority they need to prosecute non-Native perpetrators who commit these crimes on tribal land. Senator Heitkamp believes VAWA is important to all North Dakotas, but particularly Native American women. Women in tribal communities face domestic violence and sexual assault at much higher rates than those faced by the general population.

Bringing Fairness to the Tax Code for Tribal Governments

Senator Heitkamp introduced legislation to end the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) practice of taxing crucial programs and services that aim to support the health and safety of Native families. The bill levels the playing field by recognizing the inherent sovereignty of tribal governments to provide programs and services to its citizens, without subjecting them to heightened scrutiny from the IRS. Just as state and local governments are able to determine what programs best help their citizens – like scholarships, elder or child care, or housing assistance – tribal governments also have those same rights.

Working to Improve Indian Country Housing 

Senator Heitkamp is working to make sure we provide safe and affordable housing to American Indians. The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) helps address a critical need for housing assistance in Indian Country, where more than 28% of reservation households lack adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities, while nationally only 5.4% of households lack such infrastructure. 

Pushing for Improved Child Safety and Protection in Indian Country 

Senator Heitkamp has worked tirelessly with federal officials from the White House, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Justice, and Department of Health and Human Services to make sure children are safe in Indian Country. Senator Heitkamp has pushed for increased transparency for the Tribes to better understand what has been done, what is being done, and what the plan is for the future to improve the lives of children in Indian Country. She is committed to working in a respectful government to government relationship to protect children now, and fix the system so they are safe in the future.