WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Committee, led an oversight hearing titled, “Water as a Trust Resource: Examining Access in Native Communities.” The hearing follows historic investments made by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to address Native communities’ water needs and is part of a hearing series with the Energy and Natural Resources and Environment and Public Work Committees on water access issues.
“For too many Native communities, the total lack of access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities is an everyday reality,” said Chairman Schatz. “Ensuring water access is not just the right thing to do, it’s the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibility. It’s our legal obligation – not just to reserve water rights – but to live up to our promises and take affirmative steps to secure this access to the best of our ability.”
“Investments in tribal water systems through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are improving access to clean water in Native communities, but the need for additional resources and O&M assistance for tribes is growing,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski. “This issue requires a whole-of-government response, and I look forward to working with Chairman Schatz and other like-minded colleagues on the Farm Bill to optimize tribal water programs and extend the lifecycle of tribal water and sanitation infrastructure.”
The following witnesses participated in the oversight hearing:
- Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
- Benjamin Smith, Deputy Director, Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C
- Crystalyne Curley, Speaker, Navajo Nation Council, Window Rock, AZ
- Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, President & CEO, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, AK
- Kali Watson, Chairman, Hawaiian Homes Commission, and Director, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Kapolei, HI
- Professor Heather Tanana, Initiative Lead, Universal Access to Clean Water for Tribal Communities Project, San Clemente, CA