Alaska Congressman Don Young, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) introduced the Native American Millennium Challenge Demonstration Act to create a path for economic development in Native communities.
“In Congress, I have the unique responsibility of representing all Alaskans in the House and I have always fought proudly for the needs of Alaska Natives,” said Congressman Young. “The spirit of self-determination makes our Alaska Native and American Indian communities strong and united, however they still face many challenges today. Factors such as distance from markets, poor infrastructure and a weak private sector are among the reasons why many Native economies have been stagnant. I’m proud to introduce this legislation that will promote economic growth by fostering sustainable local economies and eliminate poverty in Native communities.”
“This is a groundbreaking approach to address seemingly intractable economic problems,” said Julie Kikta, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives. “The Alaska Federation of Natives fully supports the introduction of this legislation and hopes it gets enacted quickly. We pledge to help in whatever way we can to ensure it meets its purposes.”
“The Native Hawaiian people and culture are the foundation for life in Hawai‘i and provide the guiding principles that govern our communities and conduct,” said Congresswoman Hanabusa. “Unfortunately, too many Native Hawaiians struggle to find affordable housing, quality jobs, and access to healthcare. We must do more to empower our Native people and businesses to improve their quality of life and move them closer to self-determination. By building upon the lessons and experiences taken from more than five decades of delivering U.S. aid to developing countries, we can help these communities grow and thrive. The challenges faced by international development and Native communities are similar and our successes abroad prove we can help here in Hawai‘i. Thank you, Congressman Young and Congresswoman Gabbard for co-sponsoring this important measure to help grow our Native economies and create new opportunities for families working hard to build a better future for the next generation.”
“Investing in economic opportunity and self-sufficiency for our Native communities will have short and long-term benefits,” said Congresswoman Gabbard. “In Hawaiʻi, Native Hawaiians make up nearly one-third of our homeless population, and are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system, in underemployment and high school drop-out rates, and more. Our bipartisan legislation helps to address these challenges by empowering our Native communities, strengthening avenues for investment, and fostering economic development.”
Congressman Young has been working on Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian issues for many years in Congress and serves on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. America’s Native peoples continue to suffer disproportionately high rates of unemployment and poverty, poor health, substandard housing, and associated social ills when compared to any other group in our nation. Although there has been steady improvement in absolute terms, the fact remains that there has been insufficient progress in the last 30 years towards closing the gap between Native peoples and the American public at large in most indicators of well-being.
The goal of this bill is to create a path for economic development in Native communities by taking the best lessons of the last 50 years of America’s experience in providing foreign aid to developing countries and applying them in the domestic context in remote, predominantly Native American areas. Since Native economies are often plagued by the same challenges as economies of the developing world, these communities can benefit from lessons learned from international development assistance.