Tester takes Chairmanship of Senate Indian Affairs Committee

Senator reaches out to tribes, pledges to improve quality of life for all Native Americans

(U.S. SENATE) – After serving Indian Country in the U.S. Senate for seven years, Montana Senator Jon Tester this week stepped forward to become the new Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Tester, who grew up and lives near the Rocky Boys Reservation in north-central Montana, has served on the committee since his first days in the Senate. He says his long-standing ties to Indian Country and his dedication to working with tribes will lead to new opportunities for all Native Americans.

“Working together, we will expand economic opportunities, create safer communities, stronger health care systems, and responsibly manage the natural resources that are so abundant in Indian Country,” Tester said. “And while we won’t get it done in a day, I have full confidence in our ability to make big strides for all Native Americans.”

Tester, who recently gave the Congressional response to the National Congress of American Indians’ State of Indian Nations address, plans to focus on a wide-range of issues affecting Indian Country, with an emphasis on improving tribal education.

“Education – especially early education – is the foundation for sound life choices that increase economic security and help us climb the ladder of success,” said Tester, a former elementary school teacher. “But education’s greatest value is how it expands our worldview and prepares us to take on the challenges we face every day. As Chairman, I will continue to seek more ways to improve tribal schools and tribal colleges and ensure Native students have every opportunity to succeed.”

Tester replaces Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) as head of the committee. Cantwell chaired her final committee hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony about the implementation of the Tribal Law and Order Act.

At the hearing, Tester pressed panelists for more ways to get state, county and tribal law enforcement officials to work together to protect Native communities and to support offenders working to re-integrate into tribal communities.

Tester recently introduced legislation to preserve Native languages to help strengthen Indian culture and education and told the President that the federal government must meet its trust obligations and support Indian Country.

More information about Tester’s efforts to improve life in Indian Country is available on his website HERE.