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Sens. Franken, Dorgan in White Earth for field hearing on BIA Schools.

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WHITE EARTH, Minn. — The Bureau of Indian Affairs came in for some heavy criticism here Saturday at a rare oversight field hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee attended by U.S. Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

A new $16 million school to replace the Circle of Life School in White Earth village is now under construction, and has been in the planning stages since it made the list of schools to be repaired or replaced in 2006.

Vizenor said the process was slowed by the turtle’s pace at which the BIA answers email inquiries from tribes. One question took two months to answer. Others were never answered at all. All email inquires go to the bottom of a list at the BIA and are supposed to be answered within 21 days, but often aren’t.

Senator Dorgan said he has seen Indian schools that have no working fire alarms, or — like the current Circle of Life School — that have been functioning for years in spite of being condemned.

“Somebody’s got to be blowing the whistle here and saying something’s not right — do we have to wait until kids die in a fire? The current system puts kids at risk,” Dorgan said.

In exchange for Indian lands given up in treaties, the federal government agreed to provide for the health, education and welfare of Indian people “in perpetuity,” Senator Franken said. “We haven’t been keeping our end of the deal.” For full story go to: www.dglobe.com/event/article/id/40721/group/homepage

haskellnews commentary 9/13/2010

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