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Letter of Support of Debra Sharkey

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 3 months ago


Written Testimony of Debra Sharkey


In Support of Raised Bill No. 5141


“An Act Concerning a Commission on Native American Indian Affairs”


February 25, 2008


Senator Meyer, Representative Roy and members of the Environment Committee, thank you for the opportunity to come before you during the February 25, 2008 public hearing and for the opportunity to submit written testimony in support of Raised Bill 5141, “An Act Concerning a Commission on Native American Indian Affairs.”


Most importantly, thank you for introducing this very important bill.


Last year, when Bill No 7298 “An Act Concerning the Indian Affairs Council,” was introduced, I stated that “in 1998, I was appointment to the Connecticut Indian Affairs Council (“CIAC”) by Former Governor Rowland. I was honored to be asked to serve in that capacity because I care deeply about the Native American population in our country, and, more specifically, within the State of Connecticut. However, what I learned over time was that the role I was asked to play would not be fulfilled. In the ten years since my appointment, the CIAC never met.” Since that time, my term has expired. Currently, no one is appointed to the CIAC. “I have been given different explanations: there wasn’t a full compliment of members; recommendations for members were “under review” by the Governor’s office; there were inter-tribal disputes; there wasn’t a budget.”


“As a result, the goals of the Council went unfulfilled and the native population in Connecticut is not adequately served or represented. As government and media attention have focused on issues related to federal recognition and land rights, either by design or neglect, the issues of our indigenous and non-indigenous American Indian residents of our State have been systematically ignored. "


During the 2007 Session, the Bill received favorable support from the Environment, Appropriations and GAE committees and the House of Representatives. Time ran out before it could be raised in the Senate. 


Since that time a group of concerned citizens and indigenous and non-indigenous American Indians living in the State of Connecticut have worked diligently on alternative language to the 2007 HR Bill 7298. Representative Sharkey has provided the committee with that alternative language as an attachment to his testimony. It is that alternative language I support.


The new language is modeled after other Commissions created by the Connecticut General Assembly and similar entities in other states, and could effectively help to address the health, human and educational needs of the Indian population of Connecticut. It promotes better communication between State and local governments, indigenous and non-indigenous American Indians, and the general public. In addition, the Commission would play a key role as an advocate for the preservation and appreciation of American Indian culture and traditions in our State. It promotes advocacy and would serve as a resource to the legislature, all branches of government, municipalities, Indians and not-Indians living in the State of Connecticut. The proposed language allows Indians to represent Indians as opposed to non-Indians speaking for Indians – such as the Attorney General Office’s “Division of Indian Affairs,” which, until recently, was unknown to the Coordinator of Indian Affairs and the Indian populations themselves.


Currently, African Americans, Latino / Puerto Ricans, Aging, Children and Women (other minority groups) have a voice in Hartford and yet – the Original People of this State do not. It is time to remedy this injustice. 


Indigenous and non-indigenous American Indians, or “Original Peoples,” deserve equal opportunities for representation, advocacy and services as do other underserved minority groups in the State of Connecticut. Therefore, through this testimony I support the creation of a:


1.     Commission on Indian Affairs under the Legislative Branch of Government


2.     Position for an Executive Director


3.     Budget for the proposed Indian Affairs Commission


I would be happy to work with the Committee to provide additional background information in support of this proposal.


Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony regarding this very important issue.


_ _ _ _ _ __


Note: In support of my testimony, I have attached statistical data regarding American Indians in Connecticut as well as the organizational structure of other Commissions created by the General Assembly under the legislative branch of government. (This data was also distributed during the 2007 Legislative Session – see below)




Background Data


Native Indian & Alaska Native Populations in Connecticut


According to the United States Census Bureau – 2003 Data Profile, over 12,000 known Native American & Alaska Natives live in the State of Connecticut. That number jumps dramatically to more than 27,000 if you include those individuals who “self-identified” as American Indian or Alaska Native - “One Race alone or in combination with one or more other races.”


American Indian & Alaska Native Populations


2003 Estimate


Upper Bound


“One Race”






“One Race alone or in combination with one or more other races”








Connecticut Legislative Branch of Government Commissions


According to the Legislative 2008-2009 Budget-in-Detail report, the following Commissions were created by an act of the General Assembly. Each Commission is part of the Legislative Branch of Government and has a budget and staff assigned to the work of that Commission.


The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission’s (“LPRAC”) charge is to“coordinate and provide access to resources by developing and recommending to the Governor and the legislature, policy for the advancement of the Latino and Puerto Rican community. [The LPRAC] works to ensure proper presentation and recognition of the Latino and Puerto Rican communities” (Budget: 528,931 – 5 FTE)


The African American Affairs Commission’s (“AAAC”) purpose is toreview and comment on proposed legislation affecting the State’s African-American population, encourage their representation in State government, secure appropriate recognition of their accomplishments and contributions, advise the Governor on policies and issues concerning their communities and maintain a liaison between their communities and governmental entities.”


The AAAC “studies the roles of African-Americans in the state and actively promote measures that provide for the advancement of the African-American Community.” (Budget: $413,436 – 4 FTE)


The Commission on Children has acharge “to study the status of children and children’s programs in order to identify programs, policies and legislation that will improve the development of children and strengthen the capabilities of families to provide for children’s basic needs, to inform individuals and leaders of business, labor, education, state and local government, the media and the General Assembly of findings and recommendations, to promote child and family program and policy coordination across the three branches of government and between local and state endeavors, and to perform services to facilitate adoption of the recommendations.” (Budget: $1,095,973 – 8 FTE)


The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (“PCSW”) works to “eliminate sex discrimination in Connecticut.” Their charge is to “inform leaders about the nature and scope of discrimination, to serve as a liaison between government and private interest groups, to promote consideration for women for governmental positions and to work with state agencies to assess programs and practices as they affect women. The PSW provides research and analysis to the Governor, legislature and State leaders regarding sex discrimination in education, employment and credit: health and safety issues; child day care and support enforcement; sexual harassment; welfare policy; economic development; women and girls in the criminal justice system; and other issues affecting women and girls.”


The PWSW “takes complaints from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of sex . . . The Commission is not an enforcement agency but its staff provides assistance in filing formal complaints with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.” (Budget: $1,078,356 – 8 FTE)


The Commission on Aging is an “independent, advocacy agency within State government for older adults. [It strives] to enhance the quality of life of present and future generations of older adults in Connecticut. Their charge is to monitor the status of older adults, assess the impact of current and proposed initiatives, and conduct activities which help make it possible for them to lead healthy, safe and rewarding lives now and in the future.”


The Commission on Aging advocates on issues and programs including but not limited to, health care, nutrition, housing, employment, transportation. Legal assistance, civic engagement, and economic security” (Budget: $468,287 – 4 FTE)


Proposed American Indian Affairs Commission - Indigenous and non-indigenous American Indians deserve equal opportunities for representation, advocacy and services as do other underserved minority groups in the State of Connecticut. The proposed Commission should be under the Legislative Branch of Government.


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