White House announces Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service System
WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump today announced the formation of a Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service System.
The task force will examine any systemic problems that may have led to failures of the IHS to protect Native American children. The task force will develop recommended policies, protocols and best practices to protect Native American children and prevent abuse.
“I welcome the creation of this task force. Keeping Native American children safe is a critical government function,” U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said. “I also hope that our office’s prosecution of Dr. Stanley Weber, a former IHS pediatrician who practiced on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, sends a strong message that those who sexually abuse children will be held accountable and that we will seek justice for victims,” Alme said.
Weber was convicted at trial of aggravated sex abuse of a child, attempted aggravated sex abuse of a child and abusive sexual contact of a minor. He was sentenced in January to 220 months in prison. Weber is appealing.
Blackfeet Nation Chairman Timothy F. Davis said, “This task force is charged with a monumental task. It is imperative and crucial all children be protected from assault. Therefore, it is with much anticipation and excitement we look forward to the work the task force will undertake to not only develop policies, protocols and best practices that will insure the safety of our children now and in the future, but also I am especially delighted to learn of the appointment of pediatrician Dr. Caitlin Hall, MD, FAAP, as a subject matter expert with whom I had the privilege of working with at Blackfeet Community Hospital.
“As a tribal leader, and being personally familiar with the crime committed on our Blackfeet Nation, I wholeheartedly welcome this opportunity to interact with the White House Task Force to provide input on addressing and finding solutions to this systemic problem that must be eradicated and as promised, never ever occur again anywhere,” Chairman Davis said.
This task force’s focus is separate and distinguishable from other investigations into the Indian health system. Specifically, the work of the task force will not interfere with: (1) the criminal investigation of one particular pediatrician; (2) a review underway at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including a review by the Department’s Inspector General, which HHS Secretary Azar ordered earlier this year; or (3) a review conducted by an outside, independent contractor retained by the Indian health system.
The task force will be comprised of subject-matter experts from several United States Government agencies, and co-chaired by Joseph Grogan, Assistant to the President of Domestic Policy, and U.S. Attorney Trent Shores, for the Northern District of Oklahoma, and citizen of the Choctaw Nation. The task force will also draw on the expertise of other federal employees and resources and seek perspective an input from tribal leaders and Native American voices.