The Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service System (Task Force) convened its second meeting from May 6 to 8, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

On Tuesday, the Task Force visited the Navajo Nation Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Health Center in the Navajo Nation—an Indian Health Service (IHS) healthcare facility primarily providing care to Navajo patients.  While there, the Task Force met with health officials and tribal leaders.

The Task Force continued its focus on the IHS, discussing concerns about its culture, protocols and practices, ability to recruit and retain quality healthcare professionals, and employee familiarity with mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse.  The Task Force also met with Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle Tribal School officials and Navajo officials, including Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who also chairs the Navajo Sexual Assault Prevention Subcommittee.  Their discussion included tribal school processes and protocols for handling child abuse reporting as well as recruitment of Native American doctors and medical professionals.

On Wednesday, the Task Force met with the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, John Anderson, and Supervisory Assistant US Attorney Kyle Nayback, who leads the Indian Country Crimes Section, to draw upon their on-the-ground experience with child abuse investigations, including cases that involved mandatory reporters, as well as reporting in IHS facilities and tribal schools.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Task Force met with tribal leaders, including the All Pueblo Council of Governors at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, to discuss institutional challenges within the IHS system that impact the safety of Native American children.  The Council Chairman is Governor Paul Torres of Isleta Pueblo and Vice Chairman Michael Chavarria of Santa Clara Pueblo.

The Task Force will convene again in Montana in the coming weeks.  Individuals wishing to provide information or commentary to Task Force members are encouraged to contact the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at IGA.state@who.eop.gov.

Please note: This Task Force’s focus is separate and distinguishable from other investigations into the IHS.  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 HHS’s Inspector General, which HHS Secretary Azar ordered earlier this year; or (3) a review conducted by an outside, independent contractor retained by IHS.

For additional information about the task force and its members, please visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/white-house-announces-presidential-task-force-protecting-native-american-children-indian-health-service-system.