The Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service System (Task Force) convened its first meeting on April 4, 2019, at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The President announced the formation of the Task Force in March, less than two weeks ago, and charged it with examining institutional and systemic problems that may have failed to prevent the predatory abuse of Native American children in the care of the Indian Health Service (IHS).  The Task Force will develop and recommend policies, protocols, and best practices to protect Native American children in the IHS system and seek to prevent such abuses from happening ever again.

The Task Force is led by co-chairs Joseph Grogan, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation.  The Task Force relies on the expertise and experiences of Task Force members; draws on additional Federal employees and Federal resources; and seeks the perspective of and engagement with tribal leaders and Native Americans.

In today’s inaugural meeting, the Task Force discussed its mission, expectations, and goals, including seeking the perspective of Native Americans on the IHS system. The Task Force met with Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James Floyd.  Principal Chief Floyd is the chief executive of the tribe, with 28 years of Federal service that includes the management of Veterans Affairs facilities in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Utah.  The Task Force also heard from Dr. Mark Butterbrodt, a former pediatrician at Pine Ridge reservation, and Inspector Curt Muller, Office of the Inspector General for Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Task Force explored issues relating to the recruitment and retention of healthcare providers, including continuing education requirements and reporting protocols.  The Task Force also discussed existing relationships among healthcare providers with Federal, State, local, and tribal authorities, and additional social, community, and cultural topics of relevance. The Task Force focused on “lessons learned” from other medical institutions, tribal histories, and Federal, State, local, and individual experiences.

Upon completion of its initial deliverables, the Task Force will convene again for meetings, including in South Dakota and Montana.

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 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 IHS.