(Extensions of Remarks - November 16, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 188 (Thursday, November 16, 2017)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1585]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              CIVIL RIGHTS


                           HON. DEREK KILMER

                             of washington

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, November 16, 2017

  Mr. KILMER. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to include in the Record these 
remarks I recently made to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the U.S. 
Commission on Civil Rights:

       I'm standing with Chairman Castro from the U.S. Commission 
     on Civil Rights in a village called Taholah. It's the lower 
     reservation of the Quinault Indian Nation. The nation's 
     President, Fawn Sharp, takes us up a slight incline as we 
     look out at the Pacific Ocean. ``When I was a kid,'' she 
     says, ``The ocean was a football field's length away. Now 
     it's our front porch.''
       She explains that her village has been there since time 
     immemorial. But in recent years, it has begun to see the 
     threats of rising sea levels and more severe storms--not to 
     mention the threat of tsunami. She points out that village is 
     below sea level--which wasn't a problem in past generations. 
     But now, on numerous occasions, the sea wall has breached and 
     their village has filled up like a bowl.
       That story--and the stories of the four other tribes in my 
     district that--as we sit here today are in the process of 
     trying to move to higher ground--deserves to be heard. And it 
     is why I'm grateful to Mr. Castro and to the U.S. Commission 
     on Civil Rights for listening.
       Billy Frank, a Native American civil rights icon, provided 
     vital direction to those who needed to be heard, who wanted 
     to advocate. He would say, ``tell your story, tell your 
     story.'' Storytelling is essential for change.
       But in order for change to happen, someone needs to hear 
     that story, and listen to the people telling it. Too often, 
     there is no one listening when communities of color or 
     disadvantaged populations tell their story. That's why the 
     U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is so important. For 60 
     years, the US. Commission on Civil Rights has listened. And 
     they've detailed, in sharp focus, the inequity tribal 
     communities across the nation face, in addition to many other 
       In a 2003 report called The Quiet Crisis, they showed our 
     government's systemic failure to live up to its treaty 
     obligations with tribal communities. I am grateful for the 
     work they're doing to update that report.
       I want to tell you another one of the stories we heard. One 
     of the tribal leaders shared his story. He said, ``Do you 
     want the good news or the bad news?'' I said, ``Let's hear 
     the good news!'' He said, ``Every one of our high schoolers 
     graduated this past year.'' I said, ``So what's the bad 
     news?'' He then shared that, for the first time, the state of 
     Washington was requiring that students take the state 
     mandated exam over the internet. He said, ``We don't have 
     high speed internet.'' He said, ``We tried a sample test. We 
     shut down every computer in the school except two.'' It's one 
     of those exams where you answer ten questions and then click 
     next page. He said, ``We tried it. It took a minute and 44 
     seconds to get to the next page.'' So that's not going to 
       Sadly--that tribe, too, is not alone. Many of the coastal 
     tribes lack the basic broadband that many of us take for 
     granted. It doesn't just create a barrier to first 
     responders, and to folks who want to start a business, or to 
     kids who need to pass a test.
       It's a civil rights problem.
       According to the FCC approximately 63 percent of Tribal 
     land residents lack access to strong broadband. Only 17 
     percent of the rest of the nation faces a similar challenge.
       This isn't the only challenge tribal communities face. We 
     know they have a higher rate of substance abuse issues than 
     the general population, they have lower graduation rates, 
     they have underfunded schools and police forces and many 
     areas lack the economic development opportunities necessary 
     to provide families with a quality income.
       These are real problems, and too often these communities 
     are ignored. But the U.S. Commission on Civil rights is 
     listening. And they're amplifying quiet voices.
       I am pleased with the fact that the Commission is working 
     on an update to the Quiet Crisis Report. When it's completed, 
     it can provide a roadmap for Congress and for the 
     Administration to address problems that are too often 
     unnoticed. And the Commission is listening to other 
     communities too.
       Your work is a big part of the reason a hate crimes bill 
     recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. And 
     your reporting is driving the House's discussion on voting 
       So let me just end by saying thank you. Thank you all for 
     having me today. Thank you Dr. Hayden and the Library of 
     Congress for curating such a powerful exhibit. On behalf of 
     my constituents, and on behalf of everyone else who is 
     telling their story. Thank you.
       And to the Commission--Thank you for listening. Thank you 
     for shining a light on injustice and disparity. And thank you 
     for working to ensure that our nation keeps its promise to 
     all of its citizens.