Senators say the Bureau of Indian Affairs is in for a major overhaul after an initial series of hearings detailed contract fraud, Mafia infiltration and child sexual abuse on reservations.
Senators heard emotional testimony Thursday from Hopi Indian mothers who say their children were sexually abused at reservation schools.Five mothers, some near tears, told of teachers and relatives who had molested children, and their desperation to find counselors who could help them and their young ones deal with the trauma.
The testimony came as two weeks of hearings wrapped up before a special unit of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. The hearings, which also detailed fraud in the government's Indian-preference contract program and mob influence on reservation gambling operations, are to resume Feb. 21.
But senators said they have heard enough already to decide that the BIA is in need of major changes, and that more funding is needed to help Indians victimized by the problems on the reservations.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., assured the mothers who testified Thursday that more money will be provided for counseling centers to combat the child abuse problem. "We'll get the funding," he said.
The mothers told of the case of John Boone, a former teacher and coach at Pollaca Day School, which is operated by the BIA on the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona.
Boone molested 142 to 144 boys over nine years, said a mother who identified herself as Sylvia. He now is serving a prison term after pleading guilty to sex offenses on the reservation, said Mary Lou Soller, an attorney for the committee.