May 25, 2023

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Seek Healing for Native Communities Impacted By Indian Boarding School Injustices

ku stevens

Senator Cortez Masto visits the graveyard at the Stewart Indian School in Cason City, Nevada in August of 2022

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 25 of their Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act, to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government's Indian Boarding School Policies.

Cortez Masto has worked to highlight the painful chapter of residential schools in Nevada and across the country. Last year, Senator Cortez Masto visited the Stewart Indian School to attend the Remembrance Run hosted by Ku Stevens and his family. The event honored Indigenous children who endured brutal assimilation practices, and even death, at the hands of government-run residential schools.

“Indian boarding schools were a tragic chapter in U.S. history, and we must confront these abuses and support the many tribal communities who were targeted,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I am proud to support the creation of the Truth and Healing Commission and will continue to work with Nevada’s Stewart Indian School and Native organizations across the country to help address these past injustices and stand up for Indigenous children and families.”

“There isn’t a Paiute, Shoshone, or Washoe who isn’t directly connected to the Stewart Indian School, which was established to forcefully assimilate, most often violently, our relatives into mainstream America,” said Stacey Montooth (Walker River Paiute), Executive Director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “In 2023, our overall poor health, high unemployment, low high school graduation rates, and the huge unmet need for behavior health services are directly tied to the federal government’s systemic and racist relations with the first people of this land. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s plan to establish a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Act is critical to understand all the impacts of this horrific federal policy and start true consultation and healing for the most overlooked people in this country.”  

The bipartisan Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act would:

  • Establish a formal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government's Indian Boarding School Policies.
    • This includes attempts to terminate Native cultures, religions, and languages; assimilation practices; and human rights violations.
  • Develop recommendations for Congress to aid in healing of the historical and intergenerational trauma passed down in Native families and communities.
  • Provide a forum for victims to speak about personal experiences tied to these human rights violations.

This bill has been endorsed by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Indian Education Association (NIEA), National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH), National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB), Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FNCL), and United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF).

A member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Cortez Masto is a strong voice for the Tribal Nations in Nevada. The Senator has continuously highlightedthe ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), and she passed Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act into law. Collaborating with Native leaders, the Senator has delivered millions to Tribal Nations in Nevada to develop housing to serve community elders, veterans, and families, as well as critical federal fundingto expand Tribal broadband. To help conserve and protect Tribal cultures, she passed a bipartisan bill to increase penalties for trafficking in sacred items, and she is working to pass legislation to preserve Native languages.