September 30, 2021

Cortez Masto Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Seek Healing for Native Children and Their Communities

Washington, D.C. –Today, on the National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined bipartisan legislation, The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act, to 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. The commission would also develop recommendations for Congress to aid in healing of the historical and intergenerational trauma passed down in Native families and communities and provide a forum for victims to speak about personal experiences tied to these human rights violations.

“We must continue to honor the Indigenous children and communities forever changed by the U.S.’s draconian Indian boarding school policies,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m proud to stand with my colleagues on this bill that would allow us to work together with Nevada’s Stewart Indian School and Native organizations across the country to help address this tragic chapter in U.S. history.”

The Indian Boarding School Policies were implemented by the federal government to strip American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children of their Indigenous identities, beliefs, and languages by forcibly removing children from their tribal lands and families. According to NABS, it is estimated that by 1926, nearly 83 percent of AI/AN children, as young as 3 years old, were enrolled in one of at least 367 currently known Indian boarding schools across 30 states, including the Steward Indian School in Nevada. The full effects of the Indian Boarding School Policies have never been appropriately addressed, resulting in long-standing historical and intergenerational trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, disappearance, premature deaths, and additional undocumented psychological trauma. The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act is an attempt to address this disgraceful chapter in history and begin healing for Native communities.

This bill will build on steps that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has taken to address this need. On June 22, 2021, Secretary Haaland announced that the Interior would conduct an initial investigation of the Indian boarding school policies and their consequences, marking the start of the federal government’s reckoning with this painful legacy. This morning, the Department of the Interior announced that the Department will begin tribal consultations on this Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. 

The legislation is led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.).