Legislation Would Establish a Formal Commission to Investigate, Document, and Acknowledge Past Injustices of Federal Government’s Indian Boarding School Policies
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev) joined 18 of her Senate colleagues in a letter to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) leadership, requesting a committee hearing as quickly as possible on the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act, legislation she cosponsored due to the history of the Stewart Indian School in Carson City.
“We respectfully request that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hold a hearing on S. 2907, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act,” the senators wrote. “This bill would establish a formal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian Boarding School Policies, including attempts to terminate Native cultures, religions, and languages; assimilation practices; and human rights violations… We respectfully ask that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedule a hearing to consider this legislation at its earliest convenience.”
This bipartisan bill would build on steps Secretary Haaland has taken at the Department of the Interior by establishing a formal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian Boarding School Policies. 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 it would provide a forum for victims to speak about personal experiences tied to these human rights violations. Dozens of tribal nations, tribal organizations, human rights groups, and other entities support this legislation.
Last year, Secretary Haaland announced that Interior would conduct an initial investigation of the Indian Boarding School Policies and their consequences. Earlier this month, the Department released the first volume of its report, marking the start of the federal government’s reckoning with this painful legacy.
Senator Cortez Masto is one of the strongest champions for Native Americans in the Senate. She has repeatedly called on the administration to do more to address the epidemic of violence against Native women and girls, including securing federal funding to protect Native communities, urging the administration to put together a plan to address this issue, and requesting the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the federal response to this crisis. In 2020, she passed the bipartisan Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act to help address the epidemic of missing, murdered, and trafficked Indigenous women. Last month, she joined Senators Tester and Murkowski in pushing the administration to implement these laws. Following her advocacy, the Departments of Interior and Justice named members to the commission required by Senator Cortez Masto’s Not Invisible Act.
You can read the text of the letter here.