Washington, D.C. (KINY) - U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined 26 senators in reintroducing S.1723, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act, which seeks healing for stolen Native children and their communities.
The bill 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.
The commission would also develop recommendations for Congress to aid in the 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.
“It is past time the U.S. government come to terms with the dark legacy of the Indian boarding school era, which attempted to destroy Native American cultures, religions, and languages,” said Senator Murkowski. “A formal truth and healing commission will help address those past injustices and support processes that bring healing to survivors, their families, and communities. I thank my colleagues who continue to support this legislation and look forward to the healing and justice it will help provide.”
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.
Nearly 83 percent of AI/AN children, as young as 5 years old, were forcibly removed from their Tribal lands and families to be enrolled in one of 367 Indian boarding schools across 30 states, resulting in human rights violations including spiritual, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and violence.
The full effects of the Indian Boarding School Policy 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.
Furthermore, the residual impact of the Indian Boarding School Policy remains evident in a lack of culturally inclusive and affirming curricula and historically inaccurate representation of AI/AN people, history, and contributions.
In May 2022, Senator Murkowski released a public statement responding to the Department of the Interior’s release of its initial investigative report initiated by its Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, which called for a comprehensive review of the legacy of federal boarding school policies.
Following that report, Senator Murkowski helped lead a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) oversight hearing on “Volume 1 of the Department of the Interior’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report” and a legislative hearing to receive testimony on S. 2907, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act, of which she was also a co-sponsor.
The bill is endorsed by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Indian Education Association (NIEA), National Indian Health Board (NIHB), 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).
The bill is led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), and also co-sponsored by Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Marin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).