Native American Legislative Update

Following are legislative updates for October from Portia K. Skenandore-Wheelock, Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). This is a link to information from FCNL related to Native Americans. On that page you can sign up to receive these legislative updates. https://www.fcnl.org/issues/native-americans

The Friends Committee on National Legislation is a national, nonpartisan Quaker organization that lobbies Congress and the administration to advance peace, justice, and environmental stewardship. https://www.fcnl.org/about

This month’s action is to Support the Establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools.

“It is long overdue for the United States to acknowledge the historic trauma of the Indian boarding school era. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian churches collaborated with the government to create hundreds of boarding schools for Native American children. The conditions at these schools, some of them Quaker-run, were unspeakable.
Now we must work with tribal nations to advance congressional efforts to establish a federal commission to formally investigate boarding school policy and develop recommendations for the government to take further action. Although the wrongs committed at these institutions can never be made right, we can start the truth, healing, and reconciliation process for the families and communities affected as we work to right relationship with tribal nations.
Remind your members of Congress of their responsibility to tribal nations and urge them to support the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444).”

This link will help you write and send a letter of support for the establishment of a Truth and Healing Commission.

As a constituent and person of faith, I welcome the introduction of the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (S. 2907/H.R. 5444) and urge you to support this important legislation.

From the 1860s through the 1960s, U.S. federal boarding school policy sought to assimilate more than 100,000 Native children into white American culture at 367 boarding and day schools operated by 14 different denominations. The traumatic separation of Native children from their families, identity, traditions, and spiritual beliefs was often coupled with psychological and physical abuse administered at these institutions. Heartbreakingly, many of these children never returned home.

The faith community has begun acknowledging our complicity in the historic trauma of the boarding school era and is committed to locating, cataloguing, and sharing boarding school records with the commission and the public as part of the truth-telling process. Given the scale of this effort and the government’s central role in boarding school policy, I call on you to join this important work and establish a federal commission to formally investigate boarding school policy and develop recommendations for the government to take further action.

The intergenerational impact of federal boarding school policy is still felt today. Loss of indigenous languages and cultures, injury to tribal governance and sovereignty, and high poverty, poor health, and growing suicide rates continue to harm tribal communities across the country. The establishment of the commission is an important first step in starting the truth, healing, and reconciliation process for all of us.

I urge you to co-sponsor this vital legislation and make a public statement in support of it and ask that you encourage your colleagues in Congress to do the same.

Quaker Lobby Backs Indian Boarding School Investigation Legislation by Timothy McHugh, FCNL, October 4, 2021

Washington, DC – The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) welcomed late last week’s introduction of important legislation to investigate and address the atrocities committed at Indian boarding schools throughout the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Contact Tim McHugh: media@fcnl.org, 202-903-2515

“For far too long, the truth of cultural genocide led by European-Americans at Indian boarding schools has remained hidden in secrecy and ignored. Christian churches, including Quakers, carry this burden of transgression against indigenous people. It is necessary and important for our government to investigate, acknowledge, and report the truth to help us move toward healing the injustice against American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians,” said Diane Randall, FCNL’s general secretary.

“History cannot be undone. But it also can’t be ignored. The faith community must acknowledge our complicity in the historic trauma of the boarding school era and work in solidarity with tribal nations to advance congressional efforts to establish a truth, reconciliation, and healing process for the families and communities affected,” Randall concluded.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), Representative Sharice Davids (KS), and Representative Tom Cole (OK) introduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act to establish the first formal commission in US history to investigate and document the attempted termination of cultures and languages of Indigenous peoples, assimilation practices, and human rights violations that occurred against American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians through Indian Boarding School policies. A final report will be due within five years of the commission’s creation.

“This bill is a positive first step toward addressing not only the crimes of the boarding school era but centuries of abuse, maltreatment, and genocide of Native people at the hands of the federal government. Acknowledging the truths tribal communities have always known is an important part of the healing and reconciliation process for all of us,” said Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock, FCNL’s Native American Advocacy Program Congressional Advocate.

“Our work must also continue beyond the Commission in supporting the Indigenous languages, cultures, and peoples these policies were intended to destroy and erase. Only then can we create a future where all our children are safe, loved, and proud of who they are.”

Bill Advances to Protect Native American Cultural Heritage

On Oct. 13, the House Committee on Natural Resources advanced the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act of 2021 (H.R. 2930) by unanimous consent. This bipartisan bill would prohibit the export of Native American cultural items that were illegally obtained, provide for the return of items, and double criminal penalties for individuals convicted of selling or purchasing human remains or illegally obtained cultural items.

“Throughout history, Native American cultural items such as human remains, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony have been looted and sold to collectors in our country and abroad,” said Rep. Leger Fernández (NM-3) during an earlier hearing on the bill. “The STOP Act gives Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations a tool to close the door on the illegal exportation of cultural objects.”

Similar legislation (S. 1471) has been approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is awaiting action by the full Senate.


Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

As we bear witness and lobby in solidarity with Native Americans, we also honor the Nacotchtank tribe on whose ancestral land the FCNL, FCNL Education Fund, and Friends Place on Capitol Hill buildings stand. They are also known as the Anacostans, the Indigenous people who lived along the banks of the Anacostia River, including in several villages on Capitol Hill and what is now Washington, D.C. By the 1700s, the Nacotchtank tribe had merged with other tribes like the Pamunkey and the Piscataway, both of which still exist today.

Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

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