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Welcome to FCNL’s Native American Legislative Update! NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL’s Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage members of Congress.

Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Bill Introduced

On Sept. 30, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-3), and Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4) introduced a bipartisan bill to establish the first formal commission in United States history on Indian boarding schools. The commission will investigate and document policies, assimilation practices, attempted termination of cultures and languages of indigenous peoples, and human rights violations that took place at hundreds of faith-run institutions.

The commission will conduct meaningful and culturally respectful public hearings while receiving guidance from a Truth and Healing Advisory Board. Together, they will develop a final report with recommendations for the federal government due no later than five years after enactment.

Vigil caling for for Truth and reconcillation around Indian Boarding Schools
Michael Swan
Every Child Matters vigil in remembrance of Native children who died in residential schools and the inter-generational trauma experienced by children and families. August 2021.

Indian Child Welfare Act Under Attack

On Sept. 3, the U.S. solicitor general, Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation, and Quinault Indian Nation filed cert petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court in Brackeen v. Haaland to defend the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

This law was enacted in 1978 to help keep Native children in Native homes. FCNL worked closely with Congress to enact the legislation. In ICWA cases, the first preference is that the child go to an extended family member for placement, even if the relative is non-Native. The second preference is placement with someone within the child’s tribe, and the third preference is placement with another tribe.

In 2017, a Texas couple and state attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana sued the Department of the Interior to challenge ICWA. Despite having their own adoption of a Navajo and Cherokee boy finalized, the couple persisted in their efforts to overturn ICWA, but a federal court upheld the law last April.

The state of Texas, however, is continuing to challenge the constitutionality of ICWA. They claim that it’s a race-based system that makes it more difficult for Native children to be adopted or fostered into non-Native homes. A Supreme Court response to the tribes’ petition and Texas’ petition is due Oct. 8.

Bill Tracker

Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2021 (H.R. 2119):

This bipartisan reauthorization bill is soon headed to the House floor for vote. This is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to domestic violence shelter and supportive services, and is the primary source of funding for these services for tribal nations.

Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act of 2021 (H.R. 5160):

On Sept. 3, Reps. Sharice Davids (KS-3) and Joe Neguse (CO-2) introduced this bill to fund the Small Business Administration’s Office of Native American Affairs, create an associate administrator position, and update the office’s mission to better establish a government-to-government working relationship with tribes. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Small Business.

Urban Indian Health Confer Act (H.R. 5221):

On Sept. 10, Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3) introduced this bipartisan bill to require the Department of Health and Human Services to confer with urban Indian organizations on health care policies for tribal citizens living in urban areas. The bill has been referred to the Committees on Natural Resources and Education and Labor.

What We’re Reading

People: Portia Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program
Portia manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.

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