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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.

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.”

Brian D. Vallo, governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, also testified on how the STOP Act can close gaps in current federal law that traffickers take advantage of to sell and export cultural items. “Whatever intrinsic beauty these items possess and whatever monetary value they may generate for traffickers, that is not their intended purpose,” he said. “These items are essential to our way of life. We have prioritized protecting our tangible cultural heritage because we believe that, without their presence, we cannot continue our way of life.”

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

Senate Confirms Muscogee Nation Citizen as Federal District Judge

On Oct. 5, the Senate voted 55-44 to confirm Lauren J. King to a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, a state with 29 federally recognized tribes. King is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation based in Oklahoma.

She taught federal Indian law at the Seattle University School of Law, served as a pro tem appellate judge for the Northwest Intertribal Court System, and was partner at a Seattle law firm. King is the first Native American to serve as a federal district judge in the state of Washington, and the fourth Native American judge actively serving on the entire federal bench.

Bill Tracker

Remove the Stain Act (H.R. 2226):

On Sept. 23, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4350) which included the Remove the Stain Act as an amendment. This bill would rescind each Medal of Honor awarded to U.S. Cavalry members who participated in the 1890 massacre of hundreds of Lakota people at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The Senate is expected to pass its version of the NDAA next month (S. 2792).

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021:

On Oct. 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the renewal and strengthening of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and heard testimony from Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. The House passed their VAWA reauthorization bill (H.R. 1620) in March; the Senate has yet to introduce a bill.

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.