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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.

Interior Releases Boarding School Initiative Report

On May 11, the Department of the Interior released the first volume of the long-awaited Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Report. The report found that between 1819 and 1969, there were 408 schools across 37 states, and over 1,000 other institutions were involved in the education of Native children, including Indian day schools, orphanages, and asylums.

These federally sponsored schools were run by Christian denominations with dual goals of cultural assimilation and land dispossession. Abuse, solitary confinement, and physical punishment were commonplace. Quakers ran a number of these schools. 

“This report presents the opportunity for us to reorient federal policies to support the revitalization of tribal languages and cultural practices to counteract nearly two centuries of federal policies aimed at their destruction,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland.

FCNL General Secretary Bridget Moix emphasized that the Quaker lobby “remain[s] committed to doing our part to advance the reckoning and healing process for this dark chapter in American history.”

The investigation also found 53 burial sites at boarding school locations so far. As the Interior Department continues their investigation, they will produce a list of marked and unmarked burial sites and approximate the total amount of federal funding used to support the Indian boarding school system.

The Interior Department also announced the launch of “The Road to Healing,” a year-long tour across the country to allow survivors to share their stories, connect tribal communities with trauma-informed support, and facilitate the collection of a permanent oral history.

Honoring Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls Awareness Day

On May 5, survivors, families, and advocates held events and memorials across the country to honor National Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls Awareness Day. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation and the Senate passed a resolution to formally recognize the crisis.

The Interior Department also held an event on May 5 to share updates on their Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) initiatives. The new Missing and Murdered Unit, operating out of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has built up its personnel and infrastructure capacity.

Seventeen offices now have at least one agent dedicated to solving MMIP cases. Secretary Deb Haaland and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco also announced the members of the Not Invisible Act Commission, a new advisory committee to address public safety and MMIP cases.

“The MMIW crisis is not new,” said Lucy Simpson, executive director for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, at the May 5 event. “It was born in colonization and is a continuation of past federal laws and policies that were intended to terminate Indian nations.” She emphasized the need to move toward prevention with a holistic approach to safety, including safe housing.

Bill Tracker

Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Policies Act (H.R. 5444)

On May 12, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the U.S. held a hearing to receive testimony from boarding school survivors, tribal leaders, and the head of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

FY2023 Budget Hearings

On May 11, the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee received testimony from the Indian Health Service (IHS) on its proposal to move IHS funding from discretionary to mandatory funding in fiscal year 2023. If approved, this change would stabilize the tribal healthcare system. 

What We’re Reading 

People: Portia Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program (2021-2023)

Portia managed the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.