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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.

Marking the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools

Sept. 30 marks the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools, an Indigenous-led grassroots effort to  raise awareness of the far-reaching intergenerational impacts of the boarding school era.

This commemorative day, also known as Orange Shirt Day, honors survivors and the children who never returned home from Indian boarding schools, their families, and their communities. The orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom, and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In Canada, Sept. 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal holiday established by the Canadian Parliament in 2021. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history of residential schools—and their ongoing impact on Indigenous communities—is a vital component of the reconciliation process in Canada.

On Jan. 20, the Senate passed a resolution to recognize Sept. 30 as a Remembrance Day for the boarding school era in the U.S. However, there has been no movement in the House.

Learn more about Quaker efforts towards truth and healing here .

Government Takes Steps to Address Castro-Huerta Decision

On Sept. 20, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples held an  oversight hearing on the tribal sovereignty implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta.

On June 29, the  Supreme Court held that the General Crimes Act does not preempt or otherwise limit state criminal jurisdiction in prosecuting non-Indian defendants who commit crimes against Indian victims in Indian Country. The decision sets aside more than 200 years of precedent recognizing tribal sovereignty.

At the hearing, government officials, tribal leaders, and Indian law experts discussed the impacts of the decision. “Castro-Huerta undermines tribal jurisdiction and sovereignty by creating a false narrative that Native victims are best protected by the state—they are not,” said Jonodev Chaudhuri, ambassador for the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma.

Several lawmakers asked about the potential of a legislative fix to protect tribal sovereignty. “We do believe that action is needed now,” said Chaudhuri. “We don’t call it a fix; we call it strengthening public safety issues in Indian Country.”

The Departments of Justice and Interior also held listening sessions with tribal leaders on Sept. 26 and 27. They discussed the impact of Castro-Huerta on tribal law enforcement and justice systems, cooperative agreements and processes with state and federal agencies, and reactions to the new concurrent state criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country created by the decision.

Bill Tracker

Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act (S. 4923/H.R. 8960)

On Sept. 22, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) introduced companion bills to strengthen tribal law enforcement and increase public safety in Indian Country. The legislation would address Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement recruitment and retention, increase the effectiveness of federal missing persons resources, and provide additional resources to combat the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Strengthening Tribal Families Act (H.R. 8954)

On Sept. 23, Reps. Judy Chu (CA-27) and Don Bacon (NE-02) introduced a bill to assist state and local child welfare agencies with implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The legislation would enhance states’ abilities to conduct outreach to extended family and tribal communities, and tie outreach efforts to a dedicated child welfare funding stream.

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.