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 Legislation Advances in the House
On Dec. 7, the House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) filed several committee reports on key bills, including the Save Oak Flat Act (H.R. 1884), the Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act (H.R. 6707), and the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (H.R. 5444). This opens the door for potential floor votes before the House adjourns on Dec. 16.
The Truth and Healing Commission bill has made tremendous progress in the 117th Congress, with a hearing in May, a committee markup in June, and now the committee report being filed and reported to the House.
If passed and signed into law, the legislation would establish the first formal commission in U.S. history to investigate and document the policies, practices, and continued impacts of hundreds of federally-sponsored boarding school institutions run by Christian churches.
White House Hosts Tribal Nations Summit
On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, Interior Department officials hosted tribal leaders for the second Tribal Nations Summit of the Biden administration. The White House released a progress report documenting policies and initiatives that were implemented since the 2021 summit. It also celebrated the historic levels of tribal funding in President Biden’s economic agenda: $32 billion in the American Rescue Plan, $13 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and $700 million in the Inflation Reduction Act.
During the summit, President Biden and cabinet members announced a number of new actions and commitments to tribal nations. This included a presidential memorandum on uniform standards for tribal consultation. These new standards will require annual training for federal employees who work on policies with tribal implications and a request to Congress to make Indian Health Services funding a mandatory part of the federal budget.
The White House Council on Native American Affairs Education Committee also released a draft of a ten-year plan on Native language revitalization, committing to consult with tribal nations before finalizing the plan in 2023. In addition to integrating and supporting Native languages, the plan aims to create national awareness on the importance of Native languages and the crisis of Native language loss. It would also establish a formal policy recognizing the role that the U.S. government played in erasing Native languages.
“Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity — the dignity that comes from just being who we are,” said President Biden in his final remarks. “This is especially true for Tribal nations to whom the United States owes a solemn trust and treaty obligations that we haven’t always lived up to. When I talk about respect, here is what I mean by respect: respect for Tribes as nations and treaties as law.”
Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act (S. 5186/H.R. 9439)
On Dec. 5, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-6) introduced legislation to implement recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ 2018 Broken Promises Report to better meet the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations.
Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP) Act of 2021 (H.R. 2930)
On Nov. 29, the Senate passed H.R. 2930 by unanimous consent. The bill is now ready to be signed into law. The STOP Act would make it a crime punishable by fines and jail time for those who export tribal items with lasting historical or cultural significance.
What We’re Reading
- Supreme Court closely divided in case on Native American adoptions
- Election 2022: ‘Incredible year’ for Indigenous candidates
- For many Native Hawaiians, lava flows are a time to honor, reflect
- Cherokee Nation fights for delegate in Congress
- Bison spread as tribes reclaim stewardship
- Seven U.S. senators ask president to release Leonard Peltier