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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.

Indian Boarding Schools Bill Introduced in Senate

Vigil caling for for Truth and reconcillation around Indian Boarding Schools
Michael Swan

On May 18, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and others re-introduced a bipartisan bill to establish the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States to the Senate (S. 1723).

If passed, the legislation would create the first official commission in U.S. history to investigate and document the long-term impacts of hundreds of federally sponsored Native boarding schools operated by Christian churches, including some Quakers. The Commission may also recommend that the federal government create guidelines to protect student graves and support the repatriation of bodies interred at the schools.

Tribal communities are still navigating the intergenerational consequences of the boarding school era. It is time for faith groups, particularly those that ran boarding schools, to acknowledge the traumatic assimilation practices, erasure of Indigenous cultures and languages, and human rights violations that occurred in boarding schools.

Young adult advocates nationwide have greatly led FCNL’s advocacy for this legislation. Since last August, our young adult programs have led grassroots actions and mobilized their communities. The result? So far, they have organized 55 lobby visits, secured nearly 30 media engagements, and hosted three community and awareness events.

We want to commend and congratulate these advocates for their hard work in ensuring the introduction of S. 1723!

Senate Hearing on the President Biden’s FY24 Department of the Interior Budget

On May 2, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on President Joe Biden’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI). Secretary Deb Haaland provided testimony on the DOI budget, which recommends an increase in funding for the Department of Indian Affairs and significant investments towards addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP), the legacy of the federal Indian Boarding Schools, and Native language revitalization.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) used her time at the hearing to highlight the crisis of MMIP, particularly in her state. She named the 113 unsolved cases in Washington involving Indigenous victims. She also brought attention to the Seattle Indian Health Board’s report on MMIP, which found that the cities of Seattle and Tacoma have the highest cases of missing and murdered Native women and girls in the country.    

DOI started a Missing and Murdered Unit in 2021. Since its inception, the unit has investigated 681 missing and murdered person cases, solved or closed 204 missing person cases, and solved 7 murder cases. While the unit has made progress across Indian Country, only 32 of 63 positions are filled.

In response to Sen. Cantwell’s questioning, Secretary Haaland agreed that more resources are needed to continue hiring and supporting the role unit staff plays in addressing this crisis of violence against Indigenous people.

Bill Tracker

Native American Child Protection Act (H.R.663)

On May 17, the House Natural Resources Committee marked up a revised version of the Native American Child Protection Act (H.R. 663). If passed, this bill would reauthorize and amend the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act. It supports programs related to the prevention, investigation, treatment, and prosecution of family violence, child abuse, and child neglect involving Indian children and families.

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco, Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco

Consultant, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco managed the Native American Advocacy program from 2017-2019.