May 19, 2022

Warren and 18 Colleagues Request Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hold a Hearing on the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act

Legislation Would Establish a Formal Commission to Investigate, Document, and Acknowledge Past Injustices of Federal Government’s Indian Boarding School Policies

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, requesting that the Committee hold a hearing on the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 2907)

Senator Warren re-introduced this bill with the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on September 30, 2021 — the National Day of Remembrance for U.S. Indian Boarding Schools. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Vice Chair of the Committee, are both co-sponsors of the legislation.

The bill would establish a formal commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian Boarding School Policies, including attempts to terminate Native cultures, religions, and languages; assimilation practices; and human rights violations. The commission would also develop recommendations for Congress to aid in healing of the historical and intergenerational trauma passed down in Native families and communities, and provide a forum for victims to speak about personal experiences tied to these human rights violations.

Senator Warren was joined by 18 colleagues, all of whom cosponsored the bill: Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The Senators noted that dozens of tribal nations, tribal organizations, human rights groups, and other entities support the bill, and requested that the Committee schedule a hearing to consider the legislation at its earliest convenience. 

This bill, which was originally introduced by then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Senator Warren in 2020, would build on steps Secretary Haaland has taken at the Department of the Interior. On June 22, 2021, Secretary Haaland announced that Interior would conduct an initial investigation of the Indian Boarding School Policies and their consequences. In response, Senator Warren and Congresswoman Davids led their colleagues in urging the Indian Health Service to implement protections for those experiencing trauma related to the Indian Boarding School Policies. On May 11, 2022, the Department released the first volume of its report, marking the start of the federal government’s reckoning with this painful legacy. The next day, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States held a hearing on the legislation. Senator Warren cosponsored Senator Murkowski’s concurrent resolution (S.Con.Res. 28) supporting the designation of September 30, 2021, as National Day of Remembrance for the Native American children who died while attending the Indian boarding schools; the concurrent resolution was agreed to in the Senate by unanimous consent.