As congress enters its 118th session in 2023 and we see new pieces of valuable legislation going through, we must remember bills House Resolution 5444 and Senate Bill 2907, which would create the Truth and Healing Commission on American Indian Boarding Schools. This commission would take the next five years to investigate federally funded boarding schools all over the nation, take testimony from survivors and their descendants, investigate the assimilation practices that took place, and create recommendations for the future of reconciliation and healing for the federal government to enact.
The boarding school era has massive implications for Indigenous people today ("Harvard Announces Return of Native Hair Samples," Dec. 8). Tribal sovereignty is under attack in the pending decision of the Supreme Court case Holland V. Brackeen, which seeks to make the Indian Child Welfare Act 1978 unconstitutional. This federal policy makes it so that tribes have decisions over who children are placed with if they must be removed from their home or put up for adoption, and they fight to keep the children within the tribe whenever possible. Native children make up large numbers of children who are in the foster care system nationally. While Native children take up less than 1 percent of the total population of the United States they represent 2 percent of the children in foster care. That is an overrepresentation of double the population. A recently published study showed that the screening, accusations and investigations of American Indian and Alaskan Native children was more than double that of white children in the United States. (Edwards et. al, 2021)
The Boarding School Commission, if centered on Indigenous voices and made apparent in media and education systems here in the United States, would let professionals know why ICWA is important and needed to offset some of the historical injustices faced by a community that has had their children stripped away. The Indian Child Welfare Act is one of the many important federal laws that protect indigenous sovereignty, and if overturned, it sends a message to tribal nations in the United States that sovereignty is under threat for everything, not just the most precious asset we all have, which is our children, our future. We need more legislation uplifting the healing measures in our communities, not taking them away.
I want to thank my members of Congress, Sen. Dianne Feinstien, Sen. Alex Padilla and Rep. Jared Huffman for cosponsoring this bill. I ask that they further support this legislation in the next session.
Anne Rants, Somes Bar