Indianz.Com SoundCloud:Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Business Meeting September 14, 2016

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs advances the RESPECT Act

A bill that repeals a series of outdated and offensive federal laws was approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday.

Most of the laws identified in S.2796, the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act (RESPECT Act), are no longer in use. But lawmakers said taking them off the books will encourage reconciliation between indigenous peoples and the United States.

"Most of these laws are not enforced and Congress has disavowed long ago the policies underlying these laws," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the committee. "While this bill can’t rewrite history, it could help reinforce contemporary policies of self-determination and move forward our government-to-government relationship.”

"These are old, outdated laws that often times have terms and meanings that just are disrespectful," added Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), a co-sponsor of the bill.

Navajo children at a boarding school, circa 1890s. Photo: Indian Health Service / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The bill was slightly modified from the version that Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) introduced in April. The list of 12 outdated laws was pared down by one, because Barrasso said 25 U.S.C. 276, which relates to the use of vacant military properties as Indian schools, is actually still benefiting at least one tribe.

But others laws that would be repealed under the bill include one that allows Indian children to be removed from their homes without parental consent. Another authorizes the government to withhold funds from "hostile" tribes or abrogate treaties due to perceived acts of "hostility" by tribes.

The bill can now be considered by the full Senate.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 2796 (September 14, 2016)

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