WASHINGTON — Speaking at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Council Winter Session on Wednesday, Deborah Parker (Tulalip), CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), called on tribal leaders to advocate for the reintroduction of the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act.

In the previous Congressional session, the bill garnered 26 co-sponsors in the Senate and 86 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. Additionally, the bill received widespread support from various Tribal Nations, Tribal regional organizations, the International Indian Treaty Council, and national Native organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

“The opportunity we have all been waiting for is here,” Parker said. “If we’re going to get this done, the time is now. We owe it to ourselves, our Tribal Nations, boarding school survivors, and especially our future generations. We must vow to do better.”

NABS is advocating for the bill to be reintroduced into the 118th Congress.

The bi-partisan bill would establish a federal commission to:

    • Conduct a full inquiry into the assimilative policies of U.S. Indian boarding schools.
    • Collect testimony from boarding school survivors, Tribes, and subject matter experts.
    • Create a findings and recommendations report, identifying legislative and administrative actions to address the impacts of U.S. Indian boarding schools.
    • Investigate beyond DOI’s Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative and review records from churches and educational institutions that operated Indian boarding schools.

On Tuesday, during her State of Indian Nations Address, NCAI President Fawn Sharp (Quinault) said, “As our investigations continue to uncover the atrocities perpetrated in boarding schools in North America, we need to prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually to confront the full pain of that history. We must seek out the facts, and own them, so that we can eventually clear the path to an era of truth, healing, and empowerment.”

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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].