Office of U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (D-NM-01)
As the United States continues to reckon with the deeply traumatic legacies of Indian Boarding Schools, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury (N.M.-01), a member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, voted to pass the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (H.R. 5444), legislation which she co-sponsors, out of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
During her remarks, Rep. Stansbury highlighted the ongoing impact of the genocidal legacy of Indian Boarding Schools, and the urgent need to pass this legislation as a means for the federal government to accept responsibility and take steps to begin accountability for egregious Indian Boarding School policies. The bipartisan legislation is led by Representatives Sharice Davids (Kans.-03) and Tom Cole (Okla.-04), co-chairs of the House Native American Caucus.
Last year, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies supervised by the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.
“In New Mexico’s First Congressional District, we have several boarding schools that were in operation for decades–for generations — that impacted the health, the wellbeing, the survival, and the cultural heritage of our communities,” said Representative Stansbury. “This bill is critical to helping to tell the story of these schools, of the families, of the children, and the generations that were lost to this trauma.”
The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act would establish a formal Truth and Healing Commission to investigate and document these policies, including the federal government’s attempted termination of cultures, religions, and languages of Indigenous peoples, assimilation practices, and human rights violations that occurred through the Indian Boarding School Policies.
In addition to investigating the impacts and ongoing effects of Indian Boarding School Policies, the commission would develop recommendations on ways to protect unmarked graves and accompanying land protections, support repatriation and identify the Tribal nations from which children were taken, and discontinue the removal of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Children from their families and tribal communities by state social departments, foster care agencies, and adoption agencies.
Representative Stansbury’s full remarks as delivered are below:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This bill, as was said, is long overdue. It’s about truth, healing, about moving forward, and about repatriation of the remains of lost children–generations of lost children.
In New Mexico’s First Congressional District, we have several boarding schools that were in operation for decades–for generations–that impacted the health, the wellbeing, the survival, and the cultural heritage of our communities. This bill is critical to helping to tell the story of these schools, of the families, of the children, and the generations that were lost to this trauma.
I wholeheartedly support this bill and I look forward to out of committee today. I’m particularly grateful to our Secretary of the Interior–Secretary Deb Haaland, who is helping to lead this work at a federal level in the administration, and I want to acknowledge the families who are still experiencing loss and trauma as a result of this dark chapter in our nation’s history.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
The full text of the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Act is available here.