Press Release: Senate Re-Introduces S.1723, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act

In Featured, News, Press Releases by Candy Keown


May 26, 2023

Press Contact: Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director Tel: (907) 378‑3339

Senate Re-Introduces S.1723, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act

The Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) is pleased to announce that U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R‑AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has joined 26 Senators in reintroducing S.1723, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act, which seeks healing for stolen Native children and their communities.

Originally introduced in 2020 with then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM) and reintroduced in 2021 with Congresswoman Sharice Davids (KS) and Congressman Tom Cole (OK), the bill seeks to 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 from 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.

We applaud the efforts of Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski and others for reintroducing S.1723,” said Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director of AKNWRC. “The U.S. government’s boarding school policies and actions towards Alaska Native and American Indian children resulted in many never returning home; losing their connection with family, community, culture, and tribe; and leaving long-lasting negative impacts on generations of Native families and communities.”

In Alaska, the first boarding school was established in Sitka in 1878 by Presbyterian missionaries. In total, more than thirty boarding schools were established in various regions of Alaska. Initially operated by Christian missionaries, these boarding schools were eventually taken over and operated by the federal government beginning at the turn of the 20thcentury.

Between 1869 and the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Native American and Alaska Native children were removed from their homes and families and placed in boarding schools operated by the federal government and churches. According to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, Alaska Native and American Indian children were voluntarily or forcibly removed from their homes, families, and communities during this time and taken to schools far away where they were punished for speaking their native language, banned from acting in any way that might be seen to represent traditional or cultural practices, stripped of traditional clothing, hair and personal belongings and behaviors reflective of their native culture. They suffered physical, sexual, cultural, and spiritual abuse and neglect, and experienced treatment that in many cases constituted torture for speaking their Native languages.

It is past time the U.S. government come to terms with the dark legacy of the Indian boarding school era, which attempted to destroy Native American cultures, religions, and languages,” said Senator Murkowski. “A formal truth and healing commission will help address those past injustices and support processes that bring healing to survivors, their families, and communities. I thank my colleagues who continue to support this legislation and look forward to the healing and justice it will help provide.”

The bill is endorsed by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Indian Education Association (NIEA), National Indian Health Board (NIHB), National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH), National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB), Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FNCL), and United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF).

About the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center:

Organized in 2015, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center is a tribal nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women with Alaska’s 229 tribes and allied organizations. AKNWRC board members are Alaska Native women, raised in Alaska Native Villages, and have 153 years of combined experience in tribal governments, nonprofit management, domestic violence, and sexual assault advocacy (both individual crisis and systems), and grassroots social change advocacy at the local, statewide, regional, national, and international levels. AKNWRC’s philosophy is that violence against women is rooted in the colonization of indigenous nations.