Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) today introduced the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act. Their legislation would repeal several outdated federal laws that are discriminatory against Native Americans, including laws that allow for the forced removal of Native American children from their homes to be sent to boarding schools and laws subjecting Native Americans to forced labor.
“The RESPECT Act ensures that we acknowledge and work to solve some of our nation’s previous belittling of Native Americans through our laws,” said Lankford. “As we continue to cultivate our national values based on respect and dignity for all people, we can and should address antiquated and offensive old laws put in place to specifically isolate Native Americans. I look forward to the consideration of our bill in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.”
“The idea that these laws were ever even considered is disturbing,” said Rounds. “While no longer enforced, the fact that they are still on the books is a tragic reminder of past hostility and racism displayed toward Native Americans. We may not be able to rewrite the past, but we can continue to work toward furthering respect and unity for future generations. Passing our legislation is but one way to show understanding and progress. I thank my colleagues for joining me in this effort and look forward to advancing it in both chambers of Congress.”
“Tribal communities in Arizona deserve to be treated with dignity by the federal government,” said Sinema. “By repealing these outdated and shameful laws, we can help ensure Native American communities achieve the equality and respect they deserve.”
“While dark chapters in our history cannot be erased, I am encouraged that the RESPECT Act would do away with some discriminatory policies toward Native Americans that are still written in federal law,” said Cole. “Though no longer enforced, these laws are a painful reminder of the past suffering and poor treatment experienced by Native Americans. I am proud to join with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to introduce this important legislation, and I am hopeful for its swift passage in Congress.”
“The laws we are fighting to repeal are a reminder of the hundreds of years of persecution, humiliation, and hostility Native Americans faced at the hands of our government. History shows the treatment of Indian Nations and Tribes has never been anything less than tragic, and we now have a responsibility to address it,” said O’Halleran. “I am proud of this bipartisan, bicameral effort to eliminate these outdated laws and to show our respect for Indian Country.”
“It’s no secret, America’s past is flawed,” said Johnson. “We have come a long way as a nation, but there is always room to improve. Repealing these archaic laws is one way we can show Indian Country the dignity and respect it deserves.”