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Bill repealing old laws against Native Americans passes in committee

South Dakota United States Senator Mike Rounds sat down with Dakota News Now to discuss the...
South Dakota United States Senator Mike Rounds sat down with Dakota News Now to discuss the transfer of power from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Mar. 25, 2021 at 11:13 AM MDT
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WASHINGTON D.C. (KEVN) - The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee unanimously passed a bill that would repeal old discriminatory laws against Native Americans on Wednesday.

The Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act repeals 11 outdated laws like allowing for the forced removal of Native American children from their homes to be sent to boarding schools and laws subjecting Native Americans to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.

Sen. Rounds sponsored with original cosponsor Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), both members of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

“It’s long past time to remove federal laws that are discriminatory to Native Americans from our books,” Rounds said. “While these laws are no longer enforced, they are a reminder of a painful part of our nation’s past. I thank my colleagues on the Committee on Indian Affairs for their overwhelming support of this legislation. I look forward to working across the aisle to get this bill onto the Senate floor.”

The bill was first introduced during the 114th Congress and passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. It was reintroduced during the 115th and 116th congresses, the bill received unanimous Senate approval but ultimately failed to receive a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The RESPECT Act is common-sense legislation that is long overdue,” Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer said. “Wopila to Senator Rounds for his leadership in reintroducing this legislation that seeks to bring reconciliation, understanding, and healing to Native communities nationwide. These revisions are much needed and appreciated.”

The RESPECT Act will repeal these laws:

  • The U.S. president can abolish all treaties involving tribes who are hostile to the United States.
  • Payments to tribes can be withheld if the tribe engages in hostilities against the United States or the tribe has “any captives other than Indians.”
  • Money or goods can be withheld from Native Americans who are under the influence of alcohol or if there’s alcohol within “convenient reach” of the Native American unless the tribe’s leader has taken steps to prevent the sale of alcohol.
  • Agents can require all able-bodied male Native Americans 18 to 45 years old to perform services on the reservation.
  • Goods and merchandise can be withheld from a tribe if the tribe violates a treaty.
  • Food, clothing and money can be withheld from Native American families whose children don’t attend school.

The RESPECT Act is supported by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association (GPTCA) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

Now that the bill has passed through the committee, it will be brought to the full Senate for consideration.

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