Tester’s Bipartisan Bill to Investigate Atrocities Committed by Indian Boarding Schools Clears Key Senate Hurdle

Senator’s bill would create a Truth and Healing Commission to hear public testimony, promote awareness, and produce a comprehensive report of Indian Boarding School policies

U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s bill to establish the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies today passed through the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, clearing a key hurdle and is now headed to the Senate floor. Tester’s bill would create a five-member Truth and Healing Commission, a 19-member Native American Truth and Healing Advisory Committee, a 17-member Federal Truth and Healing Advisory Committee, and a 15-member Native American Survivors Truth and Healing Subcommittee.  

“For too long, Indian Country has been suffering from the continued trauma of Indian Boarding School policies, and it’s about time we take action to right these wrongs,” said Tester. “Establishing the Truth and Healing Commission will give Native folks a platform to share their experiences and collaborate with the federal government so we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again. At the end of the day, this bill is about helping Tribes in Montana tell their stories so they can heal from these atrocities, and that’s why it’s critical we get it passed and signed into law.”

The Truth and Healing Commission created by Tester’s bill would be authorized to:

  • Hold safe and culturally appropriate public or private convenings to receive testimony;
  • Ensure trauma informed care services are provided during and following convenings;
  • Meaningfully consult and engage with Indian Country and federal partners;
  • Incorporate and share information, as appropriate;
  • Promote awareness and education about Indian Boarding School Policies;
  • Produce an interim report within 4 years and a final report within 6 years of enactment;
  • Issue subpoenas as appropriate

Over the years, there have been a total of 16 Montana schools that had operated at 18 sites over the years on six reservations, including Blackfeet, Flathead, Fort Belknap, Fort Peck, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne, with four more schools located off-reservation.

Tester has been Montana’s leading champion for Native communities. In March, Tester introduced his bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act to recruit and retain Tribal law enforcement by increasing the pay rates for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officers. Last month, Tester pressed Administration officials on public safety and law enforcement shortages in Indian Country.


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