WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema today introduced the RESPECT Act with Republican Senator Mike Rounds (S.D.).
The bipartisan legislation repeals several outdated federal laws that discriminate against Native Americans, including laws subjecting Native Americans to forced labor and laws that allow for the forced removal of Native American children from their homes to attend boarding school, a practice that took place in Arizona.
“Tribal communities in Arizona deserve to be treated with dignity by the federal government. By repealing these outdated and shameful laws, we can help ensure Native American communities achieve the equality and respect they deserve,” said Sinema.
The RESPECT Act, passed unanimously out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2017, repeals 11 outdated statutes targeting tribal communities that are still part of current law. One of the statutes the bill repeals allows for the forcible relocation of Native American children to boarding schools. Unfortunately, starting in 1891, Native American students were brought from across Arizona and surrounding states to the Phoenix Indian School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs-run school, for the misguided purposes of trying to get Native American students to “assimilate into mainstream culture”. While laws relating to forcible relocation of Native American children to boarding schools are not enforced, they are a sad reminder of the hostile aggression and overt racism displayed by the federal government toward Native Americans.