Murkowski-supported bill would establish boarding school commission

Murkowski-supported bill would establish boarding school commission
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 3:27 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 24, 2023 at 9:51 PM AKDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KTUU) - Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined 26 other senators in reintroducing a bill which seeks healing for stolen Native children and their communities.

If passed, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act would establish the Truth and Healing Commission, which would investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian boarding school policies. This includes attempts to terminate Native cultures, religions, and languages, assimilation practices, and human rights violations.

“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,” Murkowski said. “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.”

Alaska is one of many states where Native children were removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools with the intent of assimilating them into Western culture. Many did not return home.

A federal study conducted in 2022 found the bodies of more than 500 of these students buried in unmarked graves at the institutions. According to the Interior Department, the number of known student deaths could climb to the thousands or even tens of thousands with further investigation.

“The echoes of boarding school in Alaska are still with us today,” boarding school survivor Jim Labelle Sr. said at the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in October of 2022. “And what I mean by that is all we have to do is look at our national suicide rate that’s higher than any other ethnic group in America all we have to do is look at the 40% Native incarceration rate in Alaska when we only make up 15% of the state’s population.”