There’s new progress on a federal bill that would create a commission to investigate former U.S. Indian boarding schools like the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway.
The bill: Co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, who is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and one of the first Native American members of Congress, HR 5444 would create the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies.
- HR 5444 would take a look at the histories and operations of Indian boarding schools across the nation, including both those run by the federal government and those — like the Shawnee Indian Mission — run by religious organizations.
- A spokesperson from Davids’ office confirmed the Shawnee Indian Mission would be under the purview of a Truth and Healing Commission if the bill is approved.
- The House held a hearing for the bill in mid-May, at which time both Davids and Shawnee Tribe Chief Ben Barnes testified.
What’s new: A Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on a companion bill on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., where representatives from several tribal nations and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, are set to give testimony.
- Meanwhile, HR 5444 is headed to the House for a debate and vote, a member of Davids’ office said.
- At the same time, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will consider the bill, make any amendments and vote on it on Wednesday.
- If it passes through that committee, it will go to the Senate floor.
- Davids’ office said the parallel movement of the bills in the House and Senate shows there is support in both chambers and the bills may move faster towards final passage.
Background: These efforts come on the heels of a $25,000 grant the Shawnee Tribe received for baseline research into the Shawnee Indian Mission in April.
- The Shawnee Tribe and the city of Fairway entered into a partnership in October 2021 to commit to telling the whole truth of the Shawnee Indian Mission, which once spanned 2,000-acres and served as boarding school for Native American children.
- A July 2021 federal initiative to investigate Indian boarding schools did not include the Shawnee Indian Mission, as it did not include church-run schools.
Key quote: “I would not be here today if not for the resilience of my ancestors and those who came before me — including my grandparents, who are survivors of federal Indian Boarding Schools,” Davids said in a statement. I am glad that my colleagues recognize the importance of investigating what happened to our relatives and working towards a brighter path for the next seven generations. I will continue working across the aisle to gather bipartisan support for this important legislation.”