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Rounds’ RESPECT Act Signed into Law

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds’ (R-S.D.) bipartisan legislation to repeal discriminatory federal laws targeting Native Americans was signed into law by the president today. 

The Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act will repeal 11 outdated federal laws, including laws that stripped Native American children from their families for the purpose of placing them in “Indian reform schools,” such as the now-infamous Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Rounds first introduced the RESPECT Act in 2016, and has led this legislation in each Congress since.

A full list of laws the RESPECT Act will repeal is available HERE.

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

“I have worked on this common sense, bipartisan legislation since coming to the United States Senate, so I am pleased that it has been signed into law,” said Rounds. “It’s long overdue to remove these immoral, discriminatory federal laws from our books. Throughout history, Native Americans have been subjected to unfair treatment from our federal government, including the forced removal of their children from their homes. Clearly, there is no place in our legal code for such measures, and it is appalling these laws are still in our federal code. While we cannot rewrite the past, we need to acknowledge it and continue to strive for a more perfect Union.”

“First, I’d like to commend and thank Senator Rounds for his sincere intent in sponsoring this legislation,” said J. Garret Renville, Chairman-elect of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. “The RESPECT Act is a first step in an attempt to better consult and coordinate with Tribal Nations. Historically and symbolically; it is my hope, that it represents a path to improving the long standing inequities in the relationship and dealings between sovereign people, their nations and the United States Government.”

“I want to thank Senator Rounds for spearheading this legislation,” said Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Councilman Christian Skunk. “The RESPECT Act will ensure going forward the relationship between tribes and the federal government is mended. We know it’s impossible to change the past, but we can choose how we proceed and the RESPECT Act is a step in the right direction.”

"The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) applauds the passage and signing into law of the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “While our history books often ignore the facts, it is no secret that for far too long the U.S. Congress has passed destructive and oppressive laws that by design diminished tribal sovereignty and our political standing of equity and parity with the federal government. This legislation is but one more step in a very long journey ahead toward achieving our vision for a real, just and meaningful government-to-government relationship between sovereign Tribal Nations and the United States."

“Senator Rounds’ efforts to repeal these old laws, such as the law still on the books regarding Indian boarding schools that caused tremendous harm to indigenous communities, is a great step towards reconciliation with tribal nations,” said Tamara St. John, archivist for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, who testified on behalf of this bill. “I’m excited to see the RESPECT Act signed into law causing the repeal of these eleven outdated and racist laws. Great work!”

“The Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT) applauds the passage of the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act and thanks Senator Mike Rounds for his stalwart leadership of this bill,” said COLT Chairman Marvin Weatherwax (Blackfeet National Tribal Business Council). “The RESPECT Act modernizes federal law to remove inconsistent federal agency consultation policies with tribal nations and their citizens. This act is an important step to restore basic dignities of Native people and honoring the United States’ solemn Trust and Treaty obligations and government-to-government relationship with tribal nations.”

Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) are cosponsors of this legislation.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House on May 12, 2021, by Representatives Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and cosponsored by Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.).


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