Johnson, Cole introduce bipartisan bill supporting Native Americans

Bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this month by U.S. Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Tom Cole (R-OK) would repeal outdated and discriminatory laws against Native Americans.

“It’s no secret, America’s past is flawed,” Rep. Johnson said. “We have come a long way as a nation, but there is always room to improve.”

The congressmen are original cosponsors of the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act, H.R. 3158, which was sponsored on May 12 by U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) to repeal certain provisions related to the treatment of Indians, including provisions on hostile tribes, alcohol, work requirements, penalties for truancy, and placement of youth in reform school without the consent of a parent or guardian, according to the congressional record bill summary.

“While dark chapters in our history cannot be erased, I am encouraged that the RESPECT Act would do away with some discriminatory policies toward Native Americans that are still written in federal law,” said Rep. Cole. “Though no longer enforced, these laws are a painful reminder of the past suffering and poor treatment experienced by Native Americans.”

If enacted, H.R. 3158 would remove 11 federal statutes, including one that allowed the forcible relocation of Native American children to boarding schools and another that called for withholding monies and resources owed to Native American tribes, according to information provided by Rep. Johnson’s office.

“Repealing these archaic laws is one way we can show Indian Country the dignity and respect it deserves,” said Rep. Johnson. “I’m confident we can get this bill across the finish line this Congress.”

Rep. Cole also pointed out that the bill is a recognition to tribes that the federal government seeks “to right historical wrongs and remain vigilant in ensuring these things don’t happen again.”

H.R. 3158 is the companion bill to the same-named S. 789, which was introduced on March 17 by U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Tina Smith (D-MN) in their chamber.