Rounds’ bill repealing 11 federal laws discriminating against Native Americans becomes law

President Joe Biden on Dec. 27 signed into law a bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) that will repeal 11 federal laws discriminating against Native Americans. 

“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,” Sen. Rounds said. “It’s long overdue to remove these immoral, discriminatory federal laws from our books.” 

Sen. Rounds in March 2021 sponsored the Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act, S. 789, with lead original cosponsor U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). The companion bill, the same-named H.R. 3158, also was introduced in March 2021 by U.S. Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), and Tom Cole (R-OK).

The measure repeals certain provisions related to the treatment of Native Americans, including provisions on hostile tribes, alcohol, work requirements, penalties for truancy, and placement of youth in reform schools without the consent of a parent or guardian, according to the congressional record bill summary.

“Throughout history, Native Americans have been subjected to unfair treatment from our federal government, including the forced removal of their children from their homes,” said Sen. Rounds. “Clearly, there is no place in our legal code for such measures, and it is appalling that 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,” the senator said.

S. 789 received U.S. Senate approval in May 2021 but did not gain passage from the U.S. House of Representatives until Dec. 14 before being presented to the president for his signature on Dec. 23.

The RESPECT Act garnered support from the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Coalition of Large Tribes, and numerous tribal leaders, among many others.