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tv   Interior Secretary Native Leaders Testify on Indian Boarding Schools  CSPAN  August 21, 2022 2:39pm-4:45pm EDT

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as january 6 committee has conducted a series of hearings revealing the findings from its investigations. watch c-span as we look at the committee's eight hearings featuring previously undisclosed evidence, depositions, and witness testimony and do attack on u.s. capitol. on monday, they address election fraud and there was to alter the outcome of the election. why don't c-span or on demand at -- watch on demand or on >> deb haaland and indian leaders testify about the damage done by federal native american boarding schools created to acculturate native american children starting in the 1870's. as witnesses explained how the
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schools cause a loss of culture and language. they talked about ways congress could better assist tribal nations in sharing this history and repairing the damage by removing children from their parents. this hearing is over two hours. sen. schatz: good afternoon, welcome to the committee's oversight hearing on volume one of the department of the interior's federal indian
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boarding school initiative investigative report and a legislative hearing on s-2907. a bill to establish a truth and healing commission on indian boarding school policies in the united states. the indian boarding school era was a dark period in our nation's history and a painful example of how past federal policy failed. american indians, alaskan natives and native hawaiians. as the department report lays out, the federal government supported boarding schools with a primary goal in mind, the forcible assimilation of native children into western ways of life. these schools were key tools for suppressing native cultures and languages, separating native children from their families and
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their homelands, and indoctrinating them to, as the founder of the carlyle school ominously said, kill the indian and save the man. and that was not an empty promise. the brutality with which the federal government attempted to assimilate children, some as young as four-years-old at these boarding schools, is gut wrenching, forced labor whippings, solitary confinement, withholding food, making older children punish younger children with corporal punishment, unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions. the shameful list goes on. we can't undo history, but we must acknowledge it. we have to look at the full scope of these failures unflinchingly and with clear minds and fresh eyes, and most importantly, we must work directly with native communities on forging a path towards healing, recognizing the significance of this work to native communities. lance fisher of the northern cheyenne tribe is here to provide us with an opening to help us to set the tone for this important discussion. please rise if you are able.
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>> [inaudible] [indiscernible]
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>> [indiscernible] [singing]
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[singing] [singing ends] sen. schatz: thank you very much.
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mr. fisher. as indigenous peoples of the united states american indians, alaskan natives and native hawaiians were subject to the same cruel intent of federal assimilation policies and practices. and they continue to share in the impact and lasting inequities of the federal government's centuries long drive to try to erase native cultures. we must do all we can to right this wrong. the department of the interior's report, s-2907, and congress' long term investment in the native american language revitalization efforts are important steps to moving the reconciliation process forward. but we must work hand in hand with the impacted communities and the families. and that is why today's hearing will focus on native perspectives as a guide for the federal government's path toward achieving truth and reconciliation. not in the abstract, but in a meaningful and real way. our approach must also be respectful of survivors, their families, and their communities. the committee welcomes survivor testimony, should they choose to
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share their stories. written comments for the record may be submitted to testimony at i want to thank all of the witnesses for being here today and i'd like to recognize vice chair murkowski for an opening statement. sen. murkowski: chairman schatz, thank you for convening this hearing. as you have mentioned, it is long, long past time for the united states to come to terms with the dark and the very terrible legacy of indian boarding schools. from 1819 to about 1969, thousands of native children across the country, including in my home state of alaska and your home state of hawaii, were taken from their families and communities, often without consent, and relocated to boarding schools thousands of miles from their homes. these boarding schools attempted to, quote, break native children in order to quickly assimilate them into the dominant white
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culture. and as part of this breaking process, native children were stripped of their identity, their language, their culture, and often forcibly. many of these students never returned home. federal government policy during this time was to use education as, quote, a weapon against native people, to accomplish the goals of replacing native cultures and dispossessing native peoples of their land. mr. chairman, you mentioned the words that came from richard henry pratt. he was the one that was credited with founding the boarding school movement and he claimed the need to, quote, kill the indian save the man, and unfortunately, american history is full of such individuals who somehow believed that they were helping at the time when they were actually committing extreme acts that devastated native people. we so appreciate that we have in
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front of us now the first volume on the federal ending boarding school initiative investigative report. it covers the 408 federal government supported indian boarding schools that operated across 37 states and territories. 21 of those schools were located in alaska. the sexual abuse, violence, malnutrition, solitary confinement, forced manual labor, untreated diseases, unreported deaths and disappearances documented in this report make it very, very difficult to read, and we know it just scratches the surface , unfortunately, of what actually happened. secretary haaland, i want to acknowledge your work on that of the committee and you as well, assistant secretary newland, for your work on this painful issue for your commitment to ensuring the department provides indigenous people with access to what you have called trauma informed support. so, there is deep appreciation for that.
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i have had an opportunity just last year, on the national day of remembrance for indian boarding schools, to speak to some of the children who have been impacted by these policies. i spoke of sophia titov, a young girl who was taken from alaska as an orphan and brought to the carlisle indian industrial school in pennsylvania. i spoke also of anastasia from kodiak who was taken to an orphanage after her mother passed away and her story and the effort for her family in alaska to finally return the remains of young anastasia to kodiak for reburial. these are hard stories and of course they're not isolated to alaska. they're so similar, unfortunately, to so many native children's stories that are just beginning to be recounted. i think we recognize the repatriation of native remains to their homelands is part of
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the healing process associated with these atrocities. so i'm interested to hear more about how the department will comply with and enforce nagpra, the native american graves protection and repatriation act. we know that our neighbor to the east in canada is dealing with its own history and legacy of indian boarding schools and have established the truth and reconciliation commission, a lot to be learned from that. senator warren and i have been working on this and we're working on the truth and healing commission on indian boarding school policy as 2907. these are, again, efforts for the united states to step up to address and acknowledge the dark history that we face, but also to go further than that, to help bring healing to native people. we've got a great panel here this afternoon and i'm looking forward to that at the appropriate time and the second
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panel, mr. chairman, i would like to be the one to introduce and welcome miss liz lock medicine crow. liz is the president ceo of first alaskans institute and has been instrumental in so many of these issues. but i will speak to that at the appropriate time. but i know that i appreciate the interest of the full committee in this very, very, very important issue. sen. schatz: thank you, vice chair murkowski, and now senator cortez masto for an opening statement. sen. cortez masto: thank you. thank you, chairman schatz and vice chair makowski, for holding this important hearing. i'm gonna welcome secretary haaland and assistant secretary newland for joining us here. this hearing cannot be more relevant for our tribal communities in nevada. i want to take a moment to highlight the recent work done
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in our state. the opening of the stuart indian school cultural center and museum, not far from the nevada state capitol of carson city sits the stuart indian school. it was opened by the federal government from 1890 to 1980, one of three such schools in nevada, the stuart indian school opened with the stated purpose of addressing indigenous education. in reality, the school is meant to erase native culture and identity. today, we have learned that thousands of students who are enrolled at the stewart school were forced to forget their languages and were often prevented from seeing family members. alumni that i have talked to have recalled being kidnapped by government officials and taken to the school where their hair was cut off by school staff. letters from the school's archives make it clear that families were not informed when their children were sick or had even passed away. in fact, nearly 100 unmarked graves have been identified in the school cemetery. these stories show only a sliver
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of the cruelty and abuse that native children had at the stuart indian school and what they endured. but they highlight how important it is for us to continue to learn more about this painful chapter in our history and to give space for acknowledgement and for healing. i commend the alumni and their descendants, as well as the native indian cultural commission, for their hard work in opening this cultural center and dedication to working in partnership with interior on the secretary's federal indian boarding school initiative. i look forward to hearing the testimony today on this important issue. i think each and every one of you for being here and again. mr. chairman, thank you. sen. schatz: thank you. senator lujan. sen. lujan: mr. chairman, thank
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you very much. vice chair murkowski, thank you both for holding this important hearing today to examine the legacy of federal indian boarding school policies and support legislation that moves us in the right direction. i also want to say thank you and welcome to our friend secretary deb haaland. it's an honor to call her a friend and a mentor and to see the tremendous work that you are doing. i will be forever moved by you. i also want to welcome some students from new mexico that i had the honor of meeting with earlier and i believe the secretary did as well from the santa fe indian school and princeton university's summer policy academy. they're led by a dear friend of mine, the former governor of coach d pueblo, regis pecos preston sanchez, who is the co counsel and also the justice director and has also been involved with with many issues and titles. but karen aguilar, amber garcia, and lee mountain, i want to thank each and every one of you for being with us today and i understand that michaela serena might also be part of the leadership group that is here. but mr. chairman, i would like to enter a letter of the students into the record that
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recommends congress introduced legislation to formally apologize for generational harms resulting from the federal indian boarding schools and policies. and i urge my colleagues to support this call for a formal apology and thank these young leaders for their advocacy, for their voices for the past, for the future, for current generations. and with your permission, i'd like just to read a paragraph from here before consideration for adoption. i quote, a general principle we are taught early on is to apologize for our wrongdoings and to take responsibility for our actions. since the recent release of the boarding school report, one might think the u.s. would seek to undo the long term trauma and harm inflicted upon native children by boarding schools. as of today, however, this is not the case for that reason, my colleagues and i seek a formal apology in the form of legislation to restore balance among our communities and enable positive opportunities for indigenous people to heal.
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by doing so, congressional leaders would signify that our education, language, culture, and traditions are important. it would also signify the indigenous people will never again be subjected to a school system that seeks to erase our cultural identity. and i would ask for unanimous consent that be entered into the record. sen. schatz: without objection. sen. lujan: thank you. i yield back. sen. schatz: we are pleased to have the author of the legislation in question as a guest of our committee. it gives us pleasure to introduce senator elizabeth warren from massachusetts. sen. warren: thank you very much, chairman schatz. it is a privilege to be here with the senate committee on indian affairs and i want to say a very special thank you to you and to vice chair murkowski for your leadership and your support on this issue. i am here today to discuss my bill, that's the focus of today's hearing, the truth and healing commission on indian boarding school policies act. i thank the many co sponsors of this bill, including vice chair murkowski. thank you for your work on this
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, and chairman schatz. thank you for your work on this , and a majority of this committee. this bill would establish a truth and healing commission to formally investigate what are known as the indian boarding school policies. these were horrifying practices carried out by the federal government to strip native children of their indigenous identities, beliefs, and languages. between 1819 and 1969, these policies formally remove children from their tribal lands and their families and placed them in over 400 boarding schools. it has been estimated that by 1926, nearly 83% of american indian and alaska native children were in one of the currently known indian boarding schools.
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native children were subjected to harrowing human rights violations, including spiritual, physical, industrial, psychological, and sexual abuse. they were neglected and they were traumatized. many never returned to their families. the department of interior has already identified more than 50 burial sites at these schools, many of them unmarked and that number is expected to rise. these policies also effective native hawaiian children. for over a century, the united states supported several boarding schools across the hawaiian islands and repressed hawaiian culture. the full effects of these policies have never before been appropriately addressed by the federal government. in 2020, i worked with the committee's first witness, my friend, secretary deb haaland. while she was serving in congress, we introduced this
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legislation to formally investigate these policies and to respond to ongoing historical and intergenerational trauma afflicting tribal communities today. i reintroduced this bill last year with representative sherice davids and tom cole, the co chairs of the congressional native american caucus. i also wish to acknowledge the invaluable partnership of the national native american boarding school healing coalition and many other extraordinary stakeholders who are here with us today. when secretary haaland assumed her current role, she continued her outstanding work by launching the federal indian boarding school initiative and working with assistant secretary newland to make this happen.
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i am glad that this hearing will address the first volume of the department of the interior's report, because it contains many important findings and recommendations in particular, i would like to highlight the report's conclusion that, quote, the federal government has not provided a forum or opportunity for survivors or descendants of survivors of federal indian boarding schools or their families to voluntarily detail their experiences in the federal indian boarding school system, end quote. my legislation would address this gap by establishing a commission that would have five years to formally investigate boarding schools and to document their enduring impacts. the commission would hold culturally respectful and meaningful hearings for victims , for survivors, and for other
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community members to share their stories. throughout the process, the commission would develop recommendations for the federal government to acknowledge and to heal trauma caused by these policies, including the establishment of a support hotline for survivors and for affected communities. this work will be painful, but it is long overdue. to the witnesses and the survivors who are sharing their experiences and the impact of these policies, thank you. thank you for being here. thank you for raising your voices. your voices are vital to this undertaking. i look forward to working with the committee to advance this legislation and to address the disgraceful legacy of the indian boarding school policies. thank you again, mr. chairman, for inviting me to be with you today. sen. schatz: thank you very
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much. we'll now move to our first panel, and we are pleased to have the honorable deb haaland, the secretary of the department of interior, accompanied by the assistant secretary, the honorable brian newland. as you know, madam secretary, your full testimony will be made part of the official hearing record. please keep your statement to no more than five minutes so that members may have time for questions and for the information of the audience, there are a couple of ongoing votes on the floor, so you'll see members shuffling in and out of this room, but not for a lack of interest, but just because we have to cast a couple of votes. secretary haaland, please proceed. sec. haaland: hello and good afternoon. chairman schatz. vice chairman murkowski. and members of the committee . [speaking native language] it is deeply meaningful for me to speak to you from the ancestral homelands of the antique austin and piscataway people. thank you for the opportunity to present the department's
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testimony at this important oversight hearing on the federal indian boarding school initiative, an s-2907, a bill to establish the truth and healing commission on indian boarding school policies in the united states. the biden-harris administration is determined to make lasting a lasting positive difference in response to the trauma that federal indian boarding school policies have caused. i would also like to thank my dear friends, senator warren and co chairs of the congressional native american caucus, representative sherice davids and tom cole, for prioritizing legislation to address these policies. for over a century and a half, the federal government, including the department of the interior, forcibly removed indigenous children from their families and communities and many never returned home. this intentional targeting and removal of native children to achieve the goal of forced assimilation was both traumatic and violent. the consequences of federal
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indian boarding school policies were inflicted on generations of children, some as young as four. as the head of the department of the interior and as the first native american cabinet secretary, i am in a unique position to address the lasting impacts of these policies. i now have direct oversight over the very department that operated and oversaw the implementation of the federal indian boarding school system. i am a product of these horrific assimilation era policies. my grandparents were removed from their families to federal indian boarding schools when they were only eight-years-old and forced to live away from their parents, culture, and pueblos until the age 13. my family's story is similar to many indigenous families' stories in this country, which is why on june 22, 2021, i announced the federal indian boarding school initiative, a comprehensive effort to address the troubled legacy of federal
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indian boarding school policies. i'm incredibly proud of the work by assistant secretary newland and his entire team on volume one of the investigative report that is a critical part of this initiative. it lays the groundwork for the continued efforts of the department to address the intergenerational trauma created by this federal policy. i want to note that the vast majority of the work was done by indigenous staff who worked through their own trauma and pain to meet this moment. this marks the first time in our over 200 years since the indian boarding school policies were implemented that the united states has formally reviewed or acknowledged the extensive scope and breadth of this piece of our history. the department's investigation focuses on the historical indian boarding school system and cultural assimilation and removal policies. the initial investigation shows
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that between 1819 and 1969, the federal indian boarding school system consisted of 408 federal indian boarding schools across 37 states, or then territories, including 21 schools in alaska and seven schools in hawaii. volume one also identifies approximately 53 different schools that contain marked or unmarked burial sites. as the investigation continues, we expect the number of identified burial sites to increase, along with more definite numbers of identified indian boarding school sites, children, and operating dates of the facilities. our obligations to native communities mean that federal policy should fully support and revitalize native healthcare, education, languages, and cultural practices that prior to destroy.
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the department, working with relevant sister federal agencies, will also work to expand tribal communities access to mental health resources. i recently announced that we will embark on the road to healing, a tour throughout the nation, to hear directly from survivors and descendants about their experiences. a necessary part of this journey will be to connect survivors and their families with mental health support and to create a permanent collection of oral histories. we know this won't be easy, but it is a history that we must learn from if we are to heal from this tragic era in our country. i am proud of the work the department is accomplishing to confront its role in these assimilation policies through education. i am also deeply grateful to congress for their support. funding for our initiative will enable the department to help expand existing school profiles following volume one of the report, including detailing the number of children who attended federal indian boarding schools,
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identifying marked and unmarked burial sites, identifying interred children and detailing the amount of federal support for the system. i am grateful for the committee's leadership and also considering s-2907 as part of this hearing, which i led with my colleagues when i served in congress. the administration strongly supports this legislation, especially the development of the national survivor resources to address the intergenerational trauma and the inclusion of the commission's formal investigation and documentation practices. federal indian boarding school policy is a part of america's story that we must tell. while we cannot change that history, i believe that our nation will benefit from a full understanding of the truth of what took place and a focus on healing the wounds of the past. thank you for inviting me to
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testify today and i am confident that, together, we can strengthen indian country and the native hawaiian community now and for future generations. assistant secretary bryan newland and i are pleased to answer any questions that you may have. sen. schatz: thank you very much, secretary. i'll start with a couple of questions about these listening sessions. can you just talk about how you're going to conduct them and how you're gonna integrate the mental health services piece? sec. haaland: thank you so much for the question, chairman. and yes, the primary goal of the road to healing is for me and assistant secretary newland to hear directly from survivors, as i stated in my remarks. we're working first of all with tribes to make sure that we are reaching out. that will help us to decide where we should have these sessions. we want to make sure that we are
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documenting those. it will be a part where, if folks want to share publicly, they can. we will close it off to the public into any press so that if people don't want to share their story with the public, they have that opportunity as well. we are in coordination with the department of health and human resources -- human services, excuse me -- to direct the mental health resources for medical providers at those at the actual locations. and we will start with the first session in oklahoma. sen. schatz: thank you. and can you just consider this a formal request that you get back to us on what resources you may need in the coming appropriation cycle? a lot of members are also on appropriations and we would be pleased to help. but decisions are getting made over the next i would say 3-4 weeks.
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so as soon as you can get us a wish list, the more likely we'll be able to be of assistance. >> thank you, chairman. sen. schatz: on the bill itself. we're gonna mark this up and we're gonna try to move it through the congress. but do you have any recommendations for any friendly amendments to make sure that it hits the mark in the ways that we want it to? sec. haaland: we i appreciate you asking that. and of course, i just want to say how strongly we feel that this bill is actually complementary to the work that we're doing. one of the reasons why we're wholeheartedly supporting it. i am -- we're happy to, of course, make that, you know, happy to share with you our feelings about that legislation,
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if i could turn it over to assistant secretary newland to detail that out. i'd appreciate it. asst. sec. newland: thank you, madam secretary, and thanks mr. chairman for the question. just some of the changes or to the extent that the committee and congress are considering any would relate to the composition of the advisory committee, for example, the legislation points to the bureau of indian education, the bureau of trust funds administration has been central to putting together the report that we published earlier this year because of their record keeping function. and so we would want to make sure that the bureau of trust funds administration is included in the commission and the advisory committee structure, as well as the national archives, which we've partnered with for getting information. and, you know, they have millions of pages of federal records in their possession that
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are going to be important to this work. so, those are two examples. sen. schatz: ok. and just consider this a request for ta, to make sure that -- and look, we're -- like i said, we're gonna pass this thing, certainly out of committee and hopefully out of the whole senate. but we want to make sure that it's aligned with what you're already doing and we're not tripping over a new statute that is not exactly what you're sort of, you already have underway and then we need to resource it. and then i guess my final question and i talked to you about this, secretary, is the role of native language in restoration, and i'm just wondering if you can speak to that. sec. haaland: well, yes, of course, it comes up a lot , because during the terrible federal indian boarding school era, children were cut off from their language. and it happened in public school
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as well as boarding schools. my mother, she had her hands hit with a piece of rubber hose every time she spoke. it's one of the reasons why she didn't want to teach us caress, our native language, because she was worried and scared, and so you can see how easily it would be to have generations of non-native speakers because their parents are worried about the future of their children. so, we are wholeheartedly in support, this administration is in support of language revitalization. first lady dr. jill biden and i got to travel to oklahoma to visit the cherokee immersion school, a very fine example of how tribes are taking charge of teaching their languages, and we feel that that is one way to gain culture back for so many of the children in 2022 who have lost it because of the history
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of what happened. sen. schatz: thank you. senator murkowski. sen. murkowski: thank you. mr. chairman. secretary haaland. as we as we have looked at this report, as you have noted in your opening remarks, there are some 53 marked or unmarked burial sites that we know right now of students who died at these schools. there was an article about a month ago in the anchorage daily news detailing about the family of mary kay nanook, she's a clink it girl who attended carlisle indian industrial school in pennsylvania. she died at the school just apparently shortly after her 14th birthday and her family thinks that she could be at -- her remains could be at one of those unmarked graves in the school's cemetery. so to the family and to others who are trying to bring their children home, what resources or
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services, if any, does the department have to provide to the families that are seeking repatriation of family remains from any of these former indian boarding school sites? is there assistance to the families? sec. haaland: thank you, vice chairman. so, carlisle in particular, it's now an army war college. and so i actually went to carlisle to help some tribes repatriate children from that cemetery back to their native homeland in south dakota. the army was incredibly helpful. it's -- they took the responsibility on to help the families go through the entire process. of course, we are there to make sure that the tribe's wishes and the family's wishes are met.
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and so, we would welcome the opportunity to help that particular family with that, with finding, you know, finding the answers that they need. and so, certainly we would be happy to work with your office to reach out to them. sen. murkowski: so i understand from the answer though, it's not necessarily an opportunity where you can go directly for resources to help your family from alaska traveling to pennsylvania or to research records. it's working with army, it's working with department kind of on a case by case basis. do you think that there will be anything more formally structured where families might be able to turn for some level of assistance? sec. haaland: as you know, we -- tribal consultation is incredibly important to us. it's the most important thing in this work that we're doing when we consult with tribes.
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if that's an issue they would like for us to move forward, we absolutely will move it forward. of course, it's hard to know, a budget for something like that, but certainly, it is, those are things that we, i mean we need to consider everything and we need to consider every tool in the toolbox when we're working with people. the point is that we want to make this a healing process. and if that is what the tribes and the families want, we will find a way to do what we can. sen. murkowski: and i will just add to that. we had a hearing earlier this year in this committee to discuss, again, the act and how it's applied to protect tribal funerary objects, patrimony, and remains. at that hearing, we had another
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alaskan testified, dr. rosita worl, who shared the unique institutional arrangements that govern the administration of services and certain federal laws that impact alaska native communities. and as we are moving forward, and you in the department are identifying additional burial sites as the investigation continues, i would ask that you take into consideration the unique tribal government structures that we have in alaska, invite the relevant tribes, the alaska native corporations to do exactly what you're talking about, which is to consult and to be able to provide input to the department regarding nagpra and other relevant federal laws that are out there as we're working through this boarding school initiative. and then very briefly, because the chairman had raised this with regards to the legislation
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itself and as 2907, i understand that you've identified -- this is legislation that you want to work with us to pass. one of the authorities that's granted to the commission in the bill is subpoena authority. and some of my colleagues have raised this. they want to understand better why we need to provide the authority to the commission. is it fair to assume that the department sees the subpoena power as necessary for the commission? is that something that you want to see included or there perhaps other options that could be used to gain needed information, >> we support the bill as it is sec. haaland: we support the bill as it is written, vice chairman. sen. murkowski: ok, good. since senator schatz is at the vote, we will turn to senator
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smith. >> thank you very much. the last time i saw you was one secretary holland was coming to visit in minnesota and we went to the native american boarding school healing coalition, it was a powerful meeting. i am grateful to have you all here today to address the tragic history of this federal policy. the federal indian school -- federal indian boarding school policy created deep intergenerational harm to native communities across the united states and so many of the issues we talk about in this committee, health challenges, educational disparities, mental and behavioral and physical health challenges all are tied directly to the indian boarding school policy.
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secretary holland, i know that you are committed to addressing this issue in a holistic way. people are people, they are not divided into different policy areas. could you expound on your opening statement and talk about how you see bringing a holistic approach to this issue across the work of the department as we move forward? i am a strong supporter of senator warren spill, the truth and healing commission bill. i think that will be an important tool to support the work you are doing at the agency. could you expound on how you see that holistic approach fulfilling itself in the department? sec. haaland: absolutely, and thank you for the question. thank you for hosting us when we were in minnesota. first of all, what i will say is, with respect to the work that we are doing and the
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priority of this administration, it is using and all of government approach to ensure we are addressing the needs of indian country. we have trust obligations to indian tribes. when i mentioned the fact of health and human services, figuring how to make sure we are providing trauma related support , language revitalization comes under our department. we also have, with respect to our department, we have the american indian records repository based in kansas city, kansas, with hundreds of thousands of documents that we will be researching to make sure we are not leaving anything out of the future reporting that we have to do.
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with respect to indian affairs, as i said, we have a trust responsibility to tribes, that is for health care, education, economic development, housing, all of those things that will also include the entire administration. we will absolutely work to make sure that everyone is a part of this and fulfilling our mission -- i mean come on bottom line is that -- i mean, the bottom line is that trust responsibility is real. those are obligations the federal government passed to indian tribes, going back hundreds of years, did not always understand that obligation as it was meant to be. so we feel confident that we can
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make that a reality. >> thank you very much for that. i hear in your comments that this is an understanding of the obligation and i would say the opportunity to make real progress that is shared by -- it is a whole of government approach -- it is shared by the entire administration, not the department of interior fighting against the machine. that is great. i know i am just about out of time. i want to say to the committee that the work that is being done by the organization and minnesota's national work and the incredible effort that is being made to bring the story of the impacts of the boarding school era, bring of those go -- bring all of those stories together, it is powerful and gives individuals a way to connect into their part of the story at the same time they are
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understanding the broader implications of that policy across the whole population. it is impressive and it reminds me that if you really want to understand the story, you have to know it first, then the next step is to take action to repair the damage. it gives me great hope to know that work is happening and i want to thank you for that. sen. murkowski: senator cortez masto. sen. cortez masto: thank you. thank you, ranking member. i am so pleased we're having this hearing as well. secretary haaland, thank you. i wanna go back to your testimony, and you noted in your testimony that you would welcome the committee's assistance in access to records that are not under federal control. could you address that? and then also, does s-2907,
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which i support, would that help address accessing or obtaining those records? sec. haaland: absolutely. with the subpoena power, it would mean everything. i think there have been a lot of folks for decades who have tried to get records. it's difficult doing that as an individual. and i also understand that some entities may need a subpoena before they're allowed to release certain records. so i think that portion of the of the law is -- or the bill is incredibly important. i would really appreciate it if assistant secretary newland could actually expound on that a little bit. asst. sec. newland: thank you, madam secretary, and thank you, senator. it's great to see you and be back in front of the committee. secretary haaland said that the bill is broader in scope than
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our work has been to date and would in establishing the commission and providing the mission and objectives for the commission along with the subpoena authority would give the commission the ability to seek out that information from non-federal entities and to do a deeper dive over a longer period of time. >> excuse me. would that be state entities, local government entities, private entities or a combination of all three? asst. sec. newland: yes. >> that's helpful. and that's why i do think some of them require that subpoena they want to turn it over, but they also require some sort of federal subpoena to be able to do so. so thank you. and that's why i think it is important we have that ability to obtain those records. let me -- i heard in my statement. i am so pleased we have nevada indian cultural commission. they've done an incredible job in our state. and i know they're working in
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partnership with you madam secretary and your federal indian boarding school initiative. in volume one of the report, the section on identifying and cataloging unmarked and marked burial sites at boarding notes that the department faced several limitations to complete this aspect of the investigation, including budget and appropriations restrictions. now, if you could elaborate now on that, i would like to hear that. if not, we can put it in writing. but i'm curious because what do we need to do to make sure we give you the tools you need and resources you need to address this. sec. haaland: thank you. that's actually a great question for assistant secretary newland as well. asst. sec. newland: thank you, meadow secretary, and senator, thanks for that question. in addition to the pandemic limiting our physical access to some of these records, you know, we were working within our existing appropriations
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authority and our existing appropriations amounts with the team that we had in place. and so it really limited the scope of the work that we could do, you know, with our existing staff. and so the appropriation that congress provided for fy22 has been very important for allowing us to continue this work and build out the profiles for each of the schools listed in the report and will also -- related to that, will also allow us to do a closer look at each school that we have on our list and do a better job of understanding where these cemeteries and burial sites are located, and then also begin the work of trying to put together a plan to work with indian country to protect those sites. >> thank you. so what i'm hearing is you need additional appropriation, additional dollars in the
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current appropriations, or you have enough? asst. sec. newland: the president has requested an additional $7 million in the fy 23 budget. >> and that's what you're referring to? that would help you further with your investigation? asst. sec. newland: yes. >> ok. thank you. thank you, madam secretary, thank you. >> senator tester. sen. tester: thank you. mr. chairman, ranking member, for holding this hearing. and it's great to have secretary haaland here today. and or left end man only because you're sitting to your left. secretary haaland, bryan newland, it's always good to have you and the committee to brian, so i want to start by thanking the secretary for coming to montana and we met with the tribal leaders in montana and we heard from every one of them about the boarding school situation and its impacts on each one of their tribes. so there is no doubt that the
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impacts of what happened are real and that we need to do something about it. the conversation around native language is an interesting one because it's something that we've been talking about in this committee for a decade or longer , and the benefits are obvious and you know this, madam secretary, the benefits of re connection with the culture, the benefits with improving self esteem for students, the benefits of better grades, staying in school, lower dropout rates, better attendance, better graduation rates, all that stuff makes a big difference. so, could you, madam secretary, tell me what existing programs in the b.i.a. can help in the goal of cultural and language revitalization and native communities, and how do you envision them fitting into the recommendations that are outlined in this report? sec. haaland: thank you, senator, for that question. and, i mean, i'll just say right off the bat that that depends on
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what the tribes want for their communities. i mentioned earlier that the cherokee nation started an immersion school, and a cherokee immersion school, for their students, starting from elementary school up to high school. that is ideal for them. we are -- that is the reason that we are doing tribal consultation on these issues. we want to make sure that whatever we are doing is supporting what the tribe wants for their own communities and, of course, we have the tremendous support of president biden in this effort and we look forward to moving it forward. sen. tester: ok, it's been very good. so how is the department of interior working with tribes and organizations that have already begun some aspects of the of the work such as the state of maine's truth and reconciliation commission?
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sec. haaland: senator, i'm not quite -- i apologize. could you ask the question? i have a little bit of a trouble hearing you as well. so if you could just ask -- sen. tester: i'll try to talk louder. how is the department of interior working with tribes and organizations that have already begun some of the aspects of this work, such as the state of maine's truth and reconciliation commission? sec. haaland: well, i think it's really our job to make sure that we are supporting tribes in the -- in whatever way is the best way possible for them. of course, that is that's always helped by a budget that is kind and supportive of those efforts that tribes want to make. but we are working with tribes every single day, as you know, they're all different.
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they see truth, they see healing, they see justice in different ways. and so it's up to us to make sure that we're consulting and supporting and whether it's technical support or monetary support, programmatic support, however we can do that, that's what we will do. >> thank you. and the minute i have left, i want to move away from the federal indian boarding school initiative and talk a little bit about consultation. look, the b.i.a. and indian health service does consultation and they do a pretty good job of it, in most cases. other departments, other agencies either aren't aware of the necessity for consultation or just don't think they have the time to do it. since you're a native american secretary of the department of interior, you have a unique insight into the value of consultation. have you been able to do anything within the
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administration to educate other agencies, other cabinet level officials about the importance of consultation, and if you >> absolutely. we reconvened. president biden reconvened our white house counsel and native american affairs. all of our cabinets and colleagues, we meet regularly to make sure we are moving the issues for every indian country forward. i think, not only have this new era of indian country yielded tribal consultations that are incredibly meaningful, but it is also translated into the various departments, hiring native people at high levels. advisors at senior level
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department employees that can help move their departments forward in the ways that are best suited to move that tribal trust obligations forward. i think all of my colleagues have been extremely optimistic and amenable to moving all of these issues forward. >> thank you, madam secretary. thank you, chairman. >> thank you, senator tester. i have a couple of questions for the secretary. this work is necessarily going to involve more departments, a fair amount of interdepartmental cooperation. i guess my first question is,
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have you run into any bureaucratic, administrative roadblocks? the second question is, can i have your assurance that, if you do, you will come to us. you can go to the white house, i know you have that option. we are pleased to be of assistance, and i want to make sure that the department of defense had a role, the role of war. they are capable of being pretty slow in responding in something they do not consider to be accordant of their mission. i want to make sure we are on top of all the other agencies. i have no doubt you will move with great alacrity. i want to make sure we move with the interdepartmental cooperation we need. >> thank you, chairman. i will give assistant secretary newman to address this, also. from the time i wrote my op-ed
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about this issue, which was over a year ago, we have had incredible support from my colleagues across the administration. i think that everyone sees this as part of america's story. is not just indian history, it is american history. it affects all of us in the way we go about our lives. i feel confident that we will be able to find the support across the departments that we need, and we would absolutely come to you if we have issues you could help us with. i would love to -- >> let me try and get one more question and -- question in. how do you see the department working with your counterparts in canada, because i think they
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are chronologically a little ahead. i am wondering what there is to learn and what differentiates us from our friends -- i call them our friends to the north. lisa called them our friends to the east. >> i had to do mental math -- you had to do mental math in your head. we have not been in contact with our counterparts in canada regarding this particular issue. although, i have read quite a bit about what they are going through, as well. you know, before colonization, there was no canadian-american border. there were tribes living on this continent, and we are all relatives. we all share a history together, and we all care and love one
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another. i will say that, however i can be helpful to any indigenous people, i will absolutely be honored to be of assistance in two ways. i think the reason we have experienced some of the same history is because we are essentially the same people. i will be ready to help whenever i can, and i think we have something to learn from each other. >> i think that was my point, let's find out what they are doing, let's find out if they step thereto in some way that looks retro -- that looks obvious, so we can avoid mistakes they make, and
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coordinate their efforts. they are not going to be the same, but they are going -- they are our friends to the north. this is conceptually the same effort rate we want to know what they are learning as we go along, make sure we are learning from each other. senator daines. >> chairman, thank you. senator, thank you for being here. i want to thank you and your team for your leadership and your help on what is happening. it has been a all hands on deck moment, i am hearing really good things on the ground from cam, about your leadership, dr. seems leadership, on the response we are receiving. they are working 20 hour days right now to get back on their feet. a heartfelt thank you from the people of montana, idaho, wyoming who share boundaries around yellowstone national
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park. we will build it stronger than it ever was before. >> i want to thank you for being here for this important conversation, and the departments work to bring life atrocities that recurred -- occurred under the federal indian school program. it is not something we should take lightly, or halfheartedly, but something we need to put our effort behind so the truth and stories can be uncovered. montana was home to 18 known boarding schools, located across the state affecting many of our tribal communities. each community will have different experiences and needs.
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>> thank you for that question. >> thank you for that question. you know we had volume one of that report. we are going on a healing
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journey across the country and we will be able to speak to individuals from individual tribes. and then of course our research will continue to move forward. a second volume would have more details about children about each school, about each tribe. we hope to get incredible specificity so the tribes have opportunity to decide what they would like to do with that information. >> thank
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existing -- at existing pie schools across montana? >> thankfully, that is happening now. we are -- every bia school that we operate, we are -- a lot of those schools have native teachers. native principals, native superintendents. there is a culturally prevalent -- relevant education for every student at every single one of those schools. that will absolutely continue. >> thanks for being here. thanks for your great support, on this issue, as well as helping us out west in yellowstone. >> senator, if i could say, thank you for the yellowstone comments. i am happy that you recognized
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-- it is the career staff who live, eat and breathe, their jobs, and are incredibly grateful for the hard work they are doing to make sure this crown jewel of our country returns to its original glory. thank you for recognizing that. i will pass on those comments. >> please do. your leadership is being noticed and felt as i chatted again on our -- with our superintendent on the ground, they know they have the support from the team back here. that is important. >> thank you. >> thank you. we will now move on to our second panel, we thank you. you are excused. as you are moving out in the interest of time, i will begin to introduce our second panelist, who can take their seats. as they are able.
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the first is the honorable kirk francis, chief of the tuneups got indian nation and indian island name. next, sandra white hot, president of the national native american boarding school healing coalition in minneapolis, minnesota. and, my friend, norma, native hawaiian policy lead, office of the former hawaii governor. and, to senator macau chi to introduce the witness. >> thank. i mentioned liz before, but i would like to officially welcome liz edison crow, the president and ceo of first alaskan institute. i know she travels from anchorage to be here, so thank you for that. she is from southeastern alaska, a tribal citizen of the organized village of k. she has got a strong background
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with a juris doctor at from arizona state, a certificate in indian law. she not only has extensive knowledge and experience in federal indian policy, but also with reconciling trauma, including the trauma associated with boarding and residential schools. thank you for not only your advocacy on behalf of so many, but in assisting us with the discussion and consideration of the legislation. i think this is perhaps the first time you have testified before the committee. we are delighted to have you back, thank you for making the journey. >> your full, written testimony will be made part of the official record. we appreciate if you can find your remarks to five minutes. mr. francis, please proceed.
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>> thank you, chairman. vice chair, murkowski and ambers of the committee. my name is kirk francis, i'm from the indian nation in the state of maine. i want to begin my testimony by thinking secretary holland by beginning the indian boarding school initiative to compile facts around this issue. one of the main benefits to compiling this information is that native americans impacted by schools get educated about the facts, and learn they are not alone in this experience. at one point in time, over 100 of our children were in boarding schools, in particular, the -- indian school. the impacts on that on our community are being felt today. as cheap of the nation, --chief of the nation, i was part of two efforts. one was the truth and reconciliation commission, the other with the main indian tribal state commission. i share my experiences of those
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commissions with you to help inform your views of the commission being established by us, 290 seven. the main truth and reconciliation commission was a temporary commission intended to investigate and compile information about the chat well system in maine. the effort was grassroots driven by child welfare workers that agreed it was flawed, it began in 2008, the commission was seated in early 2013. they released its report in june, two thousand 15. overall, the commission in my opinion was a success. the commission process allowed for both sides to get educated about the issues, share their experiences and perspectives, and better understand each other. since the commission's report, changes have been made to the state child welfare system to ensure that each webinar e-government is able to fully participate in the sessions that impact children.
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what i think made the commission successful was, the tribal and state child welfare workers wanted to make the change. there was buy-in from the state governor, all governments. the commissions focus was narrowly tailored to one topic. the commission focused its work on compiling factual information, but allowed the voices of those impacted by the system to be heard. the commission did a good job of describing its work as a conversation, versus an investigation to place blame on any person or entity. the other commission i have experienced with is the main indian tribal state commission, and intergovernmental entity created by the main implement act of 1980. which is a state law that implement the federal main indian land claims. this commission is comprised of 13 members, six of which are appointed by the tribes. six by the state, and those 12 choose a chair. the primary purpose of this
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commission is to continually review the effectiveness of the settlement that and the social, economic and legal relationship between the state of maine and three of the nations. this commission is permanent and does not expire. unfortunately, this commission has not been as effective in improving the relationship between the nations and the state, this is not the fault of the individual members of the commission. more, about the structure of the commission. at times, the state has failed to fill its six spots, which impairs the ability of the commission to get its work done. additionally, very few recommendations of the commission actually get and plummeted by the state, or congress. because of this, individual members of the commission and tribes get frustrated and questioned the purpose of the commission. based on these experiences, i have several suggested edits for the committee to consider in making as 2097, but seeing my
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time is short, i went to mention a couple. the language should be reviewed to make sure that it encompasses the schools identified in volume one of interiors report. the bill seems to only include schools that were directly operated by the federal government, or churches, versus schools that meet the full criteria. the members of the commission are all appointed by the federal government. which will likely minimize trust in the commission's work. direct mind revising the bill to require that the federal government select their appointees from people nominated by national and regional tribal organizations. lastly, there are no next steps for what happens to the report that the commission develops. i recommend that the bill include language that requires the secretaries of education interior and health and human services to conduct consultation about the findings and recommendations in the report, and at the committee -- have the committee of indian affairs conduct a report in the future.
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that is about my time, i thank you for allowing me to be here and i'm happy to answer any questions. >> thank you, now we were here from senator -- sandra white-hot. >> [speaking non-english language] >> my name is sandra white-hawk. i am from the rosebud reservation in south dakota. i would like to say, thank you to our relative who opened our time with the prayer song, and his companion who sang with him. i was really moved by that, because it is my second time in these halls. to hear our songs in -- and our
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language spoke, i can only think of our relatives who survived those horrible experiences. here we are today. we are told that if all you can say is who you are and who -- where you come from, you will know where you are going to go in life and what you are going to do. this is what our children were not given in those institutions. it is an honor to be here. thank you, chairman and vice chairman michalski for the time, and committee members for this time. i am flooded with all kinds of emotions that are fighting against my words. i heard the throats almost begin to close for our secretary holland and assistant secretary newland, and me, as well, because we cannot speak on their
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behalf without seeing our own relatives faces. how we can hear our brothers and sisters, our aunts, uncles, grandmothers, share their stories in the circles in our homes. the truth commission, the truth and healing commission will give us that opportunity to have a public opportunity to have it validated by the public. it is one thing to share your story within your home, or in your community, but it is another place to share it where it is going to be valid and -- validated by the outside entities that brought the song -- brought this on. it addresses what we call disenfranchised grief, a grief that has not been acknowledged. i have witnessed this as the commissioner for the main child
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welfare, truth and reconciliation. i was one of the five commissioners, i was invited to be an honorary witness for the truth and reconciliation for residential schools. i have much confidence in our ceo of nass, she worked within those entities and has much experience in helping our communities develop that. it is exceptionally important, it is time. it is so encouraging to hear you speak so fervently in support. that in itself is healing, to hear it in the halls that there are representatives who understand this history and understand the importance of hearing from us. i want to thank you for that support, i cannot wait to go back and tell my community what i heard. they are going to go, really?
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i will go, they did, i swear. there is no -- right now, i am stunned that the acknowledgment, and to hear you say not just our hair was cut, which is vital, but that you understand the corporal punishment and the psychological torture. you have spoken to that. i want to thank you for that acknowledgment. one last thing i want to say about our language, it is important -- the importance of it is, to remember that those of our communities who were forced not to say anything about who they were, where they come from, and yet, our languages were used not just the navajo language, but the cheyenne language, many languages were used in world war ii. the very people who were to be
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eradicated through wars and schools stood and fought. they were boarding school survivors, as well. thank you. >> thank you very much. >> ms. norma wong. >> a loja -- aloha. [speaking non-english language] my name is norma, i was born near the mountains, where i live. i apologize for not being with you in person. instead, i am here, and from time to time, you will have proof of that because you will
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hear roosters in the background. my grandmother was banned from the language in her youth, and she did not speak it again until two weeks before she passed. she did not tell us her story, and i did not grow up in the language. so, these few words that i have spoken here that i wrote in my formal testimony, i sent two younger hawaiians to correct. i know that my story is common among the many native peoples. we all experienced the stripping of language, and separation from land, family and people. the boarding schools were focused delivery agents for this
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national policy. and, for the people who lived and governed in this country at those moments in time. for there descendants, there is specific pain. to account for and acknowledge is a consequential precipice, and how we guide and participate in this particular moment. in my introduction, the reconnection -- reconnection to language just three generations later is one small example of mending the ark. the seven generations ark, the seven generations that are before us, and the seven generations after. this is the worldview, the ether oc and the plumb line for all indigenous people. at the center of the ark is the current generation, all the peoples, whether you are native or not, who live in this
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particular moment. what is our responsibility, to amend the ark and pivot the trajectory for future generations. while justice is moral, it is a hollow victory if it is not accompanied by thriving. moving forward from the investigative report, it is critical to reach back and cast forward. how do past actions impact us today? what is the imagined and hoped for future? what would need to happen to make that possible? to mend the ark, it is a -- it is to continuously restore what -- that which is cut off, and reconnecting to a fruitful path. three areas of repair come to mind, language revitalization,
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connection of people to the base, and worthiness. language contains values, it must be taught orally and reconnects the relationship between generations. language contains the wisdom of stewardship between peoples and land. reconnecting to the responsibilities of land in place, even in urban areas. this is critical to reconnection at the ark. indigenous peoples are intended to be stewards of peoples in place, not only their own, but of the entirety. it is part of our worthiness across the span of time. in mending the ark, we must interrupt the habit of transactional repair. instead, be creative and generous in our investment and
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partnership. resources will be needed for grieving and therapeutic healing and gatherings. the energy of what happened in these spaces and places needs tending to it if repair is to be had. ritual ceremony repurposed thing , that is the indigenous way. making it possible for people's added scale to have the time, the space and support to figure this out and implement hopes and dreams. this is a generational journey. it is not a one and done. [speaking non-english language] observing the horizon, clouds of the land. what took hundreds of years to tear through to the point of breaking cannot be repaired, let alone propel us toward a more thriving future. over the course of a few studies, reports and hearings. there is work to be done, and it can be fruitful.
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i leave with this wise saying of our peoples. [speaking non-english language] once a child -- one's child will never late -- will lay a garland that has never cast aside. thank you. >> we now recognize ms. medicine crow. >> can you hear me now? i will try not to use my radio voice. [speaking non-english language] thank you for your words of introduction. and to the committee, for your time today. like those who have spoken before me, this is not an easy subject to address.
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in my introduction, senator murkowski spoke about my heritage. i am haida and tlingit, i come from the people of kake. our name really means mouth of the don people. i sit here before you as the granddaughter of a survivor. her name was mona jackson, i wear her regalia here today because i wanted to bring her with me. i wanted to become a vessel for her voice, and for the voice of so many of our other children. our most vulnerable who were taken from our communities. they were not just taken from their communities, while we focus on the importance of the children who were taken, it is also incredibly important to
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focus on the communities that they were taken from. i often wonder, what would it be like to come from a place with no children? this is what was imposed on our people. could you imagine having your own children taken? communities without children. as was stated earlier, over 83% of our children were taken across this country. that is a staggering amount, and likely, has left some uncounted. i work for an organization called first alaskans institute, and our vision is progress for the next 10,000 years. this is a large number, which we know we can look to because we come from over 10,000 years of history in this place. this period of the boarding
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schools was a short window of time that exact so much precise damage. this was intentional and purposeful harm. this commission will finally help us tell the truth about the united states history, and its relationship with its native people. when i think about the process that we have been engaged in alaska, called truth, racial healing and transformation, we use the process over the past 14 years to arrive at a native value centered process, using our native peoples wisdom as a matter experts of this work. we use the process that centered our people, that honors them, and uplifts their voices. in this process, we created these tribunals, where we
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invited our communities to share their truth. the sharing of those truths, lifting up the healing process. i heard those questions earlier, how do you hold space for telling the truth with the healing that needs to happen? those things go hand in hand. using a process designed by our people for our people and for alaska's strengthened future, we designed a process that included accountability partners. those accountability partners were people who represent governments, churches, social groups, private individuals, for-profit enterprise, who were ready to sit and stand beside native people and say, we want to understand the legacy of our impact. we want to work side-by-side to co-create the future that we know our children deserve. this is wisdom and knowledge
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that comes from our people in alaska, native people who, like so many others of our hawaiian native others and sisters and our lower 48 native brothers and sisters have learned under duress how to actually hold people up. talking about incredibly hard things, and that wisdom should be tapped i this commission. i cannot thank you enough, and i want to leave with a story from my grandmother. my mother asked her a question about her experience at boarding schools, and my grandmother responded, i can tell you what happened physically, but i am still not able to talk about what happened inside. this commission will open up a pathway where these stories from people who are now elders will be heard. time is of the essence.
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we cannot waste any more of their precious life with not giving them a form to share their lived experiences. [speaking non-english language] for this opportunity to share on this incredibly important bill. >> thank you to all of our test fires. my first question is for ms. wong. our last test fire -- test of fire -- testifier made reference to trump. it seems to me, we have to act with absolute determination, understanding that moments come and go, and although we all seem to be in agreement that we need to move forward, that could vanish quickly. federal government moves slowly. we want to make sure they feel the impetus and motivation, have
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the resources to go. it occurs to me that we have to do this properly, that in our determination, that cannot turn into haste. i have learned as a non-native hawaiian residing in hawaii for 47 of my 49 years, i know entering a space or starting a project, going into someone's home, starting a meeting in the wrong way can set a tone that is almost impossible to reverse. the question i have for you ms. wong, in your experience, are there best practices when it comes to attempting to reconcile personal trauma and broader community harms? how do we do that part of it right, and not just conduct listening sessions and re-traumatized people without a path forward? >> mr. chairman, the trauma
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informed aspect of that -- this, there is the healing informed aspect and a thriving informed. which is to say, especially in government, -- government kinds of projects, these are initiatives that have requirement as this particular initiative has. which is to say that, the boarding school opening up the conversation that may be possible with boarding schools. maybe a once in a generation opportunity to pivot the entirety of the relationship that the united states government has with the native peoples of this country. because of the possibility of that pivot that you need to move forward, not only with care, but
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with, i would say some differentiation. by differentiation, i would say that we recognize that there are different levels. there is a level of the individuals, which would include the survivors, as well as the descendants, as well is the native people who were not accounted for in the boarding schools, but essentially were cast into the diaspora. they are no longer a part of any peoples that are recognized by the federal government, and may actually be dislocated by hundreds of thousands of miles from their homeland. they show up. they will show up in a community
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center, or in a mental health clinic or someplace. they will say, i remember that i am of these people, whatever those people may have them to be. there's the levels of the individual, institutional, both private and public, for which an accounting is required. also, a new narration that is brought forward. then, there is a cross community conversations that would include non-natives, and would be best done on an individual basis. this would be on a relational basis, the people that you know and the people who know the people that you know. designing this differently and to actually implement it almost at the same moment, but not to
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use the blood sword. i consider a public hearing to be a blood sword. you cannot settle for the usual. the public hearing that would have certain testimonies, and that would have people that would have a time limit, things of that sort. that cannot be where all the focus happens to be. every person and descendant needs away to be seen or heard, be it in community, or on an individual basis. some massive, national effort will actually resolve many things if that is done in concert with this particular effort. i would also say that support teams who are going to be used for this are going to experience their own trauma, and they will need ways to deal with that and
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deal with it in ways that are appropriate to their culture. there is a narrative embedded within this country that has reverberated to this day. unless that narrative is rewritten, a new story is written, these events will remain within the government's fear of things. i would say that it is useful for the united states government to change its ways, but if your neighbor, who is non-native is not included in the new narrative, and doesn't have a way for it, i do not think much will change on the ground for the peoples of this place. >> thank you.
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i'm going to ask one last question, and i think it is yes or no. ms. white hawk, do you think this commission should have subpoena authority? for the record, that was a yes. >> yes, i do. absolutely. >> senator murkowski. >> ms. madison crow -- medicine crow, i want to ask a question about how we are defining the criteria used to defined -- define federal indian boarding schools. chi francis, you alluded to this at the end of your statement -- chief francis, you alluded to this. in alaska, we know many boarding schools were affiliated with religious institutions, apparently report say approximately 50% of federal indian boarding schools may have received support or involvement from religious institutions, and the government at times paid religious institutions and
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organizations for native children to enter federal indian boarding schools. we have identified 21 schools in alaska that we are calling federal indian boarding schools. really, as we look at how big the state is and the role of religious institutions in these boarding schools, i feel like that number may be low. would you care to comment on whether you think the interior department's criteria is adequately capturing the federally supported schools that we see in alaska and elsewhere, is there a better way to define federal indian boarding schools? when you respond, maybe i will ask chief dances to comment. go ahead. >> thank you for the question. i think what i read within the department of interior's report acknowledges that the criteria was limited.
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as a result, we do not know how many actual boarding schools were in alaska. right now. we know from the report, there were 21. but, they acknowledged that there were over 1000 different institutions across the country that did not fit that criteria. they did not include it in the report. we know in alaska that the orphanages, the boarding homes, were subsidized by the federal government. churches in their own right took it upon themselves to define areas in alaska during a convening. they came up with what we know today as the comedy plan, where the different churches sectioned up alaska and each took a certain region of the state. through that comedy plan, those churches enacted their own
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efforts to assimilate our native children. understanding the relationship between the churches in the federal government in that role is critical, and i believe will come out through this commission process. from where i stand today, i do not think that we have an accurate number yet of the institutions that were in alaska. the other think that i think is important to note is, a lot of alaska native children were sent out of state to boarding schools down south. we do not yet know the number of those children sent to these boarding schools, or orphanages. in one instance, there is another institution in oregon called the morningside institute where mentally ill alaskans were sent. as substantial number of them were alaska natives, and a number of them were alaskan native children. figuring out this entire
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ecosystem of a stimulative process is critical, and i think that a strict and narrow definition will limit our ability to know the full story. >> i appreciate the detail to that. chief francis, do you agree that this definition is too narrow? >> i think so. as i stated in my testimony, the four criteria used in interior definition is much broader than the bill. i think this is why a solid, robust consultation process throughout this is going to be extremely important to understand what each tribal communities or each region's experiences were. there were many ways that our children were affected by boarding schools, not just in the federal system, but a lot of -- what we found in our truth and reconciliation process in
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maine, we started the conversation about child welfare. that child welfare conversation went and peoples experience as children in the catholic church. whatever it may be. it broadened -- it will inevitably broadened to a whole host of historical trauma, things related to the educational system. for children, we look at the state of new york for example. we know there is three boarding schools that are not considered federal boarding schools, even though at period of time rather history, they received significant federal funding. i think it is going to be important to get that definition right, and i think through a robust consultation process, the commission can understand -- begin to understand the diversity of institutions that contributed to these atrocities for native kids. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator lujan, thank you.
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>> the united states poured in norma's resources into federal indian boarding schools. by comparison, the federal government has invested less than $400 million in recouping the native american link which as they tried so hard to eradicate through these policies. mr. chairman, it is my understanding that we do not have an estimate into how much was spent by the united states into federal boarding schools, but i am hopeful that we can get that number so that, when there is comparison and some may try to suggest that it is too expensive to support these initiatives, that people are able to take a look at how much was spent trying to take peoples lives away, take language away, perked people -- hurt people. i am hopeful we can work towards getting that number and finding ways to support initiatives.
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to each of the witnesses, if you care to expand, i would appreciate that. my question is yes or no, in keeping with the initiative's recommendations, should congress make bold, substantial investments in native american language immersion, preservation and maintenance programs? chief. >> absolutely. thank you for that. i do not know if we will be able to quantify the cultural damages from that era, but every year should be the follow-up when we talk in the testimony about the follow-up being important to a commission report. it is critically important that we are having a budgetary conversation every year about addressing the cultural damages to tribes, language preservation, historic preservation. ultimately, it is going to be the native communities that are going to be left to deal with the commission's report, and what it will inevitably open old wounds. it will be a difficult time, the
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communities are going to have to support that historical trauma treatment. unfortunately, resources are going to be a huge part of that success. >> president white hawk. >> yes. i was thinking that there probably wasn't a discussion of the cost to try to eradicate the language. it would probably make sense that congress would invest in what it took to restore what was taken. we often hear in our communities, people say, we lost our language. i say, no, we didn't lose. it was taken. this was not something we did to ourselves, it was taken. this would make sense, i would support that. as chief francis said, it will open open -- open up old wounds. to heal, we need to air out
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those wounds and replace them with the medicines that we have within our ceremonies and songs, along with our mental health professionals that can help us. most importantly, what was taken from us, our songs, our life ways, that will bring the healing when our wounds are open from that. there was an elder that was one of my teachers, he said we are a people that are well acquainted with grief. i have watched and seen that as we have gone into communities, listened to experiences and watched healing take lays. i have heard chairman shots mentioned possibly triggering our relatives, but i do not like to use that word, trigger, because a trigger is on a gun. why are we using violent language that leads to violence. it does remind us.
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there is something that happens when the truth is spoken. it changes minds and changes hearts, and gives strength to the individual who is being heard, possibly, for the first time, in a way that will validate their experience. it is an incredible process to watch. i have been privileged to over the last 20 years witness healing circles, truth circles. it is definitely the way we need to be. as a commissioner in maine, chief francis was right. everything led back to boarding school, everything. that is where the first disruption to place. of our families, of our communities, of everything. in restoring that, begins that healing process. most of all, it validates. i cannot say it enough, i think of my own brother sharing what he is finally willing to talk
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about, and what he endured. and what my other relatives endured. hearing it, shaking her head, singing a song. when that wound originally happen, nothing was there. they lay there in bed at night with nothing. hearing it, recounting it and the relatives being around, that is the healing process. from that, those that are listening can use their gifts and skills to say, we need to do this to address this in our community. this would be helpful as we move forward. our young people will take that next step for us as they would listen and hear. thank you. >> president medicine crow, yes or no. >> cx -- yes, absolute. >> ms. wong, yes or no. >> yes.
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>> i time has expired. i have other questions i will submit into the record, thank you for your time and thank you to each of the witnesses for your courage. >> thank you, senator lujan. i will recognize the vice chair for any closing remarks. >> mr. chairman, i want to thank those who have come before the committee for your testimony today. for your input, and your advocacy for so many. knowing that it is personal for so many of you. i would commend, mr. chairman, as this committee is looking further into this investigation and the reports that will follow on, that what first alaskans institute has put in place with the tribunal and the summit
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onboarding and residential schools in alaska. this process that allows for the stories to be heard to provide for this source of healing is something that hopefully others can look to as a process, i hesitate to call it best practices, but i think often times, where do we start? where do we begin? how can we allow for a safe space for the sharing, and knowing that it will not just be words into a room, but that by sharing, that healing can begin. i recognize the heart that has gone into the effort by first alaskans, and how in our state, we are beginning the slow steps, those initial steps. there is much to be done, but i think we saw from those that
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have shared today that we are in the beginning steps. much work to do, and i appreciate the committee's attention to this. >> thank you, vice chair murkowski. i want to thank the testifiers for their testimony and important work going forward. this will be the beginning of an ongoing process, there is no doubt about that. it is important to remember that our government did this, we like to think that only other governments and other places far away implemented such atrocities . that is literally hard to fathom that the united states department of war and united states department of interior remove children from their homes , and punished them physically,
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abused them until he and sexually. many died. this was an important first step. we are going to stay on this. all of the committee members are committed to this. i know the secretary is. we will work with you, nothing about you without you. to make sure we get this right. senator hoven. >> if i could, i would like to ask ms. white hawk a question. as president of the national native american boarding school healing coalition, what are the next steps that you feel should be taken, following the release of this first volume of the study that was done? >> until we hear our community
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speak their experiences, that will define our next steps that we will take. >> ok, very good. thank you, and again, i appreciate the witnesses being here and we will submit questions for the record. >> thank you, senator hoven. if there are no more questions for witnesses, members may submit follow-up written questions for the record. the hearing record will remain open for one month. i want to thank the witnesses for their time and testimony, and mr. fisher will close this hearing.
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[drumming and singing in native language]
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>> this hearing is adjourned.
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[indistinct conversations] >> nobody really thought this
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was ever going to happen, that paris would succumb to the naxis . -- nazis. it was supposed to be a bastian of enlightenment and freethinking, and an open society. when the nazis got into poland, there were mass executions, it was terrible, they executed liberals, they executed freethinkers, and everybody was scared as they came toward paris that would happen in paris as well. >> the author of the book "taking paris" on germany's four year brutal occupation of paris and its liberation in august of 1944. watch on q&a tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern. you can listen to q&a and all of our podcasts on our new c-span now app.
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>> next, federal officials testify on support for noncitizen servicemembers before a house judiciary subcommittee. the effort aims to help deported veterans and family members get entitled benefits, including pathways to naturalization and immigration services. this is about 90 minutes. capitol hill for a house immigration subcommittee. live coverage on c-span. >> dedicated to circulating motions or written materials that members may want to offer as part of the hearing. if members want to submit materials, send them to the email address previously distributedo


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