Senates passes bill repealing “obsolete” Indian laws

by Nov 20, 2019NEWS ka-no-he-da





A bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Tuesday, Nov. 19 that will repeal several “obsolete” laws and amend several others that pertain to Indian Country.  S. 2017, known as the “Repealing Existing Substandard Provisions Encouraging Conciliation with Tribes Act” (RESPECT), was introduced in the Senate on July 10 by Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

“Our RESPECT Act will repeal a number of immoral, racist federal laws related to the treatment of Native Americans,” Sen. Rounds said in a statement on Tuesday.  “While these outdated laws may no longer be enforced, they still take an emotional toll on our Native American neighbors today.  There is no reason for them to be part of our federal code, and once our bill is enacted, they no longer will be.”

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Senate Committee on Indian Affairs chairman, said in a statement on Tuesday, “These laws have not been enforced by the federal government for several decades and are inconsistent with current federal policy.  This bill in intended to help mend relations between the federal government and Indian tribes and underscores the importance of respecting that distinct relationship.”

The bill was passed by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on July 17.

Sen. Sinema said in a statement on Tuesday, “Tribal communities in Arizona deserve to be treated with dignity by the federal government.  Today’s Senate action helps ensure Native American communities have the respect they deserve.”

Following are the laws that would be repealed by the Act:

  • Section 2080 of the Revised Statutes (25 U.S.C. 72): “Abrogation of Treaties. Whenever the tribal organization of any Indian tribe is in actual hostility to the United States, the President is authorized, by proclamation, to declare all treaties with such tribe abrogated by such tribe if in his opinion the same can be done consistently with good faith and legal and national obligations.”

  • Section 2100 of the Revised Statutes (25 U.S.C. 127): “Moneys or annuities of hostile Indians. No moneys or annuities stipulated by any treaty with an Indian tribe for which appropriations are made shall be expended for, or paid, or delivered to any tribe which, since the next preceding payment under such treaty, has engaged in hostilities against the United States, or against its citizens…”

  • Section 2 of the Act of March 3, 1875 (18 Stat. 424, chapter 132; 25 U.S.C. 129): “Appropriations not paid to Indians at war with United States. None of the appropriations made for the Indian Service shall be paid to any band of Indians or any portion of any band while at war with the United States or with the white citizens of any of the states or territories.”

  • Section 2087 of the Revised Statutes (25 U.S.C. 130): “Withholding of moneys or goods on account of intoxicating liquors. No annuities, or moneys, or goods, shall be paid or distributed to Indians while they are under the influence of any description of intoxicating liquor, nor while there are good and sufficient reasons leading the officers or agents, whose duty it may be to make such payments or distribution, to believe that there is any species of intoxicating liquor within convenient reach of the Indians…”

  • Section 3 of the Act of March 3, 1875 (18 Stat. 449, chapter 132; 25 U.S.C. 137): “Supplies distributed to able-bodied males on condition. For the purpose of inducing Indians to labor and become self-supporting, it is provided that, in distributing the supplies and annuities to the Indians for whom the same are appropriated, the agent distributing the same shall required able-bodied male Indians between the ages of 18 and 45 to perform service upon the reservation, for the benefit of themselves or of the tribe, at a reasonable rate…”

  • Section 2101 of the Revised Statutes (25 U.S.C. 138): “Goods withheld from chiefs violating treaty stipulations. No delivery of goods or merchandise shall be made to the chiefs of any tribe, by authority or any treaty, if such chiefs have violated the stipulations contained in such treaty upon their part.”

  • Section 7 of the Act of June 23, 1879 (21 Stat. 35, chapter 35; 25 U.S.C. 273): “Detail of Army officer. The Secretary of the Arm shall be authorized to detail an officer of the Army, not above the rank of captain, for special duty with reference to Indian education.”

Several more laws would be amended by the bill including the Act of June 21, 1906 which would strike a paragraph regarding “Indian Reform School” (Indian Boarding Schools) that states, in part, “…the consent of parents, guardians, or next of kin shall not be required to place Indian youth in said school.”