Senate bill targets nearly a dozen racist federal laws for elimination

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Oklahoman staff
·2 min read
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OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill that would eliminate 11 unenforced federal laws, which Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said he was "embarrassed" exist, has been approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., sponsored the bill, dubbed the "Respect Act," with Lankford as one of three co-sponsors along with Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Tina Smith of Minnesota.

Many of the laws targeted by the legislation date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Oklahoma Republican said eliminating the laws is long overdue.

“Some of the statutes that are still on federal books are things like you cannot pay a Native American if they’re under the influence of intoxicating liquor, that you can actually force people that are Native Americans into forced labor, that their children could be taken from them without parental consent and put into boarding schools,” Lankford, a Republican, said at the committee meeting in March.

“I’m embarrassed that we as a nation ever had these laws on the books. I’m really embarrassed that they are still on the books.”

Complete coverage: Read all of our coverage on tribes in Oklahoma

The bill has moved to the full Senate for consideration.

Similar legislation cleared the Senate unanimously in 2019 — with Lankford and Sinema again as co-sponsors — but was never considered in the House.

Cherokee and Chickasaw Nation leaders praised the bill when it was introduced two years ago.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-SD, has again sponsored legislation to remove from the books 11 federal laws that are racist, particularly toward Native Americans.
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-SD, has again sponsored legislation to remove from the books 11 federal laws that are racist, particularly toward Native Americans.

Rounds said it was “at best, an oversight” that the laws remained on the books.

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“Throughout history, Native Americans have been subjected to federal laws that are offensive, immoral and outright racist,” Rounds said.

“In many cases, these laws are more than a century old and do nothing but continue the stigma of subjugation and paternalism from that time period. Clearly there is no place in our legal code for such laws.”

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Senate bill targets 11 obsolete US laws aimed at Native Americans