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Rounds, Johnson get RESPECT Act passed through Congress

Congress is passing a bill that repeals 11 federal laws that discriminate against Native Americans.

Two Republican members of South Dakota’s congressional delegation pushed the bill forward—Sen. Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson.

One of the federals laws the RESPECT Act repeals is a rule that strips Native American children from their families and forcing them into boarding schools.

Rounds introduced the bill as far back as 2015. Then, it failed to make it out of committee. Now, it’s been passed by the Senate and House.

It repeals laws dealing with forced separation for “Indian reform school” and abolishing certain treaty rights, among others.

Rounds said he’s pleased the bill passed.

“We need to clean up some of this legislation that’s been around for more than a century that really disrespected Native Americans throughout the United States,” Rounds said. “The opportunity to eliminate these 11 laws sends a good message that we recognize they were wrong to begin with, but second of all to do something about it.”

Rounds said the bill sends a message to tribes from Congress that it wants to right some wrongs of the past.

Johnson said repealing the laws is a step in the right direction.

"To right the wrongs against Native Americans,” said Johnson. “There is no reason these archaic and discriminatory laws remain on the books. Senator Rounds’ leadership on this bill was key to getting it passed in the Senate, and I am proud to help usher the RESPECT Act across the finish line in the House.”

The bill has support from the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association and National Congress of American Indians.

It now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.