Lankford Co-Sponsors Bill To Overturn Anti-Native Federal Laws Still On Books

Mar 25, 2021

Sen. James Lankford on Wednesday co-sponsored -- and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs unanimously advanced -- a bill to repeal federal statutes that discriminate against Native Americans.

"It's something that's long overdue for Congress to be able to look back, find laws that are on the books that should have never been there in the first place but certainly shouldn't be there now," Lankford said at a Tuesday committee meeting of Senate Bill 789, which he co-sponsored with South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds and Democratic Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

"Some of the statutes that are still on federal books are things like, you can not pay a Native American if they are under the influence of intoxicating liquor; that you can actually force people who are Native Americans into forced labor; that their children can be taken from them without parental consent and put into boarding schools," Lankford said.

"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," he said.

Rounds said the laws that will be repealed by the legislation are "offensive, immoral and outright racist."

The bill will now proceed to the full Senate. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent in 2019, but the Democratic-controlled House never took it up for a vote. 

Lankford's co-sponsored legislation comes on the heels of his vote against the confirmation of Deb Haaland to become the first Native American secretary of the interior, a decision that disappointed many Oklahoma tribal leaders and others in Indian Country who had lobbied him to vote for her confirmation.