Above image from The Washington times. [volume] (Washington [D.C.]), 27 Aug. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

Democrats in the News

October 01, 2021

Wyden, Merkley Cosponsor Bill to Seek Healing for Stolen Native Children and Their Communities

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they are co-sponsoring legislation that seeks healing for stolen Native children and their communities by establishing a formal commission that would investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government's Indian Boarding School policies.

The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act also would cover attempts to terminate Native cultures, religions, and languages; assimilation practices; and human rights violations. The commission would also develop recommendations for Congress to aid in healing of the historical and intergenerational trauma passed down in Native families and communities and provide a forum for victims to speak about personal experiences tied to these human rights violations.

“The sordid history of cruelty inflicted for centuries on Tribes in Oregon and nationwide sadly includes a big chapter on unspeakable injustice and forced relocation of Native children,” Wyden said. “While nothing can undo that horrific history, this legislation would provide a long-overdue reckoning for a brutal legacy that includes the forcible removal of children to so-called Indian boarding schools where they suffered abuse and trauma.”

“Centuries of horrific injustices against Native American tribes and their children are constantly overlooked in the teaching of our nation’s history. Justice requires acknowledgement of that history and healing for the descendants of that legacy of injustice,” said Merkley. “We must reckon with our past, and creating a commission that will examine the human rights violations that took place at Indian boarding schools so we can begin to atone for the resulting intergenerational trauma is an important start.”

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, other cosponsors in the Senate of the bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren are U.S. Sens Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

“We are in a moment in history where the wound of unresolved grief from Indian boarding schools is being ripped wide open. The truth is being unearthed and yet so much more is still unknown. It is time for a federal Truth Commission to provide answers to the thousands of relatives of those children who were taken, went missing, or died at these schools. The Truth and Healing Commission on U.S. Indian Boarding School Policies will be the beginning of profound healing for the Indigenous Peoples of this country.” - Christine Diindiisi McCleave, CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) & Citizen of Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation

The Indian Boarding School policies were implemented by the federal government to strip American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children of their Indigenous identities, beliefs, and languages by forcibly removing children from their tribal lands and families. According to NABS, it is estimated that by 1926, nearly 83 percent of AI/AN children, as young as 3 years old, were enrolled in one of at least 367 currently known Indian boarding schools across 30 states, resulting in human rights violations, including spiritual, physical, industrial, psychological, and sexual abuse, neglect, and trauma. The full effects of the Indian Boarding School policies have never been appropriately addressed, resulting in long-standing historical and intergenerational trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, disappearance, premature deaths, and additional undocumented psychological trauma. 

Furthermore, the residual impact of the Indian Boarding School policies remains evident in a lack of culturally inclusive and affirming curricula and historically inaccurate representation of Native people, history, and contributions. For generations, the federal government has failed to reckon with this history, or its legacy and the ongoing historical and intergenerational trauma. The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act is an attempt to address this disgraceful chapter in history and begin healing for Native communities.

This bill will build on steps that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has taken to address this need. On June 22, 2021, Secretary Haaland announced that the Interior Department would conduct an initial investigation of the Indian boarding school policies and their consequences, marking the start of the federal government’s reckoning with this painful legacy. This week, the Department of the Interior announced that the Department will begin tribal consultations on this Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. 

Text of The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act is here.

A one-page summary of the legislation is here.

The complete list of bill supporters and their statements of support is here

 

For more press releases from Senator Wyden click here.

October 1, 2021

Merkley, Wyden, DeFazio, Bonamici Announce $16.5 Million Purchase of Pacific Seafood

The major order by USDA follows lawmakers’ push for the agency to buy from Pacific Northwest fisheries and processors who were hard-hit by the pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will purchase $16.5 million of Pacific seafood through its commodities purchasing program, with over 80 percent of the fish and shrimp coming from Oregon.

“Not only do our fisheries deliver incredible products all around the world, they have also been the lifeblood of communities up and down Oregon’s coast for generations,” said Merkley, who led several Congressional pushes to ensure that USDA included Pacific Northwest fishermen and seafood processors in important purchasing programs. “That’s why I’ve been pushing to ensure that our fishermen and seafood processors receive the assistance they need to weather the coronavirus crisis, and I’m glad the USDA has delivered on this significant purchase of quality Pacific Northwest seafood.”

“This is great news for our coastal fisheries and the processors that provides them well-deserved support for their signature Oregon industry—generating jobs and economic activity rippling out statewide,” Wyden said. “The financial fallout from this public health crisis has landed hard along the Oregon Coast, and I’m gratified that USDA has come through with these resources for our state’s world-renowned fisheries and processors.”

“Oregon’s fisheries are an economic engine for our coast, our state, and nation. They create and sustain jobs, support coastal economies, and feed American families,” DeFazio said. “USDA’s purchase will ensure that fishermen and seafood processors along Oregon’s coast can weather the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

“Fisheries are an integral part of coastal economy,” Bonamici said. “I advocated for fisheries to receive the support they needed to survive the pandemic, and I’m encouraged that USDA is making this large purchase from Pacific Seafood. This purchase will benefit our fishermen, workers, and the local economy.”

"We’d like to thank our Senators, Congressmen, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for their support,” West Coast Seafood Processors Association Executive Director Lori Steele said. “These purchases will continue to help supplement and stabilize our fishing and processing crews and their families through these difficult times. Soon, these delicious, sustainable, and nutritious seafood products will reach consumers through food assistance programs across the country.”

“Over the last 19 months, the economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Oregon trawl sector have been staggering,” said Yelena Nowak, Director of the Oregon Trawl Commission. “A loss of primary markets for our products in 2020 and a sluggish recovery of those markets throughout 2021 have strained the industry, putting many of our businesses under a tremendous economic pressure. The USDA purchase of Pink shrimp, Pacific rockfish, and whiting from the Pacific Northwest is a much-needed relief that will help our fishing and processing businesses remain operational and profitable, while continuing to support hundreds of local jobs. We are grateful and excited about the opportunity to provide many American families in need with high quality nutritious seafood products sustainably harvested in the cold pristine ocean waters off the PNW.”

This purchase includes $8.9 million of Pacific whiting fillets, $3.9 million of Pacific rockfish fillets, and $3.7 million of Pacific salad shrimp. It follows USDA’s first major purchase of the year in May, which included $45.9 million of Pacific seafood.

In April, Merkley led West Coast lawmakers—including Wyden, DeFazio and Bonamici—in pushing USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack to make sure urgently needed federal assistance was delivered to West Coast fishermen and seafood processors, who have been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus crisis and were being largely left out of USDA commodity purchasing programs. Most seafood in America is consumed in restaurants and the collapse of restaurant demand during the pandemic has hurt fishermen and seafood processors.

That followed a previous, bipartisan effort that Merkley led in 2020 to urge the USDA to include seafood products in its commodity purchasing programs.

 

For more press releases from SenatorMerkley click here.

Rep. DeFazio Votes to Protect Women’s Reproductive Health

Sep 24, 2021

Press Release

Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) today voted in support of the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would fully protect Roe v. Wade under law, guaranteeing equal access to reproductive health care for all Americans.

“Reproductive healthcare rights are under threat across the country. The far-right Supreme Court majority is set to consider a full reversal of Roe v. Wade this fall, threatening the rights of millions of American women,” said Rep. DeFazio. “I have always said that reproductive health care decisions are incredibly difficult and personal and should be made only by the woman and her spouse, companion, minister, physician, or whatever counsel she chooses.  The federal government has no place in this process. The Women’s Health Protection Act, which I voted for today, will enshrine Roe as the law of the land and protect the healthcare rights of millions of American women.”

On September 1, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the implementation of an extreme and dangerous Texas abortion law that outlaws abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy – before most women realize they are pregnant—and with no exception for rape or incest. It even deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against healthcare providers and individuals they believe have helped a woman access reproductive health care. This law threatens the constitutional right to choose and decades of precedent.

Just this year, over 500 bills have been introduced in states across the country that would restrict the ability of Americans to get the health care they need. The Women’s Health Protection Act would establish the federal statutory right for healthcare providers to provide abortion care, and the federal statutory right for patients to receive it, free from unnecessary state bans and restrictions crafted to impede or block access to care.

The landmark legislation guarantees the right to access reproductive health care, free from political interference, no matter where someone lives in the United States.

 

For more press releases from Congressman DeFazio click here.