Rep. Ruth Buffalo introduced House Bill 1488 to create a Truth, Healing and Reconciliation Commission.
“This really has been a long time coming,” Buffalo said.
Representatives from each of the state’s tribal nations would comprise the five-person group, which would provide a forum for native people to discuss their experiences, and according to the language of the bill clarify the historical record between the state and tribes.
“People are ready for action, people who have lived experiences for decades are ready for action. It’s time — it’s time to heal,” Buffalo said.
The commission would report to the governor about proposed methods to address what the bill describes as historical trauma tribal members have experienced. It would also call for an annual summit at the International Peace Garden.
“Unfortunately there is still some gaps within our systems, a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge, so this really serves to provide education and to really foster growth and understanding across the communities of North Dakota,” Buffalo said.
Carel Two-Eagle says a conversation she overheard months ago has convinced her why a commission like this is needed.
“I heard people able to say things like, ‘Well, if Indians are citizens of their own country, how can they also be citizens of ours?’ and ‘How come they can vote here?’ I addressed these people and they stood and stared. Finally, an old lady said that I needed to learn my place, and not speak to my betters,” Two-Eagle said.
If passed, North Dakota would join a few other states and countries with such a commission, including Canada — which was brought up as an example in the bill’s hearing.
“Let us learn from others. Canada established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with a clear mandate, timeline, and received the final report that contained calls to action,” Cara Hall said.
The bill has a sunset provision that would end the commission in 2025, but Buffalo said she hopes the peace summit would continue beyond that. The committee gave the vote a Do Not Pass recommendation by a 12-2 vote.