The Role of Truth-Telling in Indigenous Justice

18 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2022 Last revised: 4 Jan 2023

See all articles by Sara Ochs

Sara Ochs

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Date Written: March 30, 2022


For centuries, Native Americans have and continue to endure atrocities at the hands of the U.S. government, ranging from land theft to discriminatory child welfare practices to genocide. Yet, despite the extent of these harms, the federal government has provided minimal attention to promoting healing and justice within Native American communities.

However, in recent years, regional truth and reconciliation commissions have been successfully established and operated in states including Maine and California to address past wrongs against Native Americans. These truth commissions incorporate factfinding and truth-telling processes, with goals of recording past crimes and human rights abuses, promoting community healing and reconciliation, and even prompting formal apologies from state governments. And since 2020, a bipartisan bill has remained pending in both houses of Congress calling for the creation of a truth and healing commission to provide transitional justice for one of the darkest periods of Native American history—the use of Indian Boarding Schools throughout the 19th and 20th centuries to forcibly assimilate Native children into white culture. Yet, despite legislators’ introduction of the bill in 2020, it has still not yet passed.

This paper identifies the need for federally supported truth-telling and transitional justice for Native Americans. Specifically, it calls for further legislative action on the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act to provide the truth, healing, and justice for Native American communities that has for so long been lacking at the federal level.

Keywords: transitional justice; indigenous rights; truth commission; human rights law

Suggested Citation

Ochs, Sara, The Role of Truth-Telling in Indigenous Justice (March 30, 2022). 11 Journal of Race, Gender and Ethnicity 117 (2022), University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2022-8, Available at SSRN: or

Sara Ochs (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States

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