In 2009, the Congress of the United States passed a bill in which was included an official apology to the native peoples of the United States. It was buried on page 45 of the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010” (H.R.3326). I will post the full text at the bottom.
The passage of this apology was not well publicized, either to the general public, and especially not to the “native peoples of the united states.” I came across an article on CNN describing a member of the Navajo nation, Mark Charles, discovering the apology from comments to his blog when he posted regarding former Governor Romney’s declaration that “he would never apologize for America.” Mr. Charles had mentioned some specific incidents for which he thought an apology should be given and one of his readers “responded that such an apology had already been issued.”
Many thought he’d already known of the apology since he’d made the post on the second anniversary of the passage of the bill. No. But on the third anniversary of the bill, three days ago, on space reserved at the Capitol grounds, he and others read the bill aloud, broadcasting it online, recording it for YouTube. Here’s his blog, Reflections from the hogan, where he describes what happens in the 93 minute video.
The video has a few brief breaks in it since it appears to be recorded remotely instead of being recorded and then uploaded. Or perhaps that is the way with a podcast? But the words are clear, the prayers are beautiful, the flute playing is lovely, and the messages are heartfelt. It is also read in a Ojibway and Navajo, not just English (he didn’t have the resources to translate it to every tongue). Whether you just read it on his blog, or actually listen to the broadcast, I believe you will be moved. Knowing human nature, I’m sure not everyone will be moved positively, but I don’t think anyone will be neutral on this one.
Personally, I was appalled that this hadn’t already been done. I was saddened that it could only pass if buried in an appropriations bill, despite several years’ effort on the part of Governor Brownback when he was in the Senate. The words of this bill were never read publicly by Congress or the President, according to Mr. Charles, which leads him to believe our country wasn’t ready to make the apology and that it shouldn’t be accepted.
My opinion is that it is the politicians who aren’t ready to make the apology. In my heart, my apology was made when I was still a child and started reading. Even though we wrote the histories, it was apparent that we were unkind and unfair. When I read about blankets that had been used during a smallpox epidemic being shipped to a reservation, on purpose, to make the population ill and kill as many as possible, I was horrified. Any reasonable human being would be. I was quite pleased years later when popular TV publicized this by using it in an episode of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Hopefully it opened a few conversations in households who didn’t know these facts and hadn’t been taught them in school.
Consider sharing the links to the blog for Mark Charles and his video from Wednesday. Let’s open some eyes and start a dialogue. We don’t all have to agree, but we should at least have the conversation.
H.R.3326 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate] – ENR)
TITLE VIII – GENERAL PROVISIONS
apology to native peoples of the united states
Sec. 8113. (a) Acknowledgment and Apology- The United States, acting through Congress–
(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;
(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;
(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;
(4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;
(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;
(6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and
(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.
(b) Disclaimer- Nothing in this section–
(1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or
(2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.