Native American Apology Resolution legislation re-introduced
By Gale Courey Toensing
Story Published: May 10, 2009
Story Updated: May 11, 2009
WASHINGTON – The Native American Apology Resolution is back.
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback re-introduced the proposed legislation April 30. A companion proposal was introduced in the House by Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren.
“The resolution seeks reconciliation and offers an official apology to Native peoples for the poor choices the federal government made in the past,” Brownback said. “I firmly believe that in order to move forward and have a true reconciliation, the federal government needs to formally apologize.”
Brownback first introduced the Apology Resolution in 2005.
“While we cannot erase the past, it is time for us to heal past wounds. We should acknowledge previous failures, express sincere regrets, and work toward establishing a brighter future for all Americans,” he said.
The resolution would extend a formal apology from the U.S. to tribal governments and Native people nationwide for its “long history of official depredations and ill conceived policies” that resulted in indigenous peoples being dispossessed of millions of acres of land, lingering poverty, and ongoing erosion of tribal sovereignty largely through the judicial branch.
The resolution was attached to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act last year, but the act has not passed yet.
“The U.S. government broke hundreds of treaties it made with Indian nations; these were government-to-government treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate,” Boren said. “The impact of many U.S. policies is the source of many of the social and economic disparities that tribes face today. It is time for our nation to face these injustices and reconcile our relations with the Native Americans.”
He said it is important for the government to acknowledge injustices “such as forced removal and painful events like the Trail of Tears. While this apology doesn’t recognize the complexity of those wrongs, it’s an important step in moving forward. From my seat on the House Natural Resources Committee, I will work with Chairman Rahall (Rep. Nick Rahall) and Senator Sam Brownback to see that it gets the attention it deserves.”
Boren described the proposal as a resolution of apology and reconciliation.
“It is a first step toward healing the wounds that have divided us for so long – a potential foundation for a new era of positive relations between tribal governments and the federal government. It is time – it is past time – for us to heal our land of division, all divisions, and bring us together as one people.”
The apology resolution does not settle any claim against the federal government or authorize any funds to be used to settle such claims, and does not resolve many challenges still facing Native peoples.
“No kidding,” a writer on www.dailyyonder.com said. “Indians are still waiting for a resolution of the Cobell action lawsuit brought over 12 years ago that seeks United States fulfillment of its trust responsibilities to Indian peoples. The mismanagement of Indian land and resource trusts dates back to 1887 according to the Cobell lawsuit.”
The Web site noted that a similar apology for Canada’s role in forcing Native people into residential schools resulted in $1.9 billion in compensation for victims.
Although Congress issued an apology in 1993 to the Hawaiian people for illegally overthrowing their government 100 years earlier and seizing land they had never ceded, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that the apology bears no moral, political or legal weight in stopping the State of Hawaii from selling 1.2 million acres of the land before resolving land claims by Native Hawaiians.