US Senate Proposes Resolution Apologizing To Native Americans

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Tucked within the voluminous pages of a military spending bill, the Senate has approved a resolution apologizing to Native Americans for years of “ill-conceived policies” and acts of violence by United States citizens. Lawmakers have called the resolution “a symbolic gesture meant to promote a renewed commitment to Tribal communities”. It was introduced by Senators Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. The Senate approved a similar resolution in 2008, but the House of Representatives took no action to endorse it or enact it into law.

Senator Brownback’s website offers his views on the resolution:

“I am pleased that my colleagues have decided to move forward with a formal apology from the federal government to Native Americans. This is a resolution of apology and reconciliation, and is a step toward healing divisive wounds. With this resolution we have the potential to start a new era of positive relations between tribal governments and the federal government. For too much of our history, federal-tribal relations have been marked by broken treaties, mistreatment and dishonorable dealings. With this resolution, we can acknowledge past failures, express sincere regrets and establish a brighter future for all Americans.”

However, the website goes on to state:

The Native American Apology Resolution will not authorize or serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States. The resolution does not denigrate the bravery and self-sacrifice of Americans who have honorably served the nation in the military throughout our history. Rather, this resolution is intended to be the beginning of a much-needed reconciliation.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Chuck Tanner - October 9, 2009 12:21 PM

I'm not native, and don't purport to speak for native people, but an apology that includes a disclaimer that it won't require policies that fully respect tribal sovereignty, treaty rights and existing land claims (i.e., "serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States") seems a bit disingenuine.

Crimes against indigenous communities are not just things of the past. If we really want to work toward "reconciliation," Congress could use its self-proclaimed "plenary power" to change the laws that courts, state governments and anti-Indian groups keep waving about in their efforts to undermine tribal rights.

In the absence of good Congressional/executive/judicial leadership in this direction, it is incumbent on non-Indians to ally with tribal peoples to support indigenous self-determination. We all gain when we do this, as in the Pacific Northwest where fishing tribes are putting their treaty rights on the line to get Washington State to fix culverts that destroy salmon habitat. Sports fishers, commercial fishers, environmentalists, workers, business people and really all citizens should have tribes' backs in their effort to get the state to quit destroying this important resource in violation of treaties. The state needs to drop its lawsuit, respect the treaties and fix the culverts. That would be an apology and a step toward real reconciliation.

carolyn - March 21, 2010 10:35 PM

Chuck, I appreciate your well
thought out and
articulated statement
and I agree with your observation,
to me
the "apology" along with the
disclaimer at the end,
nullifies all that was stated.

Building strong government to
government relations is not
acheived by making statements
such as this (it means nothing).

They need to go back to the
drawing board.

Dating back to the turn of the
century, many treaties between the
U.S. and Tribes/Nations
have not
been honored by the U.S.

Not a good track record.

Rectifying this would be a
good place to start.

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