The apology is an amendment to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Reauthorization, which the Senate passed Tuesday by an 83-10 vote.
Both Robert “Tim” Coulter, founder and executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center in Helena, and state Sen. Carol Juneau, D-Browning, said they believe the apology is sincere.
However, both added that Congress needs to take the next step of changing ongoing policies that continue to harm Indians.
“I do think it’s a meaningful action by Congress to recognize for the last whatever 300 to 400 years of what has happened to American Indian people in the United States,” Juneau said.
For example, the 2004 Congress confiscated a $145 million judgment fund belonging to nine Western Shoshone tribes, he said, and then distributed the money to individual tribal members.
That action impoverishes and undermines the tribe, and “fundamentally steals the property of the tribe,” Coulter said.
Congress continues to confiscate Indian land, he said. In the past few years, he said, it took land belonging to the Yurok Nation in California without providing compensation.
“Most people don’t believe it is happening, but it is,” he said.