March 02, 2008

Pleasantly surprised by apology

Apology pleases, surprises Indian leadersTwo American Indian leaders in Montana say they are pleased and surprised at the Senate’s actions this week apologizing to American Indians.

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.
What needs to be changed:Many of these ongoing injustices would surprise American citizens, he 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.
Comment:  I'd be pleasantly surprised if Congress didn't apologize but did address the many injustices against Indians.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Hmm, let's see. The United States of America apologized FIRST to the Germans and then to the Japanese. But the Japanese apology had a stipulated monetary amount attached! None of the survivors and descendants of those incarcerated at Manzanar and other such 'internment' camps turned it down. What should be surprising, or not, about the US 'apology' toward Native Americans is that NOTHING of any monetary value is attached whatsoever. What price, is one entire continent? Tradition is tradition, and thus is American justice served...
All Best
Russ Bates

dmarks said...

Russ's question inspired a little research. This page covers it:

It includes this estimate: "According to Peter Wolf (Land in America, 1981), the total value of all land in the U.S. in 1975 was $1.3 trillion. Assuming an average annual appreciation of 5 percent per year, the land was worth $2.7 trillion as of 1991."

According to a 2005 census figure, the number of Native Americans in the US is something like 3 million.

That would be a check for about $900,000 due to each Native American in the USA.

I might have missed a zero on the calculator. I'm sure Russ will jump on that if I did :)

Rob said...

Interesting idea. And don't worry...your calculation is correct.

Of course, with the same annual appreciation, the total value might've doubled again since 1991. And there are an estimated 4.5 million people today who are all or part Native.

But there are a few problems with this idea. For starters, even with the highest population estimates, Indians didn't occupy the land wall-to-wall. There were vacant areas no claimed as their territory.

Also, some tribes occupied more land than others. The Navajos could claim many more acres per person than, say, the Pequots. You'd have to adjust the payments for each tribe based on the size of its holdings.

Then you'd get into all the legal questions. What about tribes that were extinguished? Do their heirs get anything? What about tribes that had their land stolen, or were relocated? Do they get the value of their original land, or their present holdings only?

It's a fun idea to contemplate, but it would be impractical in reality. In fact, I suspect it would be more difficult than paying reparations to African Americans. And most people think that would be impossible.