Apology to American Indians Unacceptable
Too Little, Too Late
By Levi RickertNavajo Mark Charles, who has been on a one-man mission without any noticeable tribal support for past year as he attempted to bring widespread recognition of the apology to Native people that was buried in an defense appropriations bill in December 2009, on Wednesday stood near the reflecting pool outside the US Capitol and refused to accept the apology.
The Apology to American Indians is on page 45 of the 67 page-long 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, HR 3326.
On Wednesday, a changing crowd that numbered over 200 during the course of the event that lasted for over three hours, there were people in the crowd who traveled to Washington from numerous states throughout the United States to be part of the ceremony that included reading of the appropriations bill.
No one from the White House, Congress or any other federal attended the event in any official capacity, though someone from an US Government issued vehicle was seen taking pictures on an iPad.
The apology was read in Ojibwe by American Indian author Jim Northrup and in Navajo by Reverend Ben Stoner.
And:“I take the fact that this apology has existed for three years and it has not been read publicly been read by our president or by our Congress. I take the fact it was buried in an appropriation bill. I take the fact that language in draft after draft was turned back. I take all these things as evidence that our country was not ready to apologize,” Charles told the crowd of American Indians and non-Indians who journeyed to the nation's capital city for the event.
Comment: For more on the subject, see Navajo Man Publicizes US Apology
and No Apologies Without Remedies
Below: Charles reading the apology in front of the US Capitol.
For more on the subject, see:
Mark Charles: Working towards reconciliation with Native people
One by one, Native Americans came forward and solemnly read the appropriations from H.R. 3326. As I stood there, listening to our native people, some of them boarding school survivors, walk up to the microphone to respectfully read sections of the appropriations act, I wanted to cry.
This event was turning out to be one of the best forms of protest I could have possibly imagined. We were not angry, nor were we pointing fingers. We weren’t even holding picket signs. We were simply solemnly, respectfully, and publicly reading the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act…
…and the apology enclosed therein.
After the reading of section 8112, I came forward, and, without pause or introduction, read Section 8113 “Apology to Native peoples of the United States.” That was immediately followed by readings of the apology translated into Ojibwe and Navajo. It was incredibly moving to hear the words of the United States Congress, apologizing to Native peoples, being read in Native languages in Washington DC directly in front of the Capitol Building. It was an historic moment…
…that not a single elected official from the US Government attended. Every invitation I had delivered, to President Obama, Governor Brownback, many members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives; every one them had either been ignored or declined. No one was willing to step forward and publicly acknowledge and read the apology which they had buried in H.R. 3326.
As a result, for those in attendance and those watching online, even without explanation, our message was clear. This apology was disrespectful. It was insincere, self-protecting, and specifically worded and communicated so those giving it could not be held accountable for its content. It may have contained words like “regret” and “reconciliation,” but the context of the apology and the silence (and absence) of those who gave it, made it clear--those words had very little meaning.
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