For those of you who missed it, on October 7, the US Senate approved an apology to American Indians for years of “ill-conceived policies” and instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect. The apology may even be entrenched in legislation if a Congressional Committee can agree to final wording and the bill is signed into law by the President.
But the spectrum between the words that were approved by the Senate and what is required for an acceptable apology continues to be enormous.
The pseudo-apology is not a direct one. It was conceived by Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas and Democrat Byron Dorgan of North Dakota who have included the words as part of an omnibus measure in a defense spending bill. The Bill had absolutely nothing to do with American Indians.
This isn’t an apology initiated by the White House. Nor do these words adequately recognize the horrible atrocities undertaken by the US government during their history.
There are many examples of these atrocities including the forced re-location of American Indian tribes east of the Mississippi River to Oklahoma and other territories. Land was appropriated forcibly without due process. Many men, women and children died and were subject to inhumane conditions during this period.
The government of the United States actively waged war on American Indian tribes. We’re not talking small-pox ridden blankets or anything subtle – we’re talking direct murder of people at the hand of soldiers. This culminated with the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee, where 128 Lakota men, women and children were gunned down with Hotchkiss machine guns.
Some will argue that the American Indian wars were brutal on all sides. But throughout our history, I don’t recall any Anishinaabe warrior brandishing machine guns except when they were fighting FOR Canada or the US.
Finally, the assimilation polices of the United States were outright blatant. For example, the removal policy was initiated by President Andrew Jackson through the Indian Removal Act of 1830. George Washington himself advocated for the Americanization of the savage Indian and believed that our society needed to be civilized. The United States also had a residential school system as well, that was prevalent in many states. These were called Indian Boarding Schools. Under federal law, American Indian ceremonies were outlawed until 1973. I can go on and on.
Perhaps one day there might be a true and meaningful apology to American Indians. But even Canada had to take a number of attempts at apologizing to First Nations people.
Not many people remember that the Liberal government in 1998 apologized for the residential school system through the Statement of Reconciliation: “The Government of Canada acknowledges the role it played in the development and administration of these schools… To those of you who suffered this tragedy at residential schools, we are deeply sorry.”
However, it wasn’t until last year that the Prime Minister stood up and offered a full apology before the House of Commons and before all of Canada. Stephen Harper said: “The burden of this experience has been on your shoulders for far too long. The burden is properly ours as a Government, and as a country… The Government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the Aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly.”
However, with a true apology must come with reparations and reconciliation. Canada has a long way to go towards meaningful reconciliation.
But at least they have started. The United States hasn’t even begun that journey.
The pseudo-apology states in Section 8106, of the 2010 Dept. of Defense Appropriations Act that, the United States, acting through congress “recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes… apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.”
The next section of the Bill, Section 8107 refers to the use of live primates in training exercises.