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Politics
Senator Sam Brownback on Apology Resolution


The following is the text of a statement made by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) on the Senate floor. Brownback has introduced S.J.Res 15 to apologize to Native peoples for their treatment by the United States. April 20, 2005. A PDF copy from the Congressional record is also available.

Mr. President, I rise today to speak about a joint resolution that seeks to address an issue that has lain unresolved for far too long. That issue is our Nation's relationship with the Native peoples of this land.

Long before 1776 and the establishment of the United States of America, this land was inhabited by numerous nations. Like our Nation, many of these peoples held a strong belief in the Creator and maintained a powerful spiritual connection to this land. Since the formation of the American Republic, there have been numerous conflicts between our Government and many of these tribes conflicts in which warriors on all sides fought courageously and in which all sides suffered. However, even from the earliest days of the Republic, there existed a sentiment that honorable dealings and peaceful coexistence were preferable to bloodshed. Indeed, our predecessors in Congress in 1787 stated in the Northwest Ordinance, ``The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians.''

Many treaties were made between this Republic and the American Indian tribes. Treaties, as my colleagues in this Chamber know, are far more than words on a page. Treaties are our word, our bond. Treaties with other governments are not to be treated lightly. Unfortunately, too often the United States of America did not uphold its responsibilities as stated in its covenants with the Native American tribes. Too often our Government broke its oaths to the Native peoples.

I want my fellow Senators to know that the resolution I have introduced this week does not dismiss the valiance of our American soldiers who bravely fought for their families in wars between the United States and a number of the Indian tribes. Nor does this resolution cast all the blame for the various battles on one side or another. What this resolution does do is recognize and honor the importance of Native Americans to this land and to our Nation in the past and today--and offers an official apology to the Native peoples for the poor and painful choices our Government sometimes made to disregard its solemn word.

This is a resolution of apology and a resolution of reconciliation. It is a first step toward healing the wounds that have divided us for so long--a potential foundation for a new era of positive relations between tribal governments and the Federal Government. It is time--it is past time--for us to heal our land of division, all divisions, and bring us together as one people.

Before reconciliation, there must be recognition and repentance. Before there is a durable relationship, there must be understanding. This resolution will not authorize or serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States, nor will it resolve the many challenges still facing Native peoples. But it does recognize the negative impact of numerous deleterious Federal acts and policies on Native Americans and their cultures. Moreover, it begins the effort of reconciliation by recognizing past wrongs and repenting for them.

Martin Luther King, a true reconciler, once said, ``The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community.'' This resolution is not the end. But, perhaps it signals the beginning of the end of division and the faint first light and first fruits of the creation of beloved community.

In the 108th Congress, I worked with the chairman and ranking member of the Indian Affairs Committee, Senator Campbell and Senator Inouye, in crafting this apology resolution. I also reached out to the Native tribes as this bill was being formed, and I continue to receive helpful and supportive feedback from them. The resolution I submitted this week, S.J. Res. 15, is identical to the version that was approved unanimously by the Indian Affairs Committee last year. I ask that my colleagues in this Chamber, and those in the House of Representatives, join in support of this important resolution.