"It's hard for a country to change its founding mythology, but the U.S. Senate has taken an important step towards accomplishing that. The Senate approved an apology to Native Americans on October 7, as an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill. The Senate also passed an apology resolution in 2008, but it has yet to be signed into law.
The resolution commends Native people for protecting and stewarding the land for thousands of years. It's an official rejection of the myth that European explorers "discovered" a pristine wilderness, with a few bands of nomadic tribes wandering about living off the fat of the land.
The Europeans told themselves they were a civilizing force, bringing religion and education to uncivilized people, even while they forced Native people from their land, enslaved them, and killed thousands—some intentionally and some through the spread of disease. The Senate resolution apologizes "for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect" and expresses regret for the "former wrongs."
An apology isn't enough. The resolution makes clear that it does not authorize any claims against the United States—in other words, no reparations are offered. While it acknowledges past wrongs, it does nothing to address current wrongs. And it offers no support for those still recovering from being forced to attend abuse-ridden boarding schools or those subjected to some of the highest rates of violence and poor health in the U.S. In a guest column in Indian Country Today, Kevin Abourezk, Rosebud Lakota, says, "Pass the Indian health bill, and then we'll talk.""
Get the Story:
Sarah van Gelder: Senate Apology to Native People—A Good First Step
(Yes Magazine 10/12)
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