Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2010

Congress apologizes for policies, violence against American Indians

Brownback reads resolution at tribal gathering in Washington

May 20, 2010


With the leaders of five tribes in attendance, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas read a congressional resolution Wednesday apologizing for “ill-conceived policies” and acts of violence against American Indians by the U.S. government.

Brownback spoke during an event at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where he and Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, Lois Capps of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii joined representatives from the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Pawnee nations, Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith said.

All those tribes are based in Oklahoma, except for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, which is based in South Dakota.

Smith said that while most tribes had not specifically asked for a formal apology from the U.S. government, the gesture was appreciated.

“It’s difficult to issue an apology and sometimes it’s difficult to accept one,” Smith said by phone from Washington. “Once you put those differences of the past aside, perhaps the next step is, can you do any better in this round? That’s where our greatest challenge is. The history of the U.S. (toward American Indians) is not a bright record. The real question is, what happens from this day forward?”

Brownback, a Republican, had pushed for the resolution since 2004. Both houses of Congress approved it late last year and President Barack Obama signed it in December. Lawmakers have described the resolution as a symbolic gesture that would help promote a renewed commitment by the federal government to the tribes.

Brownback has said the resolution was not meant to authorize or support any claim against the U.S. government or serve as a settlement of any claim. His office did not immediately return messages Wednesday seeking comment.

In the text, the resolution “acknowledges years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants” by the U.S. government toward tribes and “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on” American Indians by U.S. citizens.

Creek Nation Second Chief Alfred Berryhill called the apology “a historical step” in the relationship between the U.S. government and the tribes, which he said “maintain ourselves as sovereign” nations.

“We feel as if this took effort on the part of the U.S. government,” Berryhill said. “We do appreciate the effort of the Congress. I know it’s hard for our nation to apologize to anybody.”

The site of the ceremony, Congressional Cemetery, is the burial site for 36 tribal representatives from 12 American Indian nations who died in the region while representing their people, according to the Faith and Politics Institute, a group that helped present Wednesday’s event. Among them are William Shorey Coodey, the author of the Cherokee Nation constitution, who died in 1849, and former Choctaw Nation Chief Pushmataha, who died in 1824.


lounger 8 years ago

Brownback has a hidden agena here. I havent figured it yet, but he wants something. Snakes dont apologize ( I really shouldnt insult snakes though).

oldvet 8 years ago

Peltier is a convicted murderer and should stay locked up in prison until he reaches room temperature

yankeevet 8 years ago

I agree; and why are we still apologizing for what our ancestors did? We are all Americans now; so move forward.

kimmydarling 8 years ago

Most likely because of our continued mistreatment of the indigenous people of our nation?

Kyle Reed 8 years ago

Who is included in the "our" you speak of? I don't mistreat indigenous people. If you do maybe you need to apologize.

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

Yankeevet, the indigenous peoples are Americans, indeed, and are afforded the rights (and responsibilities) of American citizens. But they are dual citizens. Each tribe is considered a sovereign nation and reservation lands are considered sovereign (i.e. foreign) lands. The whole thing about American indigenous peoples and their legal standing is a whole lot trickier than you think and I'm not an American Indian so what I know of it is sketchy at best. It will take someone a lot more knowledgeable than me to explain it. But it's worth exploring.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

An apology is a nice gesture, but will they follow it up with a concerted effort to get the federal government to fulfill all of its treaty obligations?

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

Let's have the feds start enforcing their current immigration laws first, then they can get around to ancient history.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Yes, the original problem of illegal (white) immigration is ancient history. But the failure to adhere to treaty responsibilities is also ongoing, here and now.

But since the Indians aren't on your team, I understand why it's not of concern to you.

denak 8 years ago

Two small things

1) There were no immigration laws in this country until the late 19th century so the Pilgrims weren't "illegal."

2) Native Americans weren't here first. They, themselves, were immigrants. Archeologists have found evidence that North America was inhabited by people other than modern day Native Americans as early as 20,000 years ago. And even earlier in parts of South America.

The point is that all these old stereotypes some people cling to, ie the evil white man vs the noble savage, is historically worthless. And with continual archeological discoveries, we are finding out that the "ancient" Native Americans were just as ruthless and oppressive, in their own way, as the settlers.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

There is some basis in fact for your rationalizations, dena, but they are rationalizations, nonetheless. Indians were here, and long established long before Europeans came, and the actions of Europeans was nothing short of genocide.

But simultaneous with this genocide, this "nation of laws" made deals (treaties) to get Indians to move off their ancestral lands. So, if this is really a nation of laws, those deals will be honored.

Otherwise, we're no better than the land-grabbing murderous thieves who founded this country.

denak 8 years ago

I'm not rationalizing. I'm not saying what happened to Native Americans did not happen, or that it wasn't wrong (by today's standard) or that treaties shouldn't be honored..only that the story is much more complex that the stereotypes we like to reduce them to.

The same crimes that the Europeans committed (e.g kidnapping, slavery, warfare) so did many of the Native American tribes.

Moreover, the actions of the Europeans were no worst or no better than the actions and attitudes of a great many countries during this time.

The actions and attitudes of the time should provide the context in which to view the events not 21st century attitudes.


ScottyMac 8 years ago


"1) There were no immigration laws in this country until the late 19th century so the Pilgrims weren't 'illegal.'"

Christopher Columbus -not the Pilgrims- would probably get the Indian vote for All-Time Worst Immigrant.

Yeah. He probably didn't violate any US laws. It was 1492, after all. But, I dunno, I guess his game of Let's-Catch-These-Dum-Dum-Indians-And-Sell-Them-As-Slaves probably didn't sound like much fun to the hosts. His beloved queen Isabella also thought it was a bit much: She asked him to stop.

And, about those Pilgrims. The way some tell it, they weren't exactly pious in their conduct toward their Indian hosts either.

But, who cares? The Pilgrims' hosts were nice about it and invited them to dinner. And because of that I now have an excuse to eat turkey and get drunk with my uncles once a year. Thanks, Pilgrims!

"2) Native Americans weren't here first. They, themselves, were immigrants. Archeologists have found evidence that North America was inhabited by people other than modern day Native Americans as early as 20,000 years ago. And even earlier in parts of South America."

If the Native Americans weren't here first, who was? The Indigenous Peoples? The First Nations? The Indians, maybe?

"With continual archeological discoveries, we are finding out that the 'ancient' Native Americans were just as ruthless and oppressive, in their own way, as the settlers."

So let me get this straight: The settlers were both ruthless and oppressive to 'ancient' Natvie Americans. The 'ancient' Native Americans were sometimes both ruthless and oppressive to each other. Therefore, it is justifiable for the settlers to be ruthless and oppressive to 'ancient' Native Americans.

How could I have missed such an eloquent argument? Now that you put it that way, I guess two wrongs really do make a right.

Now that that score is settled, perhaps you can help me with this: How should these settlers now behave toward Native Americans who aren't 'ancient'?

jafs 8 years ago

Do you have a source for that?

It's hard to believe it without one.

Kyle Reed 8 years ago

Ward Churchill is the LAST person I'd be using a reference for anything.

jaywalker 8 years ago

"I know it’s hard for our nation to apologize to anybody"

Particularly when there's nobody breathing that had anything to do with it.

Fatty_McButterpants 8 years ago

Well said. The government doesn't need to apologize - especially for me - when none of us had anything to do with it! I mean, do I deserve an apology for the Normans conquering England? History is full of things that were bad - and the American indians were quite complicit in helping to relieve themselves of their land, no matter how atrocious the actions of the U.S. - so apologizing for something none of us had anything to do with is absurd.

But if a descendant of the Normans wants to apologize, I'm here.

Mike Ford 8 years ago

halito, onnat hinli, okla nahollo, your boarding schools and christianity didn't take my language. Until republicans stop being state's rights advocates at the expense of tribes, this is a pointless gesture. The Gop courts have recently attacked Osage Sovereignty in Oklahoma. The Dems have historic Indian Hater, Senatorial Candidate Blumenthal of Connecticut running for Senate. The immigration bill in Arizona affects the profiling of Yaquis and Tohono Odd'hams who have rez lands in Arizona and Mexico. Yankee Vet, my language was used as the first code language in World War One by Oklahoma Choctaws in the wilderness of Germany and France in 1918. I'm CHoctaw first and I don't forget the theft that took place in Oklahoma of millions of acres of Choctaw land so that Oklahoma could exist in 1906-07. Oklahoma is a word of ours meaning Red people. Chi Pisa Li Chinni, Nahollo Okpulo.

Mike Ford 8 years ago

There are people alive who had something to do with it. They're called oil companies.

jaywalker 8 years ago

Personifiying oil companies. Swell. Is that who apologized the other day? Are Mr. and Mrs. Oil Company really still alive? I mean, of course, the actual PEOPLE that perpetrated those crimes against humanity? Yeah, didn't think so.

Ralph Reed 8 years ago

I agree with Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith as it is a nice gesture.

It would mean more if Brownback weren't grandstanding and courting votes. "Here's another chance for me to get more name recognition." He's not running for governor here as he thinks he's got it sewn up, he planting seeds for another run at the White House.

seriouscat 8 years ago

An apology without a change in future behavior is meaningless. Let's hope this one is followed up with something substantial and doesn't just end up on the laundry list of lies.

Roh 8 years ago

The Supreme Court made a ruling a long time ago, Cherokee Nation vs. Mississippi (if I am right), that Native American Tribes are domestic nations. Meaning they are not foreign, but domestic nations that rely on the US. It was not until the early 1920’s that Native Americans were granted citizenship.

Roh 8 years ago

To correct my self, thet should be Cherokee Nativion vs. Georgia

denak 8 years ago

I have to agree with the posters that say," why now?" This seems to have just come out of the blue.

I'm not saying it isn't a nice gesture but that is all it seems to be. And usually when these nice gestures are made they are at least linked with the anniversary of some kind of historical event. It is a nice touch to have it at the cemetary though. Cemetaries are always good when invoking the past.

Maybe I'm jaded but it all seems a little hollow.


Paul R Getto 8 years ago

A good start. Now, give them back the money BIA has stolen for generations. Brownback is pandering; I wonder why? Want to see how he really thinks? Check page 328 and 329 of the Family by Jeff Sharlet. Ideologies do kill sometimes. The VAT (value action team) from the Family pushed their agenda on Uganda, doubling the AIDS rate and sparking another phone 'religious' revival. They actually used some of the data from this disaster to push their 'abstinence-only' agenda on American school children.

Paul R Getto 8 years ago

Smitty: I don't know if the book text is on line. The book was published in 2008. You can get it cheap on line. Seems to be a balanced presentation with lots of notes and sources on where he got the information. See these links for starters: Here's a link to an interview on the subject.

Kyle Reed 8 years ago

Well now doesn't Made_in_China answering your question and you politely thanking him make Liberty_One look like a total dbag? gotta love it.

likeymikey 8 years ago

Some say it was long ago, and everyone involved is dead, treaties are no longer valid. So the U.S. Constitution is no longer valid??

anglosaxon 7 years, 9 months ago

yes me too, for mistreating mine (the native english - the clue is in my username).

My point is that every nation has been a victim of some other nation at one time or another. It's just that the Irish make much more noise about it than most.

To make matters worse, whilst crying foul play at the British for what they did in Ireland, the Irish were doing the same thing to the native peoples of america. Publicly they play the victim whilst privately they are as bad a perpetrator as anyone else in history - there's no hypocrit like an Irish hypocrit.

Kat Christian 8 years ago

My feeling here is if the Government REALLY wants to apologize to the Indian then they should rescind (post-humeously) the Medal of Honor given to the 20 soldiers who murdered innocent Women, children, old men and unarmed men at Wounded Knee in 1890. Then we can begin to talk healing and a heart-felt apology.

Kat Christian 8 years ago

That's not the point bud....get with the program.

Mike Ford 8 years ago

hey jaywalker, Koch Industries stole oil royalties for over 20 years from the Osage Nation just like the White people who married and murdered Osage citizens for their oil allotments between 1906 and 1935 and moslty got away with it. I was taught American History in High School by a descendant of 19th century Kansas land thief and U.S. Senator Samuel Pomeroy. Mr. Pomeroy was involved in the theft of Munsee, Kickapoo, and Osage lands in Kansas between 1858 and 1872. All of the settled land in this area happened because of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the treaties of 1854-55 that stole lands from the Shawnee, Delaware, Sac and Fox, Kickapoo, Miami. Wea, Piankishaw, Peoria, and Kaskaskia and Wyandotte peoples. When were Topeka, Leavenworth, and Lawrence all founded? 1854-55. Autie, the 572 federally recognized tribes, nations, and bands of indigenous peoples in the 48 and Alaska are sovereign to govern themselves but dependent on the federal government for protection which is usually horrible at the hands of Republicans which dates from the Supreme Court case Worcester V. Georgia in the 1830's. I am Choctaw first. Our languages and lands existed before 1776, before tea parties by castoffs from Europe who didn't pay their fair share to support the country who sponsered their travels to the lands they stole. The tea partiers now complain about indigenous peoples from Meso, Central, and South America, and these tea partiers still don't want to pay their fair share. Not much has changed has it?

stopthetrack 8 years ago

The Indians have come full circle, and are now the new MOB in America. They don't have to follow many of the laws that apply to regular US citizens, and they have more rights than the rest of us. How do I know this? I live next to the Barona Indian Reservation in San Diego County, where 200 households of regular Americans are being terrorized by noise and exhaust pollution emanating from the reservation.

The Barona Indians operate a noisy, dusty, environmentally disastrous motocross track 100 yards from our homes. Nobody in the county or state government can do a thing, and the federal government either can't or doesn't seem to WANT to help. Environmental groups won't help, and many of the residents outside this neighborhood won't help, because the Barona Indians use their gambling profits to buy silence in the form of charitable donations.

If you doubt what I'm saying, read and LISTEN to this website:

You'll be shocked that something like this could happen in this day and age.

We need help. Anyone know a good writer, lawyer, law student, or ??? who might be able to help us out? All we want is some peace and quiet.

Mike Ford 8 years ago

let's see, when father Serra came to California the onslaught of genocide came. then came all of the 49ers. Then came the State of California and the executive order of the California government to exterminate the tribes, put the indigenous women into prostitution, and sell the children to be house servants. Tribes like the Wiyot were massacred on Indian Island off California coast. Tribes were slaughtered off of their lands by the dozens. Read the book on Ishi to document these atrocities. The U.S. Government and California never ratifed half of the treaties and left peoples on little rancherias of land. Bring on Congressional Termination through H.R. 108 and the remaining tribes who still haven't been restored to federal recognition by the U.S. Congress. California Dreamin' came from the bloody hands of 19th century genocide and 20th century land thefts. Caucasians steal most of California and you're concerned about a motorcross track, REALLY???

Cait McKnelly 8 years ago

Now if the British government (who took their policies of genocide toward native Irish whole cloth from American policies toward American Indians) would do the same with the Irish life would be a little sweeter. While they are at it they can apologize for Kilmainham Prison, the rape of Irish women and the murder of Irish men by the Black and Tans and the murder of of over a million Irish through starvation during the Great Famine while relief food from other nations sat on the docks and rotted because the British wouldn't release it.

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