Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON Navajo 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 crowd formed on the early cold morning.
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.
“I take all these things as evidence that our country was not ready to apologize,”
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.
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the passing of HR 3326 and the apology that was passed on December 19, 2009.
The generic, non-binding apology, found in subsection 8113, was inserted by then Senator Brownback, R-Kansas, who is now the Governor of Kansas. This apology to American Indians on behalf of the citizens of the United States was not publicized by the White House or Congress at the time it was passed, nor has it been read publicly by President Obama.
Mark Charles Navajo
“spent the last year studying and reading about this I have come to the conclusion, I don't think our country was ready to apologize,”
“I have deep respect for Governor Brownsback who spent four years of his time in the Senate to work on getting substantial language to get into a bill that stood on its own.”
“I take the fact that this apology has existed for three years and it has not been read publically 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.
“An apology should be sincere. It should be from your heart. It should include some act of repentance or some commitment for change. It should say mistakes were made in the past and we are not going make these same mistakes in the future and here's how we are going to protect against that. It should recognize the hurt that was caused and find some way to make that hurt correct or make it right. I don't think this apology does that,”
“Today, as a Navajo man, I want to encourage our Native peoples not to accept this apology not out of bitterness; not of anger, not out of resentment.”
“But out of respect for ourselves, out of respect to Governor Brownback, out of respect to President Obama, Native peoples deserve a better apology. Gov Brownback and President Obama deserve the right to make a better apology,”
said Charles in a firm and commanding voice.
Charles who lives in Fort Defiance, Arizona, is a speaker, writer and consultant on American Indian and Indigenous peoples' issues.
He has received very little support from tribes or organizations in his journey to bring attention to the apology that was too little, too late.
posted December 20, 2012 6:30 pm est