Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
FORT DEFIANCE, ARIZONA When Navajo Mark Charles reads the apology to American Indians next month that was buried in a Congressional appropriations bill three years ago with the US Capitol Building in the background, he hopes the apology can be read in as many Native languages as possible.
Mark Charles Navajo
“I plan on reading the legislation and when we get to the actual apology section, my hope is to have the apology read in our languages,”
said Charles in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
“This event has not been widely publicized, but it needs to be,”
The event will take place at 11:00 am on December 19th.
Charles is quick to point out that this event is not in sponsorship with any organization or on behalf of any particular American Indian tribe.
The Apology to American Indians is on page 45 of the 67 page-long 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (HR 3326). This date marks the third anniversary of the passing of HR 3326, and the apology.
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.
When asked about what prompted him to initiate this public reading, Mark Charles said,
“The wording of this apology and the way it was buried in an unrelated document were not appropriate or respectful ways to speak to the indigenous hosts of this land.”
Additionally, he stated,
“this apology has not been clearly communicated to Native American elders, many of whom personally endured the horrors of boarding schools, re-location, and disenfranchisement.”
The appropriations portion of this bill (pages 1-45) will be read by the Native Americans in attendance in an effort to respectfully, yet clearly, highlight the irony of burying such important and historic words in a Department of Defense Appropriations Act.
The translations into Native languages will serve as a reminder that when an apology is made it should be communicated as clearly and sincerely as possible to the intended audience.
The event will conclude with an opportunity for some of those in attendance, both Native and non-native, to publically respond.
Charles plans to share a vivid analogy regarding his reflections on the conflict of being Navajo in a country that fought against and colonized his people:
“Being American Indian and living in the United States feels like our indigenous peoples are an old grandmother who lives in a very large house. It is a beautiful house with plenty of rooms and comfortable furniture. But, years ago, some people came into our house and locked us upstairs in the bedroom. Today, our house is full of people. They are sitting on our furniture. They are eating our food. They are having a party in our house. They have since unlocked the door to our bedroom but it is much later and we are tired, old, weak and sick; so we can't or don't come out. But the part that is the most hurtful and that causes us the most pain, is that virtually no one from this party ever comes upstairs and finds us in the bedroom, sits down next to us on the bed, takes our hand, and simply says, "Thank you. Thank you for letting us be in your house.”
“This will not mark the end of this journey but rather the beginning”
according to Charles.
It is the hope of the organizers that this event can establish safe and honest common ground where a national conversation for reconciliation between Indian country and the rest of the country can begin.
Those interested in translating or discussing may email Mark Charles to email@example.com
posted November 24, 2012 7:40 am est