WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.