A few days ago I posted news about Congress' proposal to apologize for the United States' historic mistreatment of Native Americans.
A friend in North Dakota pointed me to this editorial by Cheryl Long Feather (Hunkuotawin) of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She comments on what a verbal apology might (or might not) mean to American Indians.
The wording of the act is actually quite elegant in affirming the perspective of Native peoples. The act "recognizes the special legal and political relationship" between the U.S. and tribes; commends and honors Native peoples for their stewardship of the land; recognizes the "years of official depredations, ill conceived policies and the breaking of covenants" by the U.S.; apologizes on behalf of the people of the U.S. for instances of "violence, maltreatment, and neglect"; expresses "regret for the ramifications of former wrongs"; urges the president to "acknowledge the wrong of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land"; commends "state governments that have begun reconciliation efforts"; and "encourages all state governments to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes." As far as apologies go, this is a good one.
But the nearly universal response from American Indian people has been skepticism. Like a battered spouse, the American Indian collective knows that an apology - even a heartfelt one - doesn't necessarily mean the abuse will end.