National apology to native peoples largely overlooked

As some of you may have already seen in student news, there has been talk recently about the public reading of the national apology to Native Peoples. Organizer-activist Mark Charles is coming on Dec. 4 at 3:30 p.m. to Spoelhof Center 318 to speak with Calvin students about the apology and about what he plans to do on Dec. 19, the third anniversary of the unspoken apology. Why Chimes brings up this issue is simple. It deserves to be listened to.

On Oct. 9 this year, organizer Mark Charles met in Kansas City to discuss his plans for the public reading of the national apology to Native Peoples on the steps of U.S. Capitol. Despite this apology being issued into the bill, Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 3326), this was a sad excuse for a national apology. Slipped into the bill by senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas, now the governor of Kansas), the apology was placed in an unrelated bill and takes up one page of the 67 page document.

This is our national apology for forced sterilization, the Trail of Tears and relocation, the Dawes Act, forced assimilation of Native children into government schools and the silence of our country. This is our one page apology that was barely acknowledged by Obama or Congress at the time.

When Charles stopped at Haskell Indians National University, he spoke of why he wanted to have this bill read, saying, “We are so marginalized that those seeking offices don’t speak to us and just like this apology, they wrote it, signed it, but never communicated it to the tribes. I want this to be an opportunity for that conversation to be had between Natives and non-Natives.”

In addition, Charles speaks of the disrespect of the apology saying, “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 … 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.”

On Dec. 19, when citizens organize in Washington, Charles will read the first forty-five pages of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act bill to show the full context and irony of the appropriateness of a slip-in apology. When it comes to the apology section, readers will translate it into several different native tongues so that all in attendance will be able to understand clearly. After the reading is over, Charles plans on having time for public discussion between those in attendance.

At Calvin, we now have a great opportunity on Dec. 4th to create honest discussion about this issue. I encourage anyone reading to join the Mark Charles lecture at 3:30 in the Spoelhof Center room 318. Calvin organizers will also be at the event to inform students, faculty and staff about how they can join with those who will be travelling to D.C. to participate.