In 1993, the U.S. Congress devoted an entire resolution to apologizing to Native Hawaiians for overthrowing their kingdom in 1893. But a U.S. apology to Native Americans took until 2009 and came stealthily tucked away in an unrelated spending bill.
If you just happened to be reading the 67-page Defense Appropriations Act of 2010 (H.R. 3326), tucked away on page 45, in between sections detailing how much of your money the U.S. military would spend on what, you might notice Section 8113: "Apology to Native Peoples of the United States."
"The United States, acting through Congress," states Sec. 8113, "apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;" and "expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together."
Of course, the apology also makes it clear that it in no way admits liability in any of the dozens of lawsuits still pending against the U.S. government by Native Americans.
"Nothing in this section ... authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States," states the apology.
The apology also urges the President of the Unites States to "acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land."
In the more than two years since enactment of the Defense Appropriations Act of 2010, the Obama White House has never publicly acknowledged the "Apology to Native Peoples of the United States."
If the wording of the apology sounds vaguely familiar, it's because it is the same as that in the Native American Apology Resolution (S.J.RES. 14), proposed in both 2008 and 2009 by former U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), and Byron Dorgan (D., North Dakota). The Senators' unsuccessful efforts to pass a stand-alone Native American Apology Resolution date back to 2004.
Along with its 1993 apology to native Hawaiians, Congress had previously apologized to Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II and to African-Americans for a allowing slavery to exist in the United States prior to emancipation.
On December 19, 2012, Mark Charles, representing the Navajo Nation, hosted a public reading of the Apology to Native Peoples of the United States in front if the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
"This apology was buried in H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act," wrote Charles on his Reflections from the Hogan blog. "It was signed by President Obama on Dec. 19, 2009 but was never announced, publicized or read publicly by either the White House or the 111th Congress."
"Given the context, the appropriations sections of H.R. 3326 sounded almost nonsensical," wrote Charles. "But there was something very deep and meaningful about hearing them being read by Native Americans. To me it sounded almost like a silent form of protest. We were not pointing fingers, nor were we calling out our leaders by name, we were just highlighting the inappropriateness of the context and delivery of their apology."