The U.S. Senate has approved a measure which would apologize to Native Americans, on behalf of the people of the United States, for a history of official misdeeds by the federal government and “many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect”by U.S. citizens.

The apology takes the form of an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill, and would require the House and Senate to concur on a version of the appropriations bill which includes the amendment before it would take effect.

The amendment was proposed by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) and co-sponsored by Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). It was approved by unanimous consent by the full Senate.

According to the Associated Press, senators say that the amendment is “a symbolic gesture meant to promote a renewed commitment to tribal communities,” and that legislation is being developed to implement concrete measures to improve public safety and health care on tribal reservations.

Brownback sponsored a similar apology in 2008, which was approved by the Senate but not acted on by the House. A similar fate has met congressional efforts to apologize for slavery: the House apologized for slavery in 2008, but the Senate did not go along; in 2009, the Senate approved an apology for slavery but the House has so far shown no signs of acting on it.

This apology contains the same disclaimer which the Senate put into its apology for slavery in June:  that the apology cannot serve as the basis for a claim for reparations, while explicitly acknowledging the possibility of such a claim and going out of its way not to rule them out in the future.

Here is the full text of the amendment:


(a) Acknowledgment and Apology.

–The United States, acting through Congress–

(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;

(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;

(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;

(4) 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;

(5) 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;

(6) urges the President 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; and

(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

(b) Disclaimer.

–Nothing in this section–

(1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or

(2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

Hat tip: Stuff White People Do

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