Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2008

Federal apology should prompt individual response

February 21, 2008

Last week, Sen. Sam Brownback succeeded in adding a resolution to a bill concerning health care for Native Americans that formally apologized for mistreatment of Indians. The Kansas Republican has been trying to get the measure adopted since 2004.

Brownback sought the resolution as a way to help "heal the wounds that have divided America for too long."

The resolution states the federal government forced Indians off tribal lands, stole tribal assets and is responsible for "official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants" with tribes.

All of that is true. Native Americans were the victims of some of the darkest deeds carried out by the federal government from providing Indians with blankets infected with small pox to attempts to destroy all traces of tribal culture and identity.

It seems to us, the resolution is an acknowledgement of those misdeeds and one that requires all citizens to reflect on them and how they were done with the acceptance of the 19th century's ascendant culture. In that the latest apology is like earlier ones Congress made for the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian dynasty. In all three cases, the easy and largely unquestioned acceptance of a wide-spread assumption abetted a great wrong.

The apology is an institutional apology. While we can approve of the apology on those grounds, we as individuals need not apologize because none of us are responsible for the mistreatment of past generations.

But we can honor the spirit of Brownback's resolution if all of us need to look within and purge ourselves of bigotry and racism.

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