The United States has formally apologised to American Indian tribes for “ill-conceived policies” and acts of violence committed against them.
Republican Senator Sam Brownback read the congressional resolution at an event attended by representatives of five Indian nations at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington: the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Pawnee nations.
Four of the five are based in Oklahoma, and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate are in South Dakota. The Cherokee originally were from the Southeastern United States but were forced to migrate to Oklahoma in the early 1800s.
Chad Smith, chief of the Cherokee Nation, said most tribes had not specifically asked for a formal apology from the US government, but the gesture was appreciated.
“It’s difficult to issue an apology and sometimes it’s difficult to accept one,” Smith said.
Challenge for the future
“Once you put those differences of the past aside, perhaps the next step is, can you do any better in this round? That’s where our greatest challenge is.
“The history of the US (toward American Indians) is not a bright record. The real question is, what happens from this day forward?”
Brownback had pushed for the resolution since 2004.
Both houses of Congress approved it late last year and President Barack Obama signed it in December.
Lawmakers have described the resolution as a symbolic gesture that would help promote a renewed commitment by the federal government to the tribes.
In the text, the resolution “acknowledges years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants” by the US government toward tribes and “apologises on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on” American Indians by US citizens.