AMERICAN INDIAN MOVEMENT GRAND GOVERNING COUNCIL
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2004
RESOLUTION OF APOLOGY
We first want to commend Senator Sam Brownback-R of Kansas, and Co-Sponsors Senators Ben Campbell-R of Colorado, and Daniel Inouye-D of Hawaii, as well Representative JoAnn Davis-R of Virginia, and other members of the United States Congress for their work, and support on the Resolution of Apology to Native People, S.J. Res.37 in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, H.J. Res.98. We know you to be honorable people with honorable intentions, and you mean to do Native peoples good by your kind and over-due proposals for the beginning of reconciliation between the United States government, state governments, the American people and Native Nations and peoples.
The American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council, however, firmly rejects as unacceptable the Resolution of Apology to Native people, S.J. Res.37. In its present form, it falls short in that it does not address solutions.
The Resolution initiated by Senator Sam Brownback-R of Kansas and co-sponsored by Senators Daniel Inouye-D of Hawaii, and Ben Campbell-R of Colorado, and entered into the congressional record on May 6, 2004, is, at this date, still pending in the Senate. The hopes were to announce its passage in the Senate and the House during the opening of the new National Museum of the American Indian on September 21, 2004. Representative JoAnn Davis-R of Virginia introduced similar legislation in the House, H.J. Res.98.
We request and urge all tribal government leadership, tribal organizational leaders, friends and supporters to also reject this Resolution for some of the following reasons.
The text of S.J. 37 admits to historical and continuing depredations, massacres, and theft of lands and resources, and the continued occupation and destruction of sacred shrines and burial sites.
“Whereas the United States Government violated many of the treaties ratified by Congress and other diplomatic agreements with Indian tribes; Whereas this Nation should address the broken treaties and many of the more ill-conceived Federal policies that followed, such as extermination, termination, forced removal and relocation, the outlawing of traditional religions, and the destruction of sacred places; Whereas the United States forced Indian tribes and their citizens to move away from their traditional homelands and onto federally established and controlled reservations, in accordance with such Acts as the Indian Removal Act of 1830; Whereas many Native Peoples suffered and perished (1) during the execution of the official United States Government policy of forced removal, including the infamous Trail of Tears and Long Walk; (2) during bloody armed confrontations and massacres, such as the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 and the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890; and (3) on numerous Indian reservations; Whereas the United States Government condemned the traditions, beliefs, and customs of the Native Peoples and endeavored to assimilate them by such policies as the redistribution of land under the General Allotment Act of 1887 and forcible removal of Native children from their families to faraway boarding schools where their Native practices and languages were degraded and forbidden; Whereas officials of the United States Government and private United States citizens harmed Native Peoples by the unlawful acquisition of recognized tribal land, the theft of resources from such territories, and the mismanagement of tribal trust funds; Whereas the policies of the United States Government toward Indian tribes and the breaking of covenants with Indian tribes have contributed to the severe social ills and economic troubles in many Native communities today; Whereas, despite continuing maltreatment of Native Peoples by the United States, the Native Peoples have remained committed to the protection of this great land, as evidenced by the fact that, on a per capita basis, more Native people have served in the United States Armed Forces and placed themselves in harm’s way in defense of the United States in every major military conflict than any other ethnic group; Whereas Indian tribes have actively influenced the public life of the United States by continued cooperation with Congress and the Department of the Interior through the involvement of native individuals in official United States Government positions, and by leadership of their own sovereign Indian tribes; Whereas Indian tribes are resilient and determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their unique cultural identities; Whereas the National Museum of the American Indian was established within the Smithsonian Institution as a living memorial to the Native Peoples and their traditions; and Whereas Native Peoples are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND APOLOGY. The United States, acting through Congress—(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship the Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share; (2) commends and honors the Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land; (3) acknowledges years of depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the United States Government regarding Indian tribes; (4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples by citizens of the United States; (5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former offenses 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 offenses of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land by providing a proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and Indian tribes; 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.
SEC. 2. DISCLAIMER. Nothing in this Joint Resolution authorizes any claim against the United States or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.”
In the months of August, September, October and November of 1972, thousands of Native people representing all Native Nations, Native communities, and organizations embarked from the Pacific Coast on the Trail of Broken Treaties March on Washington D.C. Upon arrival we delivered to the Nixon administration, the United States Congress, the American people, and the media the Trail of Broken Treaties 20-Point Indian Manifesto.
The Trail of Broken Treaties of 1972 evolved into the greatest coalition of Indian people in the 20th century. Included in this coalition were Chiefs of Indian Nations, Chiefs and Clan Mothers of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy, leaders of tribal governments, the National Indian Youth Council, the National Congress of American Indians, the Survival American Indian Association, Alcatraz Indians of All Tribes Veterans, and American Indian Movement leaders nationwide. This coalition participated in the drafting of this historic document.
This visionary document called for restitution, reparations, restoration of land for a reconstruction of an Indian future in America. We stated clearly that “We want to have a new relationship with you, an honest one.”
The Preamble and the 20-Point Indian Manifesto was released to the media on October 31, 1972 and reads as follows.
We need not give another recitation of past complaints nor engage in redundant dialogue of discontent. Our conditions and their cause for being should perhaps be best known by those who have written the record of America's action against Indian people. In 1832, Black Hawk correctly observed: You know the cause of our making war. It is known to all white men. They ought to be ashamed of it.
The government of the United States knows the reasons for our going to its capital city. Unfortunately, they don't know how to greet us. We go because America has been only too ready to express shame, and suffer none from the expression - while remaining wholly unwilling to change to allow life for Indian people.
We seek a new American majority - a majority that is not content merely to confirm itself by superiority in numbers, but which by conscience is committed toward prevailing upon the public will in ceasing wrongs and in doing right. For our part, in words and deeds of coming days, we propose to produce a rational, reasoned manifesto for construction of an Indian future in America. If America has maintained faith with its original spirit, or may recognize it now, we should not be denied… Press Statement issued: October 31, 1972.
While this historic document was for the most part ignored and/or rejected by both the White House and Congress, out of it came the establishment of the American Indian Policy and Review Commission, which was made up of members of Congress and Native leaders. The Commission was mandated and funded by Congress to do a four-year study and report to Congress their recommendations and findings in 1976, which they did.
With the exception of the eventual passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act, and the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (none of which are being adequately enforced at this time) many of the recommendations of the American Indian Policy and Review Commission were rejected by the majority report of the Commission. Had the recommendation of the Native Commission members been adopted along with legislation many of the issues spelled out in S.J. Res.37 could have been resolved a long time ago.
While S.J. Res.37 is a start in that the United States Congress, and the American people recognizes, and admits to their past, and present depredations, massacres, and crimes against humanity perpetrated against Native nations and peoples, S.J. Res.37 must include language that establishes an American Indian Policy and Review Commission type of investigative body. The first order of business by this body would be to investigate how and where $137 Billion, or more disappeared from U.S. Treasury Trust Accounts held on behalf of individual Indian people’s IIM accounts for more than 100 years for petroleum, oil, minerals, natural gas, timber, water, and grazing leases. The lost and/or thefts have kept our people locked into chronic and perpetual cycles of poverty. This case is documented in Federal Court Case, Cobell v. United States.
This commission must also be mandated to investigate oil companies, and other corporate thefts of natural resources, which are ongoing. This commission must be mandated also to write legislation that deals with the issues of restitutions, reparations, and restorations of land for the reconstruction of an Indian future in America.
At this very moment our sacred shrines and burial sites and the remains of our ancestors are being desecrated and ripped from the bosom of Mother Earth; at this very time the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota people in Minneapolis, Minnesota are attempting to stop the archeological and corporate interests from digging up their ancestors.
This practice is rampant among most Native nations across the country. In Shasta Lake, California members of the Winnemem Wintu tribe began a four-day protest as recently as this past Sunday to stop a potential expansion of the Shasta Dam, which would destroy sacred shrines and burial sites to the lake.
S.J. Res.37 clearly falls short in realistically dealing with correcting these past wrongs, and now doing what is right. Until this resolution is amended to deal with these past and present wrongs it should be rejected by all.
Let us remind all that in the aftermath of the Nazi holocaust, and World War II, German political leaders, military officers, and the German people were put on trial before the Nuremburg Tribunal. All were charged with war crimes, high crimes against humanity, and genocide, and all proclaimed their innocence. Military officers said they were only following orders. Political leaders and the German people proclaimed innocence by saying they had no idea what was going on in the concentration camps. To their protests of innocence, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson, who was the Chief U.S. Prosecutor at Nuremburg, responded to their protest of innocence by saying, “If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether Germany commits them, or whether the United States commits them. We are not prepared to impose a code of criminal conduct against others that we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
The German government and people were forced to pay reparations to the Jewish people. The United States government paid reparations to Japanese Americans who were forcefully interred during the war with Japan.
It has been said that America will never be right until they right themselves with the American Indian. America must now seize this historic opportunity to deal honorably with the Native Peoples on the issue of Restitution, Reparations and Restoration of Lands that guarantees Indian people a future in America.
Dennis J. Banks, Ojibwa Nation
Nee Gon Nway Wee Dung, aka, Clyde H. Bellecourt, Ojibwa Nation
Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Dakota Nation
WaBun-Inini, aka, Vernon Bellecourt, Ojibwa Nation
For full text and tracking of S.J. Res.37, Library of Congress go to:
For full text of Preamble and Trail of Broken Treaties 20-Point Indian Manifesto go to: