Dare to Ask: Honoring American Indians
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why don't American Indians have a Cochise/Geronimo Day or a month of honor?
American Indians were given smallpox, removed and their land stolen, and
enslaved, yet there's been no government apology to them. Why?
Jade P., American Indian, Gainesville
The government has offered a formal apology for the treatment of American
Indians (as far as the land-stealing and slaughter goes). Natives probably will
not get a "Day" until they make a huge push for it. Blacks fought tooth and nail
to get M.L.K. recognized. Have your community do the same.
Amber, 27, black female, Raleigh, N.C.
We cannot change the past. All we can do is make the best of the situation at
hand and work to help one another.
SK, 18, white/Native American female, Nashville, Tenn.
Just so we're not in a daze about days:
New York had the first American Indian Day, in May 1916, and many other
states have followed suit. Florida proclaimed Sept. 28, 2007, as American Indian
Day - believed to be a first for the Sunshine State. Federal government-wise,
November has been designated "National American Indian Heritage Month" since
Now, about the apology . . .
A resolution currently working through Congress states that the federal
government violated many treaties, forced Indians from their homelands (causing
many to perish), forcibly removed their children to boarding schools, and stole
tribal lands and resources. In the resolution, the U.S. apologizes "to all
Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect
inflicted on Native Peoples."
The measure's sponsor, U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., says it has a good
chance of passage.
"Apologies are tough," he said. "But I'm convinced the only way to move
forward with relations with the Native American community is to acknowledge that
chapter and ask forgiveness."
Brownback himself came around to the idea in recent years, after meeting with
American Indians and seeing their "bitterness" firsthand.
"I was like, 'What is this, my American experience has been good, I grew up
on a farm and I'm a senator now - this is a great country.' But I heard what had
happened to tribal individuals, and that started my desire to address it."
The amendment doesn't mention compensation to Native peoples, which rubs some
the wrong way.
"If you want to kill the bill, just put that in it," Brownback said. "A
number of people, they say it happened a long time ago, and how would you figure
damages . . . and they say the people this happened to are no longer here."
Brownback sees some larger benefits to the apology.
"I hope it encourages people to begin reconciliation in their own life. I'm
going to meet with a senator today - we really got off to a bad setting, and I'm
going to clear the air. I don't think we do that enough as a society. We let
wrongs sit out there."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his