Giving new voice to an apology no one heard

Mark Charles, a Christian and member of the Navajo Nation, will be joined by Christians from a Michigan church in Washington, D.C., today to publicly read a letter of apology from the United States government to Native Americans.

The apology was included as part of the U.S. 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill. It was read by Sen. Sam Brownback in May of that year at a small ceremony, but heard by very few.

One part of the apology, the result of a lengthy bipartisan campaign, states that “the United States, acting through Congress … recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes.”

“I want people to know that this apology is buried in a 67-page bill that has never been clearly communicated or shared with the nearly 5 million Native-American citizens of this country,” said Charles, who organized today’s reading and also created a video hoping to inspire new conversation on the topic of reconciliation.



Also attending the event will be Kafi Carrasco, executive director of Restorers, a community development program that was begun by Madison Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is now working on its own.

“My hope is that this event will help to open a space for people to talk honestly about racism,” Carrasco said. “This event opens an opportunity for compassion, apology and forgiveness to take place.”

Charles contends that burying the apology in the Defense bill only highlights how Native Americans have been forgotten and marginalized over the years.

“This apology has not been clearly communicated to Native-American elders, many of whom personally endured the horrors of boarding schools, relocation and disenfranchisement,” he said. “The wording of this apology and the way it was buried in an unrelated document were not appropriate or respectful ways to speak to the indigenous hosts of this land.”

Charles said he plans to ask several non-native people to read the apology in native languages as a way to truly reflect the manner in which a heartfelt apology should be offered. He means to conduct the reading in front of the U.S. Capitol.

The event will not mark the end of this journey, Charles said, but rather the beginning. It is his hope that the reading can establish safe and honest common ground where a national conversation for reconciliation between Native America and the rest of the country can begin.

“I am not an elected official, I do not lead an organization, nor do I work solely for a specific group or company,” Charles said. “I am merely the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man, who is living on the Navajo Reservation and trying to understand the complexities of our country’s history regarding race, culture and faith so that I can help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for our people.”

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My Grandfather & Great Grandmother traveled The Trail Of Tears, forced from our Land. My Great Grandmother was raped & beaten by white men along the whole trail & eventually her eye was taken during one of the attacks. My Grand father, a very young boy at the time & after continuous beatings for trying to protect his mother, in the end of their journey to Oklahoma, my Papa then around age 14, found the man who put his mother’s eye out in a Barbers Shop Chair & cut the mans throat with a Barber’s Razor.
Because of the US Government’s Take Over of our People’s Land, any History of our Families from the 1800’s have been completely Lost, how do they say their Sorry & Mean It after so many years of continued loss… The 1st page of this Apology to Our People Should have been the 1st Bold Word’s Written, 60 something pages?..

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