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Opinion
Opinion: Obama should issue apology to Natives


"President Obama recently signed a proclamation making November Native American Heritage Month. Addressing some 500 leaders from federally recognized Native American tribes, he committed the United States to fulfilling its trust responsibilities and called for a new beginning to address issues that confront Native Americans.

The president stated that history must be acknowledged for the country to move forward. Recognition of history is vital to make progress against forces impeding Native Americans. Obama might start that process by issuing an apology for actions taken by governments that devastated native peoples throughout our nation - including Michigan.

The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 ushered in centuries of terror for indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere. Estimates range up to 112.5 million native people killed by white people - at least 15 million in the United States alone. The Native American population has been reduced by 97 percent!

When Native Americans were not killed by direct military or citizenry action, they were decimated by other means, including European diseases unknown to Native Americans. British generals in the Ohio Valley sought to eliminate the indigenous population completely by giving the Native Americans "gifts" of blankets infected with smallpox.

After realizing all Native American peoples couldn't be exterminated or converted by religious entities, the next strategy was to kidnap native children and segregate them in boarding schools - including government-run schools in Mount Pleasant and Harbor Springs in Michigan - to make them "white" and ready for assimilation into a white society that had little interest in accepting them. Children were abused, physically, sexually and mentally, in boarding schools. Separated from their brothers and sisters, their hair was cut and they were dressed like a "normal white child." These children never saw their families until adulthood."

Get the Story:
Thomas Costello: Obama should give nation's apology to Native peoples (The Lansing State Journal 11/24)