Opinion

Winona LaDuke: Apologies are slow to come from US society





Activist Winona LaDuke on the power of saying "Thank you" and "I'm sorry."
I have a grandson, who sometimes has had a very difficult time saying he is sorry. He is now 7 years old. When he is asked to, there is sometimes a good deal of pouting which occurs, and then there’s a time out, until the magic words “I’m sorry” come forth from that little pouty guy. Making progress here…

Now, what does this mean in the larger context? It is a societal problem. From an Indigenous perspective, we are keenly aware of it. The 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee was egregious. Three hundred people were killed, many of them stripped of their clothing which was to end up in museum displays. There were 23 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded to the military for this massacre, in which four Hotchkiss guns were used by 500 members of the Seventh Cavalry. (Just as a reference, nine have been issued for the war in Afghanistan.)

When the descendants of the survivors of the Wounded Knee massacre asked then South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle to issue a congressional apology, he said basically, We really can’t do that. If we did that we’d have to apologize to a lot of other people too. So, the US Congress issued a joint resolution which “ expressed regrets." In 1996, essentially the same thing happened with John McCain. South Dakota has since had a Year of Reconciliation or so, but really, this remorse thing has not worked out.

Then, there is the example of the Chevron Corporation in Ecuador. It is a bit confusing, but let’s say that Chevron buys the Texaco company’s assets in the country, and Texaco has left a large mess, rivers full of oil, toxins in holding ponds, piles of oil garbage, and a lot of people who are not able to eat fish from their rivers, and a lot of people who are sick. (This sounds, unfortunately a bit like Ft. Berthold will look, perhaps in 20 years.)

Get the Story:
Winona LaDuke: The Power of 'Thank You' and 'I'm Sorry' (Indian Country Today 2/1)