Brownback: 'A first step toward healing the wounds'
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The following is the text of a statement by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) to accompany S.J.RES.37, a resolution to apologize "to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States." April 6, 2004.

Mr. President, I rise today to introduce before this body a joint resolution that seeks to address an issue that has long lain unresolved. That issue is our Nation's relationship with the Native peoples of this land.

Long before 1776 and the establishment of the United States of America, this land was inhabited by numerous nations. Like our Nation, many of these peoples held a strong belief in the Creator and maintained a powerful spiritual connection to this land. Since the formation of the American Republic, there have most certainly been numerous conflicts between our Government and many of these Tribes--conflicts in which warriors on all sides fought courageously and in which all sides suffered. However, even from the earliest days of the Republic, there existed a sentiment that honorable dealings and peaceful coexistence were preferable to bloodshed. Indeed, our predecessors in Congress in 1787 stated in the Northwest Ordinance, ``The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians.''

Many treaties were made between this Republic and the American Indian Tribes. Treaties, as my colleagues in this Chamber know, are far more than words in a page. Treaties are our word, our bond. Treaties with other governments are not to be treated lightly. Unfortunately, too often the United States of America did not uphold its responsibilities as stated in its covenants with the Native American Tribes. Too often, our Government broke its oaths to the Native peoples.

I want my fellow Senators to know that this resolution does not dismiss the valiance of our American soldiers who bravely fought for their families in wars between the United States and different Indian Tribes. Nor does this resolution cast all the blame for the various battles on one side or another. What this resolution does do is recognize and honor the importance of Native Americans to this land and to our Nation--in the past and today--and offers an official apology to the Native peoples for the poor and painful choices our Government sometimes made to disregard its solemn word.

This is a resolution of apology and a resolution of reconciliation. It is a first step toward healing the wounds that have divided us for so long--a potential foundation for a new era of positive relations between Tribal governments and the Federal Government. It is time--it is past time--for us to heal our land of division, all divisions, and bring us together as one people.

Before reconciliation, there must be recognition and repentance. Before there is a durable relationship, there must be understanding. This resolution will not authorize or serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States, nor will it resolve the many challenges still facing the Native peoples. But it does recognize the negative impact of numerous deleterious Federal acts and policies on Native Americans and their cultures.

Moreover, it begins the effort of reconciliation by recognizing the past wrongs and repenting for them.

Martin Luther King, a true reconciler, once said, "The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community.'' This resolution is not the end. But, perhaps it signals the beginning of the end of division and the faint first light and first fruits of the creation of beloved community.

I have worked with the chairman and ranking member of the Indian Affairs Committee, Senator Campbell and Senator Inouye, in the crafting of this resolution, I also reached out to the Native Tribes as this bill was being formed, and I continue to receive helpful and supportive feedback. I ask that my colleagues in this Chamber, and those in the House of Representatives, join together in support of this important resolution.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the joint resolution be printed in the Record.

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