Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Native Americans Mad at Obama
Over Quiet Apology

A controversy been bubbling in Native American communities regarding the White House's hush-hush approach to an official apology to those communities. An expansive story in the Indian Country Today publication lays out the situation among Indian leaders, and details candidate Obama's promise versus his muted heralding of the apology from the Oval Office.

So while gay leaders were lauding the inclusion of the hate crimes legislation into the defense spending act in December, in my opinion a political crumb to our community that would do much genuine good to deter bashings and murders against us, Native Americans were getting their own crumb -- the apology language.

For both gays and Native Americans, there's unhappiness with the Obama administration delivering on promises and it would benefit both constituencies to find common ground, and mount collaborative efforts targeting the president to take more concrete actions for both groups.

From the Indian Country Today article:

Is an apology that’s not said out loud really an apology? What if the person expressing the apology doesn’t draw attention to it?

Those are questions that some tribal citizens are asking upon learning that President Barack Obama signed off on the Native American Apology Resolution Dec. 19 as part of a defense appropriations spending bill. [...]

The version signed by Obama became watered down, not making a direct apology from the government, but rather apologizing “on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native peoples by citizens of the United States.” [...]

Even with the more general language, the apology is historic, but the White House has made no announcements to date about it. Nor has Obama expressed an apology to any tribes or Indian citizens, despite saying on the presidential campaign trail that he thought an apology was warranted. [...]

So, by signing the document as part of the defense spending bill, did Obama fulfill the resolution? Or, does he have an obligation to say the apology out loud and to let tribes know he signed the resolution?

According to White House spokesman Shin Inouye, there are “no updates at this time” on how Obama might proceed.

Inouye also confirmed that a press release was issued by the White House regarding the president’s signature of the defense appropriations bill, but not one on the apology resolution – nor did the defense release mention that the apology was part of that legislation. [...]

Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer and former Clinton administration official, believes Obama will call attention to his signing of the resolution at some point, but there are political realities: First, this is a congressional resolution shepherded by Brownback, so Obama might want to let him take the lead; and second, this is an election year, if Obama were to make a big deal out of an apology, it could be painted by opponents as a weakness or political correctness.

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