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Natives need change, not apology

Each year, we watch the health, safety and education of our children erode like the sandy banks of a raging river.

But rather than improved health care or justice programs, Native people get an apology from the Senate attached as an amendment to a defense appropriations bill.

“The Senate’s action today is a big step for the relationship between the federal government and Native Americans,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., one of two senators who sponsored the resolution. “The resolution seeks reconciliation and offers an official apology to Native Americans for the hurtful choices the federal government made in the past.”

Brownback and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, sponsored the resolution, which the senators were clear to say Sept. 7 does not “authorize or serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States and does not resolve many challenges still facing Native Americans.”

The Native American Apology Resolution has been introduced in previous Congresses, and passed the Senate in 2008, but was not signed into law.

You can say that last part five times.

While the senators who sponsored the resolution see it as a major step for Indian and government relations, I can’t help but see it as merely an effort by remorseful politicians to assuage their red guilt.

So what does the resolution do exactly? And what do the senators hope to get out of it, other than a pat on the back?

The Native American Apology Resolution has been introduced in previous Congresses, and passed the Senate in 2008, but was not signed into law.

Meanwhile, Congress played political football with the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in fall 2008, stalling it by attaching amendments to it that would have enacted restrictions for federal abortion funding that went beyond restrictions for similar funding in non-Indian health care facilities.

Now the Senate wants congratulations for passing a meatless, ephemeral resolution that calls for nothing more than an expression of regret over past wrongs committed by the government against Native people?

What about the wrongs committed by the government last year, or this year for that matter? What about getting up and doing something about these problems?

As for congratulations, I don’t think so. Pass the Indian health bill, and then we’ll talk.