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Rep. Jo Ann Davis introduces apology bill

WASHINGTON - A U.S. congressman has introduced a resolution that would offer an apology for and acknowledge abuses by the United States, and support better relations with American Indian nations.

Rep. Jo Ann Davis of Virginia introduced again a joint resolution in the House of Representatives Jan. 4 that would grant an apology from Congress to American Indians for numerous abuses committed against them.

''I believe that it is important for the United States to recognize the impact of the broken treaties and inhumane policies on the Native Americans,'' Davis said. ''As representatives of the U.S. government, Congress has a responsibility to maintain good relations with other nations, yet we have not maintained good relations with the Native American nations.''

The resolution lists treaty violations, ''extermination, termination, forced removal and relocation, the outlawing of traditional religions, and the destruction of sacred places'' as some of the mistreatment and policies against American Indians. However, the resolution does not authorize or serve as a settlement for any claim against the United States.

Davis introduced a similar resolution during the last congressional session, but it received little action. However, the newly introduced resolution has six co-sponsors and was sent to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

''I will continue to push this bill, and I am hopeful it will be passed and signed into law by the President,'' Davis said. ''It is my understanding that Chair [Nick] Rahall of the Resources Committee has a longstanding relationship with the Native Americans, and I intend to ask him for his support.''

The co-sponsors for the bill are Reps. Dan Boren and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Sue Wilkins Myrick of North Carolina, Dennis Cardoza of California, Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Zach Wamp of Tennessee.

''It is important to recognize injustices where we have sinned against each other, so healing can take place and reconciliation can prevail,'' said Wamp, who authored the Trail of Tears Study Act that was passed in December 2006. ''The Native Americans should be proud of their perseverance.''

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The resolution acknowledges that American Indians were stewards of the land that is now called the United States for thousands of years before Europeans arrived, and Davis said that despite conflicts between the Europeans and Indian tribes, ''peaceful and mutually beneficial interactions also took place.'' The Jamestown settlement, she said, survived because of the help American Indian nations provided to the colonists.

Davis said the founders of the United States wanted to maintain a ''just'' relationship with American Indian nations.

Their intent, she said, is ''evidenced by the Northwest Ordinance enacted by Congress in 1787, which begins with the phrase, 'the utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians.'''

Among the long list of oppressive actions, the resolution apologizes for suffering under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in events such as the Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 and the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, as well as suffering on various Indian reservations.

The resolution also apologizes for the assimilation policies such as the General Allotment Act of 1887 and for the removal of Indian children to boarding schools where American Indian languages and practices were forbidden.

The lengthy list also addresses the mismanagement of tribal funds and the taking of Indian territories and tribal lands, and notes that many of the social and economic problems affecting American Indian people today result from abuses by the U.S. government and its citizens.

To improve relations and promote healing between the United States and American Indians, the resolution ''urges'' the president to acknowledge the country's history of abuse toward American Indian nations

and people as well as to commend American Indians for their ''stewardship'' of the land. The resolution also recognizes American Indians for their service in the U.S. military, noting that ''the Native Peoples have remained committed to the protection of this great land, as evidenced by the fact that, on a per capita basis, more Native people have served in the United States Armed Forces and placed themselves in harm's way in defense of the United States in every major military conflict than any other ethnic group.''

In addition, the resolutions commend states for their reconciliation with tribes and encourage all states to continue to do so.