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Hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Acknowledgment and Apology

Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Acknowledgment and Apology


The Chairman. Today's hearing addresses S.J. Res. 15, a joint resolution to acknowledge the contributions of Native
Americans to this country but also the long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the U.S. Government
regarding Indians.

The resolution apologizes to Native Peoples on behalf of the United States. I commend Senator Brownback for introducing
the measure and I look forward to his testimony. I note that he introduced an apology resolution in the last Congress. That
resolution, passed by unanimous consent of this committee with an amendment in the nature of a substitute, was never acted on by the full Senate.

S.J. Res. 15 apologizes for the several hundred years of wrongs the Federal Government has perpetrated against Native
Americans. Reviewing the history of this Government's treatment of Native peoples makes painfully obvious that the Government has repeatedly broken its promises and caused great harm to the Nation's original inhabitants.

While remembering our past wrongs is important, it is also important that we answer those wrongs with vigorous actions and
policies that actively promote the well-being of Native Americans today.


Senator McCain. Thank you, Senator Brownback.

Our next panel consist of Tex Hall, president, National Congress of American Indians, who is an old friend of this
committee; Edward K. Thomas, president, Central Council Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska; and Negiel Bigpond, Sr., president, Two Rivers Native American Training Center, Bixby, OK.

Dr. Bigpond, I was out at the University of Oklahoma and spoke at their graduation last week. I was very pleased to see
that on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, there were a lot of reminders of Native Americans and their contributions to
the State of Oklahoma. I was very impressed by that.

I am going to talk to the president of Arizona University to see if we can't do a little better.

Tex, you are up first, given your 300th appearance before this committee.


Senator McCain. Thank you very much, Dr. Bigpond.

President Thomas, the Congress of the United States years ago passed an apology in 1988 and apologized for the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans. One of the effects I saw associated with that resolution was a renewed publicity and interest of the American people about this terrible injustice that was done to Japanese Americans.

I believe that it is very likely that an apology to Native Americans could have the same effect because I am always
astonished and disappointed when I find out how little Americans in general and even Federal officials in particular
know about the history of our relationship with Native Americans, the treaties that we entered, the ones we broke,
virtually all of them, and the unique requirements of our Constitution as well as solemn treaty obligations.

One of the beneficial effects in my view of a Resolution of Apology by both Houses of Congress, signed by the President of
the United States, might shed more light and knowledge throughout America about the history of our relationship with
Native Americans. Do you accept that theory?


Senator McCain. Could I add, I can't tell you the number of times constituents of mine have said, why don't we tax these
Indian tribes, why do we allow them to have their own police force? These are not bad people. I don't detect in at least the
overwhelming majority of them any racism. It is just lack of knowledge about solemn treaties that were entered into that
guaranteed an exchange and nobody believes that it was a good deal, an exchange for vast lands that we would complete some obligations.

I am worried about Indian gaming but at the same time, I don't know any other way. I am worried about some of the things
that are happening with Indian gaming, how big it has gotten. We are having a series of hearings on this but I don't know, if
I thought the Federal Government was fulfilling its responsibilities for housing, education, health care, et cetera, I would have a very different view.

I am spinning off here but we want to make sure we do everything we can do to share the wealth on that issue and I am
sure we will discuss that at another date.

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