Insult to Injury

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During my time as a journalist, one of the worst apologies I ever came across, was that of the US government to the Native Americans. Now, I know there have been many lame apologies made by the US government over the treatment of its people, with slavery and Japanese internment camps just two examples which spring to mind; but the apology to the Native Americans really took the biscuit.

Back in 2010, a rumour began to circulate that the US government would not only make its first ever admission as to its brutal and barbaric treatment of Native American people, but that they would also issue an apology. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Such an event would have been worldwide news, not something that would easily be missed, right? And there’s no way that anyone could possibly forget such a humble governmental apology. Right again. So, you’re thinking, how come I’ve never heard of it?

The answer is that the apology, such as it was, was tucked quietly away on page 45 of a 67-page Spending Bill. Nestled in between spending cuts and quotas, budget boosts and deficits, was an apology to “all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.” No fanfare. No fuss. And no reference to any specific heinous acts perpetrated by the United States upon Native American people.

Nothing was said about The Trail of Tears, in which multiple thousands of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee people were forcibly removed from their lands and forced to march to their various destinations by state and local militias. Many died from disease, exposure and starvation en route, with the Cherokee people alone losing between 2000 and 6000 men, women and children.

Nor was anything said about Wounded Knee, in which between 150 and 300 Lakota men, women and children were massacred by a detachment of the 7th cavalry regiment. Following the massacre, at least 20 soldiers were given the Medal of Honour.

Yet, to add insult to a litany of injuries, the mealy-mouthed fauxpology was so explicitly designed purely to get the US government’s conscience off the hook, that it contained a clause, stating that nothing in what was said “authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.” 

At the time, I was all for publicly suggesting that the Native American people should issue a collective response, which would be to say they had taken page 45 of the Spending Bill and rolled it up very tightly, something which would facilitate the US government in shoving it up its arse. Fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately, I’m still not sure – calmer heads than mine believed that such a statement may inflame matters, and so it was decided that I would go with a simple “Thanks, but no thanks!”

Still, should any Native American people wish to use my initial response, please feel free to do so!

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