United States apologizes to American Indians – but forgets to tell them?!

Senator Sam Brownback, R-KS, has been introducing an apology resolution to American Indians in the Senate since 2004. It was nothing more than just a general statement of apology and did not create any potential for lawsuits oor offer to pay any form of reparations. Still, it took until December 2009 for the resolution to pass.

Then, inexplicably, President Barack Obama signed the Native American Apology Resolution on Dec. 19 as part of a defense appropriations spending bill WITHOUT telling any Indians or tribal leaders.

I just ran across this January 2010 news report on the issue in Inidan Country Today:

“. . . The resolution originated in Congress and had passed the Senate as stand-alone legislation in the fall. The House ended up adding the resolution to their version of the defense bill in conference.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., originally introduced the measure intending “to officially apologize for the past ill-conceived policies by the U.S. government toward the Native peoples of this land and re-affirm our commitment toward healing our nation’s wounds and working toward establishing better relationships rooted in reconciliation.” His bill passed the Senate in 2008 and 2009.

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.”

The resolution also includes a disclaimer: Nothing in it authorizes or supports any legal claims against the United States, and the resolution does not settle any claims.

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.”

” . . . The resolution Obama signed specifically “urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land.

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? . . . .”

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0 Responses to United States apologizes to American Indians – but forgets to tell them?!

  1. Amy Jacko says:

    This just baffles me only because it seems as though Obama’s whole campaign represented “CHANGE”. I voted for him, me being a full blooded native american woman I feel the least we deserve is a apology, we are struggling to this day. I feel proud to be here because of how the past-government tried to destroy and make us vanish. I hope he goes though with the public apology, that would be satisfying to me.

  2. Billy Jack Douthwright says:


  3. Survival Acres says:

    Hmmm. Just came across this. A REAL apology would be to make full restitution to the Native Americans. All this political jerrymandering only shows us all that our government doesn’t mean what it says, especially when it comes to Native Americans.

  4. web design says:

    Thanks for the updates.Wasn’t aware of it before reading this post.I fully understand the above commentator’s pain.Moreover her being a black American..it’s really painful for her.As far as Obama is concerned,after reading this post,i genuinely feel he owes an apology to the tribes and the Indian citizens.Look forward to further updates from you in this regard.

  5. Richard says:

    Pottawatomi vet: Soldiers wrongly taxed
    Written by JoKAY DOWELL

    TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – While browsing the Internet, Prairie Band Pottawatomi tribal citizen and U.S. Army veteran Richard Adame was surprised to find a news article about New Mexico legislation and subsequent negotiations with American Indian veterans in that state to restore state taxes wrongly deducted from their pay by the Department of Defense.

    “This story concerns all Native Americans who ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces. We were unjustly and illegally taxed by our individual states while serving in uniform,” Richard Adame, shown here in his military portrait, said.

    Adame immediately began to search for information on the law and contacted national media outlets, some veteran’s representatives and politicians. Adame said with the exception of Native American Times he was ignored because, he thinks, the law protecting American Indian military pay is virtually unknown by all.

    “Two years after I retired, I found out that I and every other Native American who claimed the reservation as our homes were illegally taxed. But, no one seems to know. . . I contacted a few vet reps and they never heard of this. This injustice was not even known to us ground pounders. We were just doing our jobs. How were we supposed to know that we were being illegally taxed?” he said. “I grew up in Kansas on the reservation and joined the Army out of a sense of patriotism and pride in my country. Most of the men and women in my family served in the Armed Forces.

    Deduction of state income taxes from the pay of American Indian veterans living on reservation land at the time of their entrance into active duty service was first prohibited by federal law under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940, Section 514, and continued under the newer version of the law, the Service members Civil Relief Act of 2006, section 511e. Other laws and legal opinions uphold the protection of that pay.

    But according to language in HR 5275 introduced to the United States 108th Congress in October 2004 by New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall, the DoD withheld state income taxes anyway. HR 5275 intended to restore the pay of all American Indian veterans across the country from whose pay state taxes were wrongly deducted.

    “The law is now well established that this policy was wrong and, in keeping with tribal sovereignty, the policy of withholding state taxes on these soldiers’ pay was changed. This position is reflected in administrative opinions, Fatt v. Utah, 884P2d 1233 (Utah 1994), a 2000 Department of Justice opinion, a Department of Defense policy instituted in 2001, and most recently, in Public Law 108-189, a law that passed this House unanimously,” Udall said in his introduction of HR 5275 to the House Armed Services Committee.

    While the DoD stopped the improper taxation of those veterans in 2001, the changes did not apply retroactively for veterans whose pay was taxed prior to that year. A statute of limitations could present obstacles as well.

    “The result is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tribal members whose state taxes were improperly withheld during their service to our country are unable to recover the money that is owed to them,” Udall stated.

    Sadly, HR 5275 faced immediate death in the 108th HASC for lack of support. Since then, no action has been taken to restore the pay of reservation-based American Indian veterans outside of New Mexico.

    Adame has questioned whether restoration of the veterans’ pay might be settled legally with a class action lawsuit but would rather see Congress step up to reintroduce legislation like HR 5275 and bring justice to all American Indian veterans.

    “This story concerns all Native Americans who ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” he said. “We were unjustly and illegally taxed by our individual states while serving in uniform.”

    In Oklahoma, the topic of taxation of American Indians has always been controversial but was settled unanimously by the U.S Supreme Court in the 1993 case, “Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Sac and Fox,” filed by attorney William Rice, associate professor of law and co-director of the Native American Law Center, University of Tulsa College of Law.

    “The state lost,” Rice said. “How the veterans’ case would play out is arguable. But obviously Oklahoma has no authority to levy the tax in the first place and the SSCRA should protect them in the second.”

    Rice said the Court generally has ruled that the Constitution and federal law place the tribal relationship with the federal government and not states, at least in areas defined as Indian Country, a legal term applying to allotments, tribal lands, reservations and other categories of Indian-owned properties.

    Oklahoma Tax Commission law now states active duty pay is exempt when:

    “The income is compensation paid to an active member of the Armed Forces of the United States, if the member was residing within his tribe’s “Indian Country” at the time of entering the Armed Forces of the United States, and the member has not elected to abandon such residence.”

    Rice thinks there would be even more affected veterans in Oklahoma than in New Mexico.

    “I suggest many of them would be residents of Indian Country when they joined up,” he said.

    Adame wants his pay and that of all other American Indian veterans restored and is hoping affected veterans will contact tribal, regional and national veterans’ organizations to make them aware of the law. He said veterans should also contact their Congressional representatives to request they reintroduce and support legislation like HR 5275. He also posted online a petition to restore the veterans’ pay..

    Adame hopes the new Obama administration will walk its talk as it promised to respect Indian sovereignty and honor tribal nations’ government-to-government relationship.

    First Lady Michelle Obama told employees at the Interior Department in February that American Indians have a “wonderful partner in the White House right now,” and her husband plans to improve that relationship even more, according to an Associated Press story.

    Adame wants American Indians in political office to help rectify the wrongs against him and other veterans.

    “These newly appointed government Native American politicians and advocates must also stand up for us, the cheated veterans.”

    JoKay Dowell

  6. chief says:

    This is yet another Obama”Smokescreen” a name awarded by me to him.We Shawnee always leave a parting gift.Obama has done NOTHING for this country and less for the American Indian of which I am a proud one. He is a Racist Marxist and always will be.We accept no apology from him,watered down or otherwise. The Government will never apologize because they feel JUSTIFIED in what they have done and are doing to us ALL.A WOUNDED WARRIOR

  7. this was NOT a real apology. Obama owes an apology to the tribes.

  8. Tomahawk says:

    At least we’re making progress…if it could be called that.

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