On June 14, 2008 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech to Parliament in which he formally apologized for the Canadian government’s native residential school program. The apology begins a 5-year process led by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission supported with a $60 million budget. Those involved in truth and reconciliation commissions seek to uncover facts and distinguish truth from lies. The process allows for acknowledgement, appropriate public mourning, forgiveness and healing.
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback’s sponsored resolution to acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States is making its way through Congress.
If the US House of Representatives passes their version of Brownback’s apology bill and President Bush signs it Congress should then be pressed to launch a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
At the state level, Colorado Legislature passed a resolution in April which compared the deaths of millions of American Indians to the Holocaust and other acts of genocide around the world.
In May, the MN Sesquicentennial Commission posted the following statement on its web site:
“Yet we remain either unaware of or unable to look at our own history and acknowledge the painful wounds of ethnocide and genocide right here in Minnesota. We have a very hard time acknowledging that the pain remains and that it has affected much of our history thru to the present day.”
The Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission has created a web site to "bear witness to the tragic side of Minnesota Statehood in 1858 and acknowledge the pain, loss and suffering of the Native American culture in Minnesota."
On June 15th Griff Wigley, Project Leader, Sesquicentennial Advisory Committee for Native American Partnering, posted the following statements on the MN Sesquicentennial Commission's Native American Minnesota - A journey of learning and understanding - web site:
“Last week, Thomas Dahlheimer (Rum River Name Change Movement) had a guest column in the Winona Daily News titled State looks to settle up with the past.”
“And last December, Louis Stanley Schoen, a consultant and trainer on racial justice in the Episcopal Church, authored a commentary in the Star Tribune titled We must talk about race, despite the difficult emotions it stirs. (Thanks to Thomas Dahlheimer for alerting me to it) In it, Schoen suggests the formation of a Commission:
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“How might serious, healing racial dialogue occur? A series of thoughtful, sensitive commentary in news media might be a starter. Sermons and study groups on race in churches would help, as would discussions in all kinds of community groups. Official public bodies must get engaged. What if a public commission were to begin to examine the American (and European) history of white supremacy — and, here, how that doctrine shaped the formation of Minnesota and its public and private institutions? What if such a commission learned how to offer leadership and resources to dismantle this evil doctrine?”
“The results could be transforming for us and for all the world. What a magnificent legacy this might be to our celebration of Minnesota’s sesquicentennial.”
Griff Wigley wrote: "It seems to me that it would be most meaningful for each state to debate the need for its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission and then to fund it."
In the (mentioned above) Winona Daily News guest column I wrote:
“When Minnesotans become aware of or able to look at their own history and acknowledge the painful wounds of ethnocide and genocide right in their own state, they will be inspired to go through a radical social, political and religious transformation.”
“A peaceful cultural revolution will occur, and Minnesotans will be changed for the better. And this will help to heal the Dakota Oyate’s painful wounds caused by ethnocide and genocide.”
“Leonard Wabasha, a hereditary chief of the Dakota and director of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community Cultural Resource Department, invited me to address the Dakota tribal leaders and government officials during the May 16 reconciliatory ceremony in Winona.”
“During the reconciliatory ceremony, I spoke about the 15th century papal bull (Inter Caetera). A papal bull that was primarily responsible for Minnesota’s ethnocide and genocide against the Dakota Oyate.”
“A movement to revoke the papal bull has been ongoing for a number of years. It was initiated by the Indigenous Law Institute in 1992. At the Parliament of World Religions in 1994 over 60 indigenous delegates drafted a Declaration of Vision.”
“It reads, in part: ‘We call upon the people of conscience in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to persuade Pope John II to formally revoke the Inter Caetera Bull of May 4, 1493, which will restore our fundamental human rights. That papal document called for our Nations and Peoples to be subjugated so the Christian Empire and its doctrines would be propagated. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson vs. McIntosh (in 1823) adopted the same principle of subjugation expressed in the Inter Caetera Bull. This papal bull has been, and continues to be, devastating to our religions, our cultures, and the survival of our populations.’”
Tony Castanha and Steve Newcomb, two internationally renowned leaders of the movement to influence Pope Benedict XVI to formally revoke the Inter Caetera Bull, have contacted me and told me that I am doing “good work”.
The former Archbishop of Minneapolis and Saint Paul [Archbishop Harry Flynn] wrote, in a response letter to me: “I greatly appreciate your sending me the article that you wrote recently on returning the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples.” The article is, primarily, about my work to influence Pope Benedict XVI to formally revoke Inter Caetera.
The article that I sent Archbishop Harry Flynn can be viewed and read at http://www.towahkon.org/Indigenousrights.html
The IPL posted article that Steve Newcomb commented on in an e-mail to me, wherein he wrote "Thanks Thomas, Good work!", is located at http://www.towahkon.org/proposals.html
The MN Sesquicentennial Commission's Native American Minnesota - A journey of learning and understanding - web site is located at: http://nativeamericanminn150.org/archives/260