k Charles and a small but diverse group of partners are inviting people to gather and stand with them later this year in front of the US Capitol building for a public reading of the “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States.”
The apology was inserted into the multi-billion-dollar 2010 Department of Defense appropriations bill. President Barack Obama signed it into law with little media attention on Dec. 19, 2009.
News reports say the apology wasn’t read publicly until May 2010 when its author, US Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, read the bill at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. A few Native American leaders were present. But even then, it wasn’t big news.
“I want people to know that this apology is buried in a 67-page bill that has never been clearly communicated or shared with the nearly five million Native American citizens of this country,” says Charles, a Christian Reformed Church member who lives with fellow Navajos on a reservation in Arizona.
Charles remains active in a variety of reconciliation-related causes. Currently, he is working as a consultant with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and Christian Reformed World Missions on projects focused “on reconciling groups of God’s people.”
Charles also writes a popular, personal blog called "Reflections from the Hogan,"
on which he earlier this week invited people take part in the December event in Washington, D.C. He also wrote about who he is.
“I am not an elected official, I do not lead an organization, nor do I work solely for a specific group or company. I am merely the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man, who is living on the Navajo Reservation and trying to understand the complexities of our country’s history regarding race, culture and faith so that I can help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for our people.”
On the third anniversary of its signing, Charles says, his group has reserved a spot in front of the Capitol to host a public reading of the bill “H.R. 3326” up to and including the apology.
“We invite people to stand with us in our efforts to begin a conversation moving towards reconciliation between the United States of America and the indigenous hosts of this land,” says Charles.
One part of the apology, the result of a lengthy bipartisan campaign, states that “the United States, acting through Congress…recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes.”
While those words were good to read, says Charles, not many Native Americans knew about them.
Summing up his sentiments, Charles mentions in his blog, was the headline for a news story published by the Indian Country Today Media Network on Dec. 31, 2011: “A Tree Fell in the Forest: The U.S. Apologized to Native Americans and No One Heard a Sound.”
“I was shocked, confused, embarrassed and ashamed when I learned, two years after the fact, that the US government had issued an apology to its Native American citizens, but did very little to publicize it,” he writes in his blog.