Kansas Senate Considers Apology To American Indians For Mistreatment

This story was written by Brandon McAtee, Kansas State Collegian
The Kansas Senate is considering a resolution issuing a formal apology to American Indians for previous governmental actions.

The resolution would mean the Kansas legislature takes responsibility for the mistreatment of American Indians in Kansas.

"Mistreatment" includes broken treaties, forced removal of tribes and peoples from their homelands and removal of children from their families to try and assimilate them, according to the proposed resolution.

A similar resolution, introduced by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has already passed in the U.S. Senate.

Leslie Hannah, assistant professor of arts, science and business at K-State-Salina, and a Cherokee Indian, said the apology for broken treaties was one of the biggest points of the resolution.

"The broken treaties is the immediate issue, and it's certainly the most dominate with all the Indian nations," he said. "We have treaties that are less than 50 years old that have been violated. These are promises made from one nation to another, which one nation is obligated to fulfill, and they were violated.

"Everybody knew they were violated too, even the federal government knew they were violating them while doing it. And now the mere acknowledgement, that 'Yes, we did you dirty,' is at least a starting point."

State Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, introduced the resolution after a group of people in southeast Kansas involved in developing relations with American Indians presented the subject to her.

"They spent a lot of time in catching me up with the reality of what occurred with the breaking of our agreements with the tribes years ago," Lynn said, "and these are very peaceful people that really believe a formal apology would be one of the first steps in building a healthy relationship, so that we can do some work on repairing what has happened in the past.

"Because when there is not a formal acknowledgement of wrongdoing, it causes an inability to communicate. It creates a blockage."

Lynn is chairwoman of the Senate Joint Committee on Children's Issues.

When the time comes for the Senate to handle the children-issues session, she said. She aims to propose mostly education programs for American Indian children.

Some think an apology is long overdue, considering the long history between the two nations.

"Nobody has been interested in [arranging an apology], and I think that people think that you are jumping in to some political areas that many don't want to get in," Lynn said.

She also addressed the reasons and thoughts on why the apology had not been issued previously.

"It is also a lot of misunderstanding; you really have to understand the problem and the reason," she said. "I spend a lot of time explaining it, and you get it or you don't."

As a step in the right direction toward a better relationship between two nations, this resolution brings hope and justification to some.

"Personally, it gives me a sense of relief," Hannah said. "I feel as an American Indian who has been trying to voice my opinion on things like this for many years, I feel justified in what I was doing. I want one side to acknowledge and the Indians to say we weren't angels ourselves, and we weren't."

"I want one side to stop playing the victimizer, and the other side to stop playing the victim and just put this stuff down and work together to build on the future," he said. "I think it can be done. I guess that is a very optimistic answer, but I like to find the silver lining in anything, no matter how dark the cloud may be."
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