Truth Be Told

Signed copies of the book I co-authored with Soong-Chan Rah, "Unsettling Truths - The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery" are available from my website:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Public Reading of the Apology to Native Peoples of the United States.

On December 19, 2012 I had the privilege of hosting a Public Reading of the Apology to Native Peoples of the United States in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC.  This apology was buried in H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.  It was signed by President Obama on Dec. 19, 2009 but was never announced, publicized or read publicly by either the White House or the 111th Congress. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Respecting the Indigenous hosts of this land

On Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11 AM EST I am hosting a public reading of the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.  I am doing so because page 45 of this 67 page document contains a generic, non-binding apology to native peoples on behalf of the citizens of the United States. This apology was not publicized by the White House or Congress, nor has it been read publicly by President Obama. As a result, a majority of the 350 million citizens of the United States do not know they have been apologized for.  And most of the 5 million Indigenous Peoples of this land do not know they have been apologized to.

Throughout his term in office President Obama has made significant and intentional steps to invite Native American leaders to the table and to include them in the conversation.  For that I am thankful. 

I also appreciate the sincere efforts that Governor Brownback has made to raise the need for an apology to the Indigenous Peoples of this land.

And it is meaningful that the 111th Congress passed legislation that both contained an apology to native Peoples and urged the President and State governments to seek reconciliation.

However, the wording of this apology and the way it was buried in an unrelated document is not the most appropriate or respectful way to speak to the indigenous hosts of this land.  Additionally, it is concerning that this apology has not been clearly communicated to our elders, many of whom personally endured the horrors of boarding schools, re-location, and disenfranchisement. 

So on the third anniversary of the signing of this Act, I have reserved space in front of the US Capitol.  On that day, a diverse group of citizens are coming together to publically read H.R. 3326.  The appropriations portion of this bill (pages 1–45) will be read by the Native Americans in attendance in an effort to respectfully, yet clearly, highlight the irony of burying such important and historic words in a Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

I am also working to have the apology portion of this Act (sub-section 8113) translated into several Native languages.  These translations will be read by some of the non-native people in attendance. This will serve as a reminder that when an apology is made it should be communicated as clearly and sincerely as possible to the intended audience.

This Act has already been written, passed, and signed.  Now it needs to be publicized so its intended audience can hear it and respond to it.  But, I do not want the conversation to end there. 

Over the years, I have had the privilege to travel throughout much of our country and even to many parts of the world. One question I am frequently asked is, "How does it feel to be Native American and live in the United States?"  I often use this image to articulate to people how it feels:

Being Native American and living in the United States feels like our indigenous peoples are an old grandmother who lives in a very large house. It is a beautiful house with plenty of rooms and comfortable furniture. But, years ago, some people came into our house and locked us upstairs in the bedroom. Today, our house is full of people. They are sitting on our furniture. They are eating our food. They are having a party in our house. They have since unlocked the door to our bedroom but it is much later and we are tired, old, weak and sick; so we can't or don't come out. But the part that is the most hurtful and that causes us the most pain, is that virtually no one from this party ever comes upstairs to find us in the bedroom, sits down next to us on the bed, takes our hand, and simply says, "Thank you. Thank you for letting us be in your house."

One thing that has been taken from our Indigenous Peoples has been our ability and the opportunity to be the hosts of this land. In fact, today, we are so far removed from the role of host that we often feel like forgotten guests in our own home.

The result of this reversal of roles is that a huge chasm exists between Native America and the rest of the United States.  Pain and misunderstanding are deep, and respect and partnership are minimal. 

Following the reading of H.R. 3326 and the apology enclosed therein, I will come forward and share some of my story, concluding with this image of the grandmother in the house.  In the past, when I have communicated this image publically, I have frequently been approached by individuals, both Natives and non-Natives.  Many Natives have thanked me for articulating our pain in a way they have never had the words for.  And many non-Natives have approached me and thanked me, for letting them live in our house.  I cannot control people’s response nor do I even want to demand it.  But I can share my thoughts and then allow space for people to respond and for understanding to grow. 

So I invite you to consider my words.  I invite you to attend this event on December 19, 2012.  And I invite you to respond to my analogy of the grandmother in the house.  Together, we have an opportunity to lead our country into a conversation that has never before taken place between the indigenous hosts of this land and the immigrants who have traveled here from every corner of the earth.

This event will not mark the end of this journey but rather the beginning.  It is my hope that we can establish safe and honest common ground where a national conversation for reconciliation between Native America and the rest of our country can begin.

To confirm your presence at this event please RSVP on my website:

This event will also be streamed LIVE at 11 AM EST on Dec. 19, 2012 on my Wirelesshogan YouTube Channel:

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You can also contact me directly at:

Mark Charles

This post was first published on June 6, 2012 at 1:10 PM MDT.