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Is an apology that’s not said out loud really an apology? What if the person expressing the apology doesn’t draw attention to it?

Those are the questions Native American nations asked following the non-apology apology tucked away in an obscure corner of the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill, signed by President Obama with no publicity.

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.

It then got watered down. Nothing in it authorizes or supports any legal claims against the United States, and the resolution does not settle any claims.

So, this “apology” was never said out loud and did not offer any amends.

It did inspire a book of poetry, however. The book is Whereas, by Layli Long Soldier.


Long Soldier knows from sorry. She knows failed apologies and she knows successful ones. Click here to listen to her read a poem inspired by a successful one from her father.