Out of Respect, Apology Not Accepted

Mark Charles, Navajo

Mark Charles, Navajo

On December 19, 2009 the United States apologized to its Native Peoples—but no one heard it.

Over three hundred million US citizens were apologized for, and don’t even know it.

Nearly five million Native Americans were apologized to, yet only a handful are aware of it.

December 19, 2012 marked the third anniversary of an an “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States” signed by President Obama on December 19, 2009. Among the ironies of this apology, is the fact that it was burried in the US Department of Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 3326; and the fact that it was never announced, publicized or read publicly by either the White House or the 111th Congress.

On this third anniversary I (Terry Wildman) had the privilege, along with a diverse group of citizens, of participating in a public reading of this apology in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC.

This event was hosted by Mark Charles who lives on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Ft. Defiance Arizona, the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man. He is a speaker, writer, and consultant, who has been on a journey seeking to understand the complexities of our country’s history regarding race, culture, and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the Nation.

During the gathering he stated, “Reconciliation is never easy, which is why it probably doesn’t happen very much. Reconciliation is not an event encapsulated in a moment of time, its not something you can check off your to-do list; reconciliation starts with a conversation and it ends with a relationship restored.”

“Everybody at some point” he added, “understands the value of a sincere and well timed apology.”

He explained the reason for this gathering, “I felt like every Native person deserved two things, they deserved to know that this apology existed, and they deserved to hear it read from the seat of power of our country.”

I joined with several Native Americans as we read portions of the Defense Appropriations Bill to highlight the irony of such important words being burried in an unrelated document.

Then Mark read the apology, found in section 8113 on page 45, in English, followed in the Annishinabe language by Jim Thorpe, Ojibwe. Ben Stoner, a non-native who has lived among the Navajo for 40 years, read the apology section in the Navajo language.

After this Mark Charles said “I have deep respect for Governor Brownback who spent four years of his time in the Senate … working on this apology and trying to get … substantial language included into a bill that stood on its own, but he was unable to do it … attempt after attempt was turned back … and finally he did what I was told they used to do to get treaties passed … he inserted it into an appropriations bill because it was less likely someone would vote against it.”

All this added up to a conclusion by Mark Charles, “I take all of these things as evidence that our Country was not ready to apologize. An applogy should be sincere, it should be from your heart, and should include some act of repentance or commitment to change … I don’t think this apology does that.”

He then offered this request, spoken with humility and authority,  “Today as a Navajo man standing before you, I want to encourage our Native peoples, to not accept this apology. Not out of bitterness, not out of anger, not out of resentment. But out of respect for ourselves, out of respect for Governor Brownback, out of respect for President Obama, and out of respect for our Nation.

He finished with this thought, “Native peoples deserve a better apology than the one found in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. And Governer Brownback and President Obama deserve the respect, to be given an opportunity to make another apology, one that is more sincere.”

After this and other relevant remarks Mark opened the microphone to others.

I took this opportunity to address the churches of America, the decendants of those believers who, through mission and church organizations, often cooperated with the Government in ways that oppressed Native Peoples. It was their often silent and sometimes verbal consent that emboldened the US Government in its ill conceived policies and practices.

How can we say we are reconciled to God if we haven’t done all that we can to reconcile with our Native Peoples?

Lets break with the past, enter into this conversation, and make a concerted effort to restore relationships.

After all, it is Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God” Matthew 5:9.

Shouldn’t his followers be leading the way?

It was an honor to stand with Mark Charles and help communicate this important message to our Native communities and to all the citizens of the United States. Miigwech Bizandowiyeg (thank you for listening).

Mark Charles: You can watch this entire event on YouTube CLICK HERE 

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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Author's Updates


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The “Price” of Justice?

The Great Lakota/Sioux Nation

The Great Lakota/Sioux Nation


The United States hereby agrees and stipulates that the country north of the North Platte River and east of the summits of the Big Horn mountains shall be held and considered to be unceded Indian Territory, and also stipulates and agrees that no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the same; or without the consent of the Indians.  

– Article XVI: 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie  


In the year 1876 the Black Hills were set aside for the Lakota people as part of what was then called “The Great Sioux Reservation”. Less than ten years later the US illegally grabbed this land in the Act of 1877 soon after the Battle of Little Big Horn with General Custer in 1876.

The 1868 treaty states in Article 12 that no changes could be made to the treaty unless three-fourths of all the adult male Indians agreed. The Act of 1877 was not a treaty it was simply an Act of Congress that illegally annulled the nine year old promises.

In the Year 1979, the United States Court of Claims, commenting on the federal government’s underhanded dealings with the Sioux Nation, including its tactic of starving them, before it appropriated the land, wrote, “a more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history.”

A century after the theft the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the Lakota. But tragically instead of returning the land the Supreme Court ruled that the Lakota would be given $106 million in compensation. The Lakota never wanted the money, only and land, and has since refused to accept any of the money.

In the summer of 2012 a large portion of this land was put up for auction by the Reynolds family, a white family that has “owned” the land since 1877. It is located just west of Rapid City SD and called Pe’ Sla and considered by the Lakota people to be the Center and heart of everything that is. It is part of their creation story.

The Lakota were outraged and sent out a appeal to the Reynold family to sell the property to them and take it off auction. Activists and people from all over the world publicly stated their support for the Lakota and money donations started to trickle in. The family finally met in private with the Lakota and agreed on a price of Nine Million Dollars.

This was truly a quandary for the Lakota people who now have to buy back land that was stolen from them. The ultimate insult to a people and a culture that traditionally believes that the land cannot be bought or sold.

But what choice do they have?

On November 30th 2012, the deadline for them to come up with the purchase price, the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Sakowin announced that is has managed to raise the Nine Million Dollars necessary to secure the sacred land in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

According to Rosebud Sioux Tribe Chairman Cyril “Whitey” Scott, the purchase is a done deal. “I can tell you that Pe’ Sla, the sacred land on behalf of the Oceti Sakowin, is secured. The $9 million was secured, Pe’ Sla has been purchased.”

Here is an excerpt from the only official statement released by the Great Sioux Nation.

“We are grateful to stand together before the creator and to help our people in reclaiming one of our most sacred sites. We are not waiting for the United States to deal with this justly on the Black Hills rights and we ask that now that we are exercising our inherent sovereign authority to protect this most sacred site. We must perpetuate our way of life for future generations. We thank the members of the public who donated to this cause to create justice for all people and now we are more determined than ever that the United States must provide justice for our people. We thank the Reynolds family for working with us in our requisition of Pe’ Sla as a sacred site for Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people.” [Emphasis mine-TW]

Personally I don’t know whether to rejoice or mourn. I can rejoice in the fact that people donated and created a small island of justice for the Lakota, but I also mourn for the Lakota who cannot depend on or wait for the United States, a nation that claims “justice for all”.

In this case Nine Million Dollars was the price of justice. But what does it say of our Nation and what does it really cost us all in the end?

Miigwech Bizandowiyeg (thank you for listening).

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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Author's Updates


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Giving Honor to Whom Honor is Due!

Vissions of Valor a painting by David Behrens

During World War II, it was through Native American Code-talkers, primarily Navajos, that the US Armed Forces found an unbreakable code in the war against Japan. At Iwo Jima, Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, declared, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The irony of this is the very language the government was trying to eliminate may have been the greatest  secret weapon of World War II and may have turned the tide for the Americans.

I would like to give honor today to all my fellow Vetrans who put their lives on the line to protect their loved ones and families.

Miigwech Bizandowiyeg (thank you for listening).

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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Author's Updates


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A Conversation for Reconciliation

A New Conversation

Join us in Washington DC as we gather with our Navajo friend Mark Charles from Defiance Arizona. This is not about a particular brand of politics. It isn’t really even a political statement.

It is simply a response to the apology the US Government stated but never made public and an invitation to take this conversation further–to the people!

RainSong is coming, not to do a concert, but to stand with our brothers and sisters in this important event.

Please view the video below for an amazing look into the heart of Mark Charles and his motives for this gathering. PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH THOSE YOU THINK MIGHT BE INTERESTED.


Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Author's Updates


A Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesotta

(Saint Paul) – In commemoration of the US – Dakota War of 1862, Governor Mark Dayton released the following statement calling…

Friday August 17, 2012

“A Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesota”

“The war ended, but the attacks against innocent Indian children, women, and elderly continued.  They were even encouraged by the Governor of Minnesota… I am appalled by Governor Ramsey’s words and by his encouragement of vigilante violence against innocent people; and I repudiate them…

He also called on all to…

remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.”–Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

Dakota – US War of 1812

In this historic statement, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, not minicing any of his words, repudiates the actions of Governor Ramsey of 150 years ago.

Here is the full text of Governor Dayton’s statement:

August 17, 1862 marked a terrible period in Minnesota’s history. The first victims of the “US -Dakota War of 1862” lost their lives on that day,150 years ago. The ensuing attacks and counter-attacks killed hundreds more U.S. soldiers, Dakota braves, conniving traders, and innocent people. Tragically, those deaths started a vicious cycle of hate crimes, which continued long after the war was ended.

The events leading to those atrocities actually began before 1862. The United State Government, through its agents in the new State of Minnesota, either persuaded, deceived, or forced the state’s long-time inhabitants from Dakota and Ojibwe Indian tribes to give up their lands for promises of money, food, and supplies. Many of the government’s promises were repeatedly broken.

The displaced Dakota and Chippewa tribes watched newly arrived settlers claim the lands that had been theirs. They were denied their treaty payments of money and food, which resulted in starvation for many of their children and elderly. Often, when annuity payments did finally arrive, they were immediately plundered by some dishonest officials and traders.

On August 17, 1862, a group of Dakota braves attacked and killed five new settlers at Acton in Meeker County. The Dakota community was not unanimous in the decision to go to war; some of them helped the settlers. Nonetheless, the war began. Atrocities were committed by combatants on both sides against combatants and noncombatants alike. Hundreds of people were killed. Many more Indian and immigrant lives were ruined. And the lives of Minnesotans were altered for the next 150 years.

The war ended, but the attacks against innocent Indian children, women, and elderly continued. They were even encouraged by the Governor of Minnesota.

On September 9, 1862, Alexander Ramsey proclaimed: “Our course then is plain. The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the State. . . .”

“They must be regarded and treated as outlaws. If any shall escape extinction, the wretched remnant must be driven beyond our borders and our frontier garrisoned with a force sufficient to forever prevent their return.”

A Minnesota newspaper chimed in, “We have plenty of young men who would like no better fun than a good Indian hunt.”

I am appalled by Governor Ramsey’s words and by his encouragement of vigilante violence against innocent people; and I repudiate them. I know that almost all Minnesotans, living today, would be just as revolted. The viciousness and violence, which were commonplace 150 years ago in Minnesota, are not accepted or allowed now.

Yet hostile feelings do still exist between some Native Americans and their neighbors. Detestable acts are still perpetrated by members of one group against the other. Present grievances, added to past offenses, make it difficult to commemorate the past, yet not continue it.

I call for tomorrow, the 150th anniversary of August 17, 1862, to be “a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesota.” I ask everyone to remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.

To everyone who lost family members during that time, I offer my deepest condolences for your losses. I ask you especially to help lead us to better attitudes and actions toward others.

To honor the American soldiers, Dakota people, and settlers who lost their lives in that war, I order that all state flags shall be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on August 17, 2012.

And I urge everyone participating in the events commemorating this 150th Anniversary to practice not only remembrance, but also reconciliation.

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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Author's Updates


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Dancing My Dream by Warren Petoskey

Warren Petoskey, Odawa/Lakota Elder

I would like to introduce you to, my friend and co-laborer, Elder Warren Petoskey. I first met Warren few years back when we facilitated the “Seeking Common Ground” meetings at Indian River Michigan in partnership with the “Strait Gate House of Prayer”. He joined us there and was an amazing blessing as he brought his wisdom and experience to the circle.

Warren is a descendant of Chief Petoskey whom the city of Petoskey Michigan was named after. He and his wife Barbara travel in a small motor home connecting with Tribes and churches raising awareness of the residual effects of Residential Indian Schools on today Native populations.

He wrote an important book called “Dancing My Dream” a few years back. This book is available at and is well worth reading. It is full of poetry, storytelling, information about the Michigan Indians, and tells of the historic impact of the Residential Boarding Schools on his own family and on Indian people as a whole.

Dancing My Dream Available on

You can click on the image of the book here to view more information on Warren is available as a public speaker at your church, school, conference or gathering. You can contact him by email at

Recently Warren wrote a review on my book, Sign Language: A Look at the Historic and Prophetic Landscape of America. I am including his review below.

I am, Warren Petoskey, an Odawa/Lakotah Elder. I am minister, writer, storyteller, Native Artisan, singer, guitar and flute player and a presenter regarding the issues of historical trauma that continue to plague our Native populations. At one time I was considered one of a very few who worked as a counselor and consultant in the field of historical trauma residuals. I was privileged to meet Terry and his lovely wife, Darlene, a couple of years ago and we have remained in contact since. I was aware at the time that Terry was writing a book and even heard excerpts from it when we met. Now, to have the finished work I consider it a great advance in presenting what the issues are. It is a promotion in the effort to address history from a Native’s perspectives.This book will be an addition to any library and will help every human being better understand what Native people experienced and how we perceive American history. “Sign Language: A Look at the Historic and Prophetic Landscape of America” is one of the finest pieces I have read. It is prophetic in the sense of the book’s arrival at this time in our history.

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Author's Updates


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Indians and the 4th of July

I was not born in America, I was born on my land. I am America. (Painting by Pablo DeLuna).

We should remember on this American Holiday that the independence we enjoy as a nation was not only at the cost of patriot soldiers but also at a great loss of life, independence and culture for the Native Americans. Their independence has had to be won back slowly over the past few generations–and is still in process.

I AM AMERICA (more info on painting).

Independence Day is often celebrated by Indians with mixed emotions. The U.S. Government in 1883 outlawed all Indian ceremonies and cultural gatherings–with the threat of criminal action against them, including jail time, if they broke this law. The only day they were allowed to gather and express some of their culture at first was during the 4th of July celebrations–to teach Indians how to become good Americans. Some Indian children were even reassigned new birthdays to coincide with the Fourth.

See the article, Why there are Powwows on the 4th of July.

All across Indian Country today you will find the 4th of July being celebrated, but not by all. The Onondaga of upstate New York decided a few years ago to stop observing the 4th of July altogether. Right after America declared independence in 1776, George Washington ordered Onondaga villages to be destroyed–they were in the way of the new country.

See the article, A Native American Take on Independence.

Some Native Americans experience a love/hate relationship with America as a nation. They love this land; it is the home of their ancestors. Many feel a deep unexplainable connection to the geographic and historic homeland of their tribe.

It might surprise some to know that by percentage of population more Indians serve in the Armed Forces than any other people group in America. I am an Army Veteran of the Vietnam era. At every powwow and most Native gatherings there will be an honoring of the American flag and of all the veterans who have served. American Indians are, for the most part, patriotic.

However, many Natives are deeply disappointed in, and carry an undercurrent of anger and resentment toward the government. Why? Imagine if you can, being born on an Indian reservation and learning at a young age that things used to be different—somehow better. What happened? A people came from another land and conquered our ancestors. They took away our way of life. Outlawed our ceremonies. Took the best of our land and forced us to relocate to unknown lands. They imposed their language and governmental structures on us long ago. Our children were removed from their homes and put into institutions for reprogramming. We were stripped of our language, our culture and our dignity.

We were told that all of this was done for our own good?

Today Natives are still fighting for their treaty rights, the rights promised to them in exchange for their lands. No treaty has been fully kept by the United States and many have been completely violated. Today’s warriors are lawyers—they have to be. Just about every treaty right enjoyed today has been fought for and won in court, most of the time it took the Supreme Court to finally rule in their favor.

Is it any wonder why the Forth of July might be a day of mixed emotions for the original people of this land?

Miigwech Bizandowiyeg (thank you for listening).


Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Author's Updates


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