On Dec. 2, 2011, President Barack Obama was quoted as supporting a bill to issue a formal apology to Native American people. The bill is going through Congress and should have a consensus soon.
It essentially apologizes to Native Americans for the oppression of their people for hundreds of years. Few on the Castleton State College campus, however, seem to know about the effort. When polled, nine out of 10 people said they were unaware of the existence of the bill, and opinions varied on its significance.
“I don’t feel like it’s Obama’s place to apologize. He didn’t do anything to them. The apology isn’t going to do anything without action,” said student Brit Moyna.
Many students and professors echoed Moyna.
“The apology is symbolic. There’s no meat to it. There’s no redistribution of land that was taken away. Yes, I support it, but only because this country is finally starting to look at itself as the oppressor,” said professor Sanjukta Ghosh.
Through polling, statistics showed that females found the bill necessary and males did not. When asked whether the apology was necessary, Dakota Cooke said, “No. It was two hundred years ago. You don’t see them writing apology letters to the blacks or the Irish. It’s just a waste of time.”
His response raised another issue: Will there be a different reaction if the apology comes from an African American president as opposed to a white president?
Some students merely shrugged, but not Nicole Carpenter.
“I don’t know, reactions are funny. It depends on who you’re looking for a reaction from. If you’re looking at the country as a whole, the reaction would probably be the same. But if you’re looking at individual minority groups, it will be different,” she said.
Though many people aren’t even aware the bill exists, there has been a lot of progress on it in the past two years. Obama has met with many tribe leaders and discussed what will happen when the bill is finally passed.
“I believe that one day, we’re going to be able to look back on these years and say that this was a turning point,” Obama said in 2011. “This was the moment when we began to build a strong middle class in Indian Country; the moment when businesses, large and small, began opening up in reservations; the moment when we stopped repeating the mistakes of the past, and began building a better future together, one that honors old traditions and welcomes every Native American.”