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Native American Apology Resolution Update and The Dawes Act

Jean Steffenson / Steve Shultz, Aimee Herd reporting : Apr 15, 2005 : US Strategic Prayer Network
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Managing Editor's Note: Chuck Pierce, one of the main founders of USSPN (United States Strategic Prayer Network), along with Peter and Doris Wagner and Cindy Jacobs are helping Senator Sam Brownback's office call for prayer for the Native American Apology Resolution and The Dawes Act. -- Steve Shultz

Introduction by Chuck Pierce: Jean Steffenson, one of our National Apostolic Council members, has forwarded the following USSPN Native American Focus. She provides an update on the Native American Apology Resolution, as well as a discussion of The Dawes Act. In this month where we are praying to break cycles of captivity, continue to pray for any cycle of injustice perpetuated against our Host People to be overturned and broken.--Chuck Pierce.

Prayer request from Jean Steffenson - USSPN Native Focus . . . Resolution of Apology S.J. Res. 37 - Prayer Request from Senator Sam Brownback's Office

The Native American Apology Resolution will be reintroduced on Tuesday, April 19. If you and your colleagues could be paving the way for this introduction in prayer, that would be much appreciated. Please pray that Senator Dorgan (North Dakota) and/or Senator Inouye (Hawaii) would choose to sign on as original cosponsors this year. April 19 is set and the National Congress of American Indians President, Tex Hall, will be in DC, which is a blessing. Thank you for your dedicated prayer support.

Senator John McCain is Chairman with Senator Dorgan, the lead Democrat on the Indian Affairs Committee this year. We are hoping Senator Dorgan will be the lead Democrats on the apology. It's helpful to have a lead Republican and lead Democrat given the political environment of the Senate. Pray that Dorgan's constituents will contact him. Please continue to pray for Senator Sam Brownback (of Kansas) as he spearheads getting this Resolution of Apology through the Senate.

I am certain you know the importance of Congress and the President issuing a statement of apology to the Native Americans for the injustices committed against them. It is a requirement of the Lord for the healing of this land.

Pray for justice and righteous actions in our courts. The 1887 Dawes Act made provisions for the government to set up a trust fund to collect and distribute royalties form oil, mineral, timber and grazing leases on the land given to the individual Indian. But the Bureau of Indian affairs, BIA, mismanaged the trust fund for more than a century. In 1994, Congress ordered the Interior Department to provide an accurate accounting of all trust fund accounts.

The following are excerpts from an article in the Denver Post newspaper, April 3, 2005 regarding this mismanagement.

In 1996 Eloise Cobell (Blackfeet) filed suit to force the government to make a historical accounting of the monies it has managed for the Indian trust fund so that individual Indians could receive the money they are owed. Still no trial date has been set. Some Native Americans have lost hope.

Pray for honest accountability The past ten years, the Interior Department spent $2.9 billion to reform the trust fund system and is requesting another $304 million for 2006. "I think members of Congress are concerned about performing an accounting that will cost billions of dollars, enriching accountants, lawyers and consultants while producing little benefit for actual Indian account holders," says Dan DuBray, spokesman for the Interior Department. There are literally hundreds of years of sad history between the Indians and this government, horror stories of the Trail of Tears and Wounded Knee. But this case isn't about that. It's about accounting.

Injustice keeps the old cycle going and prevents breakthrough. Injustice in the courts, laws contrary with the will of God, began with relationships with the Native Americans. Senator John McCain, R-AZ again serving as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, took a tough stance in his address to the National Congress of American Indians. McCain said, "The trust fund case is a terrible injustice and it needs to be fixed. If we don't fix it then it's going to impact everything we do."

Pray for this cycle to be broken this year. "The endless cycle of court hearings, appeals and failed mediations over the lawsuit have included revelations that have shocked the nations. Trust fund documents, for example, were being shredded as lawyers claimed to be searching for them. Three Cabinet secretaries in two presidential administrations -- Democrat and Republican -- have been cited for contempt. "The government has not only set the gold standard for mismanagement, it is on the verge of setting the gold standard for arrogance in litigation strategy and tactics," wrote U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.

This case could dramatically improve the lives of American Indians, especially in the West from Colorado and Wyoming to Arizona and New Mexico. If successful, billions of dollars could be divided among the 500,000 plaintiffs and spent as needed.

Pray for justice and healing for the sake of our children. Eloise Cobell said, "The part that really grabs my heart is when an Indian elder dies without justice. I keep thinking maybe I'm doing something for their grandchildren."

History - The Dawes Act - General Allotment Act In 1887 Congressman Henry Dawes of Massachusetts sponsored the General Allotment Act better known as the Dawes Severalty Act. It was designed to encourage the breakup of tribes and promote the assimilation of Indians into American Society.

While Senator Dawes may have been well meaning in his intentions, few historians judged the results successful. The Dawes Act provided for each head of an Indian family to be given 160 acres of farmland or 320 acres of grazing land. The remaining tribal lands were to be declared "surplus" and opened up for whites. Tribal ownership and tribes themselves were simply to disappear. Before the Dawes Act, some 150 million acres remained in Indian hands. Within twenty years, two-thirds of their land was gone. The reservation system was nearly destroyed. Land allotted to individual Indians was soon controlled by non-Indians. The native people lost much of their land and received very inadequate payment for it, and quickly spent what they received. They were not used to managing money.

In addition to extending voting rights to Native Americans, in 1924 Congress created the Meriam Commission to assess the impact of the Dawes Act. Completed in 1928, the Meriam Report described how government policy oppressed Native Americans and destroyed their culture and society.

Leonard Carlson, an economist, wrote in 1981, "The Dawes Act has been seen as a profound failure." Historian John Collier stated that this allotment was the principal tool of the old policy of destruction of tribal life and the cause of poverty bordering on starvation in many areas, a 30% illiteracy rate, and a death rate twice that of the white population. The poverty and exploitation resulting from the paternalistic Dawes Act spurred passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. This legislation promoted Native American autonomy by prohibiting allotment of tribal lands, returning some surplus land, and urging tribes to engage in active self-government. Rather than imposing the legislation on Native Americans, individual tribes were allowed to accept or reject the Reorganization Act. From 1934 to 1953, the U.S. government invested in the development of infrastructure, health care, and education in Indian country. With the aid of federal courts and government, over two million acres of land were returned to some tribes.

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