We should atone for our 'aboriginal sin'
We usually think of ethnic cleansing and apartheid as occurring in other lands. But we have our own historical brand of these offenses against humanity. Under the banner of "Manifest Destiny," our Europe-derived ancestors decimated the Native American population and displaced the survivors to undesirable tracts of land.
The "apartness" of these peoples has been buttressed, not by military checkpoints, but by an indifferent Bureau of Indian Affairs and a complacent public. Indian reservations are among the poorest areas of rural America, with the poverty-associated problems of inadequate education and unemployment.
A small spark of justice was ignited in January when Appeals Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the Interior Department "unreasonably delayed" its accounting for billions of dollars owed to Indian landholders.
The Blackfeet Nation claimed in Cobell v. Kempthorne, filed in 1996, that the government has mismanaged more than $100 billion in oil, timber and other revenues held in trust since 1887.
The judge said that a remedy must be found for this breach of fiduciary duty over the past century. It remains to be seen how fully the government complies with the court's finding.
Professor Jay Adler has called our treatment of native people our "aboriginal sin."
It may not be possible to return all their land, but we can continue the process of atonement initiated by Robertson's ruling and restore to Native Americans some greater equality of opportunity and dignity.
Charles W. Acker