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Navajo activist brings social campaign to Belmont

Three years after passage of the Defense Appropriations Bill H.R. 3326, it will be read publicly in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in an effort to raise awareness of a little-known statement buried in the text of the bill.

Native American activist Mark Charles is sponsoring the event Dec. 19 because sub-section 8113 of the bill, titled “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States,” which he said is buried in a 67-page unrelated Defense Department bill.

“Was this how more than 500 years of injustice, disenfranchisement, boarding schools, broken treaties, stolen lands, war and for some tribes, genocide, was supposed to end, with a silent apology?,” Charles asked in a post on his website.

He believes the answer is a resounding “no.”

Belmont students aided in fine-tuning the plans for a national social campaign when Charles visited campus last week for a convo and group discussion in one of many stops he’s making on a national awareness tour.

“I don’t want to just protest this,” Charles said. “So I’m pointing out the deficiencies in this apology, while at the same time keeping the door open for further conversation.”

Belmont students and faculty took the conversation from education to activism. Students asked how they thought the apology could reach those it was intended for.

“I know indigenous peoples that are old enough that they were disenfranchised for part of their lives,” Charles said. “And I can guarantee none of these people are ever going to read the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill.”

Attendees brainstormed the specifics of the December awareness event that Charles has organized. It will contain a full reading of the bill — including the apology — with portions being translated to the languages of Native American peoples.

Charles said it is especially important to him that he contributes to a conversation to reconcile grievances between the government and Native America. As a man of Navajo heritage, the issue is personal as well.

“I have already had to endure the fact that you can become president without speaking to the native peoples,” said Charles, pointing out that President Obama signed the lengthy bill but did not read it publicly. “I will not let [the government] apologize to my elders without speaking to them.”

For more information on H.R. 3326, or to learn more about the upcoming reading at the Capitol, visit Charles’s website at

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