Story Behind the Petition
Hi, I’m Tim Phelps
Colorado Man Cycling to Nation’s Capital to Ask for Apology to Native Americans
Hopes to Inspire Americans to Sign Petition to be Presented to President
Allenspark, Colorado Tim Phelps is trekking by bicycle to Washington, D.C. from his home in Allenspark, Colorado, in support of his Petition for Apology in relation to the mistreatment of Native Peoples in the United States. He hopes to deliver his petition to the President when he arrives.
Phelps, 67, is a Culinary Institute of America–trained chef. He retired in 2013 from Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado, where he taught culinary arts. For more than 20 years he and groups of his students traveled annually to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to some 40,000 members of the Oglala Lakota Tribe.
“We went not just to learn, but to help,” Phelps says. “We would collect new and near-new clothing and other items, as well as new, wrapped Christmas presents for kids and teenagers. We’d put on a Christmas celebration there in Potato Creek, with a big dinner and hundreds of dozens of Christmas cookies.”
His bonds grew so close with the people there that Phelps was adopted by a Lakota family in 1996.
Tim Phelps says he feels that, for many Native Peoples, a simple apology will go a long way to start healing from the trauma that they have endured throughout our nation’s history. His hope to begin that healing is embodied in a petition that asks the President of the United States of America to offer an official public apology to Native Peoples for the history of cruelty that Native Peoples have endured as a result of settler colonialism of North America.
“This small gesture, I believe, could start a long overdue process of healing,” Phelps says. “Think of your own life and how you felt when someone who had done you wrong apologized sincerely. Of course, a simple gesture in this instance is not going to erase all the pain and memories of horrific things that happened to Native Peoples in the past – but it just might be the start of something new.”
Phelps notes that while a 2010 joint resolution of Congress (H.R. 3326 – 111th, Department of Defense Appropriations Act), apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States, which was signed by President Obama in 2010, it was effectively buried in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act – it was never read publicly and never announced, nor did the government make an effort to make this apology directly to Native Peoples.
Phelps expects his trip to take six weeks or more. He plans to post updates on his Facebook page periodically throughout the 1,674-mile cross-country journey.
* Your address on the Petition is only so your Congressional Representative gets notified about the Petition. This increases its exposure and hopefully a Presidential Apology. That info is then deleted in house.
Tim Phelps was born and raised in Yonkers, New York, and has lived for most of his adult life in Colorado. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and has studied in or run kitchens as varied as those of the famed Depuy Canal House in High Falls, New York and the Aspen Lodge in Estes Park, Colorado. He has taught the American Culinary Federation Cooks Certified Program for the Colorado Chefs de Cuisine in Denver, Colorado.
In 1993, Tim designed and implemented the student-run food service curriculum for Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colorado. He went on to serve for twenty years as chef-instructor for that program, overseeing a curriculum that was organized around issues of food, farming, and social justice. Hundreds of his former students have gone on to careers in the culinary arts, the food service and hospitality industries, and in social and community service.
In the years since his retirement from Eagle Rock, Tim lived, studied, and traveled extensively in Europe. In 2020 he founded the Colorado-based nonprofit HELPS THE PEOPLE, whose mission is to support Native American reservation schools in providing healthy school meals and in fostering healthy lifestyle choices for their students.
Tim is an experienced outdoorsman, backcountry hiker and backpacker, and road cyclist, and is a trained wilderness first responder.
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Petition for Apology
This is the petition that I am carrying to Washington, for presentation to the President of the United States. The petition can be viewed and signed at…
Our country, the United States of America, was originally inhabited by Indigenous Peoples. With the arrival of European people, that dynamic shifted, and shifted dramatically during the ensuing years. During that time the Native tribes in this country were murdered, overrun, had their land taken away, were forced onto reservations, had their children forcibly removed to boarding schools, and were themselves forced to assimilate into a white Euro-centric cultural dynamic. They had their customs and beliefs stripped from them for no reason other than being different from the new dominant culture.
With this petition, we ask the President of the United States of America to offer an official public apology on behalf of the Government of the United States of America to ALL the tribes in this country and its auspices for the mistreatment and cruelty they have incurred.
This small gesture will start a long-overdue process of healing and also give recognition to the beautiful cultures they have always brought to this land.
Notes On My Motivations for Proposing the Petition for Apology
I’ve sent personal messages to friends and acquaintances, asking them to sign my petition – and I’ve gotten some “No” replies. Because I think that it’s important to listen carefully to what people are thinking and saying, and to understand what their reasoning is, I’ve reached out to those folks to ask – why the negative response?
I’ve gotten responses such as…
“No one ever did anything for me. Why should I do this?”
“If this happens, then what’s next?”
“A simple apology is a slap in the face to Native Peoples. So much more should be done.”
I had tried to anticipate these kinds of responses during the initial planning for my trip. There seem to be such deep divisions among us as a people these days – and the last thing that I want is to be divisive myself.
I hope that you’ll allow me to try to further clarify my feelings and thinking and intent in posting my Petition for Apology, and in undertaking my ride to Washington.
Over the years, I have sat in sangha, or meditation groups, with the Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my spiritual teachers. During one of his Dharma Talks, or teachings, he spoke to personal experiences where a misdeed or negative situation had occurred. And he suggested a simple apology as a way to move forward. A simple apology. His teachings had a profound effect on me, and have stayed with me.
And when reading the Dalai Lama’s book, Ethics for a New Millennium, I came upon the Tibetan phrase, “shen dug ngal wa la mi so pa”, which translates literally as “the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering.” It’s another idea that resonates strongly with me.
And in Lakota the word “Wawokiye” carries the meaning, “generosity and helping – helping without expecting anything in return; giving from the heart.” It’s another of the principles to which I’m holding true as I undertake my journey.
I know that there are many ways that my petition might be interpreted. It might be politicized or manipulated as people feel the need. But the three principles I’ve spelled out here are how I intend it, and how I am carrying it in my heart to Washington. It is a heartfelt request to right a wrong. To simply say that we are sorry.
What happens after that will happen. I am concentrating only on my simple request.
I hope that you will consider signing my petition with that in mind.
I will leave you, though, with one final thought.
During a recent virtual retreat, the Reverend Dr. Ahriana Platten spoke this way in her keynote address:
“What did your grandmother teach you? What did your grandmother teach you about life? Did she tell you to tell the truth? And did she tell you not to steal? Did she tell you it was good to take care of each other, and to think about how someone else might feel based on an action that you took?
“What did your grandmother teach you? Would your grandmother be proud of who you are? Because if your grandmother isn’t going to be proud of who you are, then what you are doing is wrong.
“Make your grandmother proud!”
For me, with this petition and my ride to Washington, I’m just trying to make my grandmother proud.
Lyons, Colorado USA