In one bold apologetic message Ann Pierce, Director Parks and Trails of Minnesota Department of Natural resources wrote “With Deepest Apologies, Emičíktuŋža”. What are the healing powers of a deep apology? the phrase I’m sorry ? and Emičíktuŋža?
A potentially hurtful oversight led Pierce to send out a follow up to the Trailblazer newsletter that included a bold apology and a thank you, Wópida. Can we learn from her empowering use of “Emičíktuŋža” and “Wópida”?
She wrote “Yesterday we sent out the latest issue of the Trailblazer newsletter with a theme of gratitude. Today I’m sharing with you our deep regret for unintentionally omitting wópida, which is the Dakota word for “thank you,” from what we had intended to be an inclusive message of thanks. With that omission, we failed to represent the Dakota people. It is commonly stated that the Dakota people are invisible in their own homeland. This incident demonstrates the truth in that statement.
Mni Sota is the birthplace of the Dakota people, who have been here for many centuries and continue to play a significant role. It was brought to our attention that the omission of Dakota language in our newsletter felt like a form of erasure, which is something the Dakota people have experienced in multiple ways. With this email, we want to acknowledge this truly regrettable omission and apologize to all Dakota people and all readers of the Trailblazer.”
Pierce’s letter gave me great pause and insight into the importance of naming our errors when we have harmed someone by our words or lack of words.
When was the last time you had the opportunity to give a courageous, heartfelt apology? When was the last time you added a thank you for your gifts to the world as part of your apology?
The word sorry and apology are words that have been analyzed and debated by psychologists, researchers, and even corporations. For a time, we were all being encouraged to really think about our overuse of the word “sorry.” The word sorry even launched a 2014 advertisement series by hair product company Pantene. Their videos created discussions in homes and workplaces about the overuse of the word sorry. What’s your reaction to this somewhat dated video Sorry and Pantene?
I recognize that sorry is not always the right word for the moment. I also know that much research has been done on the use of I’m sorry and emotional abuse. However, what we are looking at here is perhaps something quite different.
In the times we are living in “I’m sorry” and “thank you for your gifts to the world” may perhaps be the two most powerful healing words we have in our language. Where might you need to be courageously bold and offer deepest apologies, Im’ sorry, Emičíktuŋža and a thank you, wópida?
- Who is someone you want to give a deep honest apology to? Emičíktuŋža
- Who do you need to say thank you to? Wópida
I like to think that together we can heal some of the wounds in our schools, workplaces, communities and states. Pierce opened the door for us as a model. She closed her letter with: “… we don’t always get it right. We’re committed to learning from our mistakes, and we’ll continue to work collaboratively to represent the Dakota accurately and all people who share the geography of Minnesota”
I recognize this may not feel like enough for some in light of the centuries of harm. However, for me this is a baby step in the right direction of healing.
Where do you want to begin with offering healing through apologies and thank you to a friend, family or community member?