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Wed Apr 25, 2012, 01:06 PM

Indian Country’s American Nightmare

Last edited Sat May 26, 2012, 03:28 PM - Edit history (1)

If anyone believes the federal government knows what is best for local communities, they should visit an American Indian Reservation. Native Americans are currently immersed in a health care and economic deprivation nightmare that is the consequence of government interference, inefficiency, and inhumane policies. The Native American narrative is one of government creating problems and then, in the name of offering solutions, making matters worse by depriving local communities of their autonomy.

According to research led by Jeffrey E. Holm, professor of psychology at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, national data show that American Indians (AIs) have a lower life expectancy than other Americans. In fact, Holm reports, AIs die at higher rates than white Americans and most other ethnic minorities from cardiovascular disease, tuberculosis, alcoholism-related diseases, motor vehicle crashes, diabetes, unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide. National data show that AIs have a higher prevalence of many risk behaviors including cigarette smoking, obesity, absence of leisure-time physical activity, and binge alcohol use.

Many of the obesity and diabetes related pathologies have one root correlation: poor diet resulting from government programs. In the mid-19th century, under the Indian Removal Act, Native American tribes turned their lands over to the U.S. Government and relocated to Indian Reservations. This relocation disconnected AIs from their usual diet of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables as well as from an active lifestyle of hunting and gathering. By 1890, the government had banned Native Americans from leaving allocated lands to acquire food. In exchange, government offered rations of commodities such as flour, lard and sugar, which today, thanks to corn subsidies, has expanded to highly processed foods rich in carbohydrates and high-fructose corn syrup. These are not the basics of a healthy diet.

Thanks to government regulations, AIs also suffer from the type of economic deprivation that leaves Reservations with virtually no small businesses, including, for example, grocery stores. Communities lacking flourishing businesses are communities that become trapped in cycles of poverty and dysfunction. In fact, the economic malaise in and around reservations stems from a lack of property rights. Terry Anderson, executive director of the Political Economy Research Center, says that AI property rights were also affected by those 19th century treaties which put millions of acres of tribal and individual Indian land under the trusteeship of the Interior department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. As a result these lands cannot be developed, used as collateral for taking out loans to start businesses, easily inherited, or managed productively. Anderson argues that what AIs need is freedom to develop their own property, borrow against it, and make it productive or order to start businesses that lead to wealth creation. The result of a continuation of current policy, says Anderson, is that “Indian economies are likely to remain enclaves of poverty.”


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Response to MindMover (Original post)

Wed Apr 25, 2012, 01:44 PM

1. not all reservations or tribes are the same

I have lived in the 4 corners all my life, within 10 miles of the largest reservation in the US, the Navajo Reservation.
The tribe in the 4 corners region has one of the newest, largest, most modern hospital in the region in Shiprock NM right on the Arizona state line. Even with this facility a large portion of tribal members go to regional off reservation hospitals within a 30 minute drive of the newer Shiprock facility. Healthcare in both scope and access are not a problem in this area for these tribal members, and they get the same care as non-natives in the off reservation facilities. Yes, they have a large disproportionate health problem in the area of alcoholism and diabetes. Both of these conditions being a behavior that has a large negative impact on social, DWI and health facilities. Other than access to healthcare which is there, these problems are under constant address by both the tribe and federal/state entities. But as most realize the drinking and obesity issues are a behavior modification concern whether a native or not.

The fact that there are not enough businesses on reservations is a concern to native and non-natives in the area. I personally would love to see large shopping facilities, reservation liquor outlets and more areas such as private medical practices. BUT, the big stumbling block to this modernization is the tribal government itself. Many businesses have tried to open facilities on the reservation only to hit the wall of tribal government graft, corruption and insurmountable regulatory processes. Until this changes, no businesses will open in these environs. Plus the fact that there is virtually no judicial or law enforcement presence on the reservation, plus all judicial processes usually require FBI and federal court intervention makes private business just not worth it. Until this changes, towns like Shiprock will continue to be the desert wasteland it has been for decades. The only business that thrives is the casino business that is always on the reservation line and all know who is the power behind the casinos, it certainly is not a native power.

The Navajo and Hopi and Jicarilla and Ute indians in the 4 corners are a proud, hard working people and really deserve their own tribal governments to actually attempt to draw private business to the reservations. But, this won't occur till a really large remake of tribal governments take place. These people just wait and hope.

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Response to MindMover (Original post)

Fri May 25, 2012, 09:11 PM

2. The entire reservation system is racist.


It says to the members of the various tribes that you must be set aside.

I don't know the motivations of the politicians who created the reservation system. Andrew Jackson's view on the tribes was actually quite liberal, for example, he believed that the indians were either de facto citizens or that the tribes would have to relocate, preferably to the Indian Territory as you could not have a seperate nation within a nation. Georgia forced issue on the subject and Jackson realized he could not enforce the Supreme Court's decision, so the Cherokee were forced to move.

Some wanted to preserve indian culture, and the sentiment is understandable, but humans are not museum pieces or zoo animals. This attempt at preservation has only led to destruction.

I knew a young Cheyenne woman who had left her tribal reservation in Minnesota, they basically told her never to come back because they were angry at her for leaving. They were losing the money the reservation got for her, most of which went onto the pockets of the tribal council. She said she would never go back.

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Response to loose wheel (Reply #2)

Sat May 26, 2012, 01:02 PM

4. A Cheyenne on a MN rez. Do you know that the Ojibwa and Cheyenne tribes are traditional enemies

and even today are not real fond of each other. We once had some Cheyenne visitors and wanted them to attend our family powwow. The refused to get out to the car. She may have been a victim of this. Also I have lived near the rez for years and if all the money is going to the leaders then where do all the homes, jobs, etc. come from?

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Response to jwirr (Reply #4)

Sat May 26, 2012, 03:42 PM

5. I have worked on a rez in N.California with many tribes and have found that...

there was much inner dislike of one another and they would not try to understand commonality in culture. Also, it seemed that local tribal elders were looked on as drunks or hooligans due to past associations and conflicts with others locally. Once labeled or judged in Native America it is very difficult to remove that label.

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Response to MindMover (Original post)

Sat May 26, 2012, 12:58 PM

3. Our reservation tribal leaders run out the rez here. They have many times benefited from federal

programs which by the way have the same rules as the program does when it benefits others. A good example of that is housing. One of the biggest benefits is the fact that they were given the right to open the casinos. When I first came to the rez hardly anyone had a good job. That is no longer true.

It is true that isolated rural Native communities have a harder time of it but there are a lot reasons behind that besides the BIA.

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