It’s Time To Do Away With Indian Reservations

*update 4/18/17   My article seems to have touched a nerve among some reservation Natives who have sent comments.  While I don’t retract my premise (that Natives are getting screwed by the federal government and racial segregation is not acceptable today) I can see that parts of the article appear to broad-brush all reservation Natives, and I know better than that.  My article is based on US Census Bureau and other federal statistics, and my opinions reflect the aggregate data of the reservation system, not any individual Native, tribe, or reservation.  My apologies for any poorly chosen remarks, no offense intended.  The article follows unedited.

Oh, and yes, the song I chose sucked.  I did remove that!

*update 4/24/17  I just discovered the excellent work performed on this very subject by Naomi Schaefer Riley.  Her book published last summer is titled “The New Trail of Tears – How Washington Is Destroying American Indians”.  And here is a link to her excellent video for Prager University, published today: American Indians Are Still Getting a Raw Deal 

I’m pleased that this topic is getting some attention.




About 1 million Native Americans live on reservations, most of them in poverty.  Crime, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, bad schools, poor health and other hardships are common.  While they are not required to stay on the reservations, federal policies effectively keep Native Americans there, dependent on their benefits.

There is no longer any justification for continuing the archaic, immoral, and wasteful practice of racially segregating Native Americans and subjugating them to perpetual poverty.

Surely nobody would argue that the quality of life for families isolated on Indian reservations is acceptable.  Yet no effort has been made to assimilate reservation Native Americans into the American mainstream.

The reservation situation is not only inhumane, it is a fiscal disaster.  Billions of federal dollars flow to the reservations, with little evident result.  Corruption is rampant.

The tribes have also been used by big-government and left-wing organizations to seize property, wealth and control from landowners and taxpayers.  The Flathead Reservation Water Compact threatens to claim water rights for the tribe that far exceeds their dominion and would cripple the agriculture industry.

Total government spending on the reservations is hard to determine due to an intentional lack of government transparency.  I found a chart prepared by the Dept. of the Interior that shows a 2017 budget estimate of $21 billion targeted to tribes and Native American communities.  The cost of health and welfare benefits, including food stamps, disability, housing subsidies, unemployment, education programs, health care and other programs could easily exceed that figure.  Many seemingly unrelated federal programs concentrate spending on the reservations that just blurs into oblivion – for example, I observed eight years ago that the largest proportion of Obama “stimulus” money in Montana went to the reservations and tribes.

The 2016 elections made clear that now is the time for swamp-draining and fiscal reorganization.  Now is the time to end racial discrimination in every form.  Why not transform this large group of Americans (many of whom have distinguished military service) into happy, healthy, productive taxpayers? Now is the best opportunity in many decades to take a fresh, honest look at what our government is doing, and make sweeping changes.

We could, within a year, eliminate the embarrassment of Indian reservations from our landscape.  Reservation tribes could distribute their commonly-owned property to members, and preserve their privately-owned property.  All federal agencies, departments and programs related to Native Americans could be sunset.  And I submit that two years of federal spending on the reservations and tribes could be calculated, divided, and paid to reservation dwellers in a lump sum.  My cursory math:  $100 billion divided by 1 million reservation households = $100,000 per household.

Here’s your share of the property.  Here’s a check.  The reservation is no more, welcome to the United States of America.

This does not need to threaten the Native American culture or traditions.  Eliminating the reservations would blow up the subjugation of this group by an over-reaching and cold-hearted federal government.

This is a simple first look at a very old problem, but the situation can’t go on, and nothing gets done until we start.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side




192 thoughts on “It’s Time To Do Away With Indian Reservations

    • See, Ronell, I don’t think you read my article.

      I don’t want your land and resources. I just think YOU should own your land and resources, not the federal government! How can you be so happy to be under the thumb of the government, herded like sheep into a little corner only because of the color of your skin, instead of having control over your own property? If you live on the reservation (I know they are all different) chances are you do not own the land or home you live in, or if you do you sure couldn’t sell it to the highest bidder without a whole lot of government interference. This is freedom?

      Please re-read the article, try not to assume what I am saying before you read it.

  1. An article filled with falsehoods and stereotypes. So typical of the far right. Suggestions of rampant corruption yet offering no evidence to prove your point. The suggestion that non-Indians have had property seized and wealth confiscated is laughable at best when one considers what the Tribes have endured in the past. The Ignorant assumption that we don’t pay taxes is false as well. I could go on but I doubt it would do any good. Next time do some research before you decide to go on one of your rants.

    • Thanks for your comment, Troy.

      First, I do not mean to broad brush any group. I have so many friends from so many different tribes – every one is unique. My article is based on the reservation programs, in aggregate, nationwide, and using federal stats.

      I know many reservation Indians pay federal income taxes. Most do not according to census reports which place poverty rates at 40% and up on most reservations (for that matter, only about half of American pay federal income taxes). This is not a criticism, it is just related to the fact that unemployment and underemployment is not a good situation for anybody. My “rant” about property seized is based on the lawsuits against private landowners related to water rights. When a rancher loses his water rights to the government he is out of business.

      I understand your assumptions about me, but believe it or not, my concern about reservations is mistreatment of Natives, not any criticism.

      Regarding corruption – show me a huge spending program that isn’t corrupt? What do you have to show for the $100,000 per year the feds are spending on each reservation Native? Where is the money going? I say, give it to you instead of spending it on “programs”, many of which never show any results. What’s wrong with that?

      If you believe Native Americans are better off on racially segregated on reservations living on subsistence handouts from the government, rather than getting paid off for their treaties, getting a good education and enjoying the fruits of American life that everybody else has a shot at, you need to give me some details in favor of reservations. I think the reservation system is racism and abuse. Where am I wrong?

      • Why do you think, that if I live on a reservation, I don’t get to enjoy the fruits of American life?

      • JR, the fact that you read my article and responded indicates that (assuming you live on a reservation) you are probably in the small minority of Natives who are doing great. But read the statistics, check out other reservations around the country where things aren’t so peachy. Most aren’t. Many reservations just suck, including some in Montana.

        Part of my complaint is the financial abuse. You should be getting at least $100k per year. That’s the annual federal spending on reservation Natives, not including schools, health care, infrastructure, etc. Where is your share going?

        The other thing is I am very opposed to racism and racial segregation.

        But as you can see from the responses to my article, the reservation Natives who are doing well are happy to keep the “plantation” setup intact, without concern for those whose lives are not so great.

      • your wrong in implying we are all drunks/ druggies living on government handouts that never pay taxes, well I for one pay more then my share of taxes, my property taxes alone go to a community off the reservation a community I do not live in. I have a job, pay federal taxes do not drink or never used drugs, you have sterotyped me and every other hard working Native American into a small class of citizens that live on the reservation the same class that live in every city and town in America the only diffrence is they are white.

      • Denise, if I implied that “all” reservation Natives are drunks and druggies living on govt. handouts, that would be wrong. I agree. Not “all”, but the statistics say a high percentage are.

        What I am hearing you, and many other Natives say, is that you believe many most Natives would rather live in Browning, or Pine Ridge, or Wind River, or Pine Hill NM rather than cash out their interest in the treaties and assets and have a shot at the good life? Your life might be peachy, especially if you have a high-paying government job, but for God’s sake, look around the country. Where are the billions going? Look at the crappy schools! Look at the poor health care! Did you get your $100,000 plus from the government this year? Last year? Every year? That’s the amount of annual federal spending on every reservation Native not including schools, health care and infrastructure. Where is your chunk? Corruption!

        I’m sorry, I think Natives are being mistreated, racially segregated, and abused. And apparently totally brainwashed into thinking that life on the “plantation” is just fine, massa. There’s a better life out there for most Natives, I hope some will look for it.

      • It is not a ‘spending program’ can you say unfulfilled treaties? It is owed. So if you made an agreement or contract and whoever owed you paid you in drips and dribbles but owed a tremendous debt- would you like an outside entity to say oh we don’t see the good of this ‘spending program’-cut it off.

        One ‘small’ point, there are so many incorrect assumptions context and history here it is breathtaking, but not surprising. Thank you for new course content.

      • How come people who “have friends who are Native” seem to think they have the solution to whatever they feel is “wrong” on the reservations? Never ceases to amaze me!!

      • Don’t have the “solutions”. Just opening the question. If something ain’t working right, let’s try to fix it. Statistically Natives are getting the short end of the American stick.

    • Agreed. I cannot count the times I have attempted to clarify rumors and misconceptions for non Natives. Yet, the falsehoods are never ending.
      As soon as one failed discussion passes, another opinionated know-it-all wants to engage in discussion.

      “Reading” about Natives, or “researching,” is usually informal and not grounds for any opinion from a non Native.
      Gather all the statistics you want, author, but you still don’t have a grasp on the culture or the humanity of a group which you are an outcast. Even formally educated , well intentioned, non Indians are not whimsically welcomed to tribal members lives.
      The arrogancy does not surprise me, however. Its a primary example of why non Indians are kept at bay.
      Do yourself a favor, author, and keep your opinions off my reservation.

    • I seriously was going to post and then I read this comment! You hit every point I was going to make effortlessly and eloquently. Also why do they think we have all these programs and then don’t also call into account that they are living on land that our ancestors bled for! As a Oglala Lakota I have grandparents that lived AIM who remember when the government was going to just take.

  2. I feel you need to be educated about life of the Natives of America. I would love to speak with you. Apprently my first lesson for you is study the treaty rights of the Natives and why the American goverment made them with them. Then you should figure out where the ammendments and the constitution come from.

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment Kerry. I can always use more education about Natives. Unfortunately, most of my first-hand knowledge comes from being around the reservations in Montana and North Dakota, I don’t know much about the southwestern reservations other than what I read. The statistics that are out there don’t paint a very good picture of the quality of life on the reservations in the aggregate.

      I hate racism, and I hate seeing your money disappearing down a rat hole. It appears that Natives have been pretty well indoctrinated into acceptance of a situation that no other group would tolerate.

      By the way, I have studied the constitution extensively.

      • I wouldn’t rely on Wikipedia for acuraye information. As it not accepted by any university professor I have ever studied with. Nor would I value a magazine for the public. I think you would find valid information from a university library with access to articles and research not set to a tone of a targeted newsstand audience.
        If you spend a lot of time on reservations, do like Ian Frazier did and go to the Indian colleges . People will help you understand why Natives find your writing misguided and judgemental.

      • Yeah I know, Danielle, I just grabbed a quick fact from there and linked it.

        The fact that reservation Indians lag so far behind the rest of the country in terms of income and opportunity has been kept a deep, dark little secret for a long time. I just threw on the light switch. Not judgmental, just looking for something better for fellow Americans.

      • I think your premis is to continue to steal our culture just as they did when the policy was “kill the Indian, save the man”. All that was done by stealing native culture as well as imprisoning Indian children after they were stolen from their parents. It’s all the same, you want to steal culture. You think the money is stolen, audit the crooks, and that it’s racism to want our land, you are wrong. You are uneducated. I’ve worked on several reservations and it’s no different than any other small community. Shit does happen, but don’t deny others their identity, which is what you’re calling for. Don’t deny our treaty fights because it’s inconvenient for you.

      • Rod, is there a way to keep the Indian culture and pay Natives for the value of their property? That would be the ticket. Seems to me, many of the Natives who have commented here are most concerned about losing their culture. But they are giving up their American rights to ownership and control of their property just to hang on to that culture.

  3. Tom, did you know that when Montana rewrote its constitution back in the 70’s they declared every use of water in Montana to be a “public use?” So Montana ranchers and farmers had any “private ownership” in water stolen by the new constitution. Under the new constitution all water use can be completely defined by the legislature. Pretty scary situation for Montana farmers and ranchers in a world where water is becoming more valuable every day. The only place they might have an argument that they could have private ownership in water is maybe on the reservations.

  4. “Yet no effort has been made to assimilate reservation Native Americans into the American mainstream”
    Huh. Really? What was the Indian Removal Act? The Assimilation Act aka The Dawes Act? Obviously you’re just talking out of your ass. Also you want to take what little Natuve Americans have left and redistribute it to all the households? Isn’t that what the white people did in the first place? Talk about trying to make history repeat itself. How much do you make? I think we should take your worth and your home and redistribute it to who we see fit. Kinda the same thing.

    • Huh? If there was an effort to assimilate Natives there would be no reservations. Natives are being racially segregated. I hate racism.

      You said I want to take what little Natives have left and redistribute it to all the households? Read again. I said you should be getting the money that the government is spending, not some bureaucrats running fakey “programs” that never work. Did you get your $100k this year? Last year? That’s what the feds are spending in your name on “programs”, not including schools, health care, infrastructure. Shouldn’t that money go to you?

      You said we should take my worth and redistribute it. News flash – that’s exactly what the federal government does. They take your hard earned money, and mine, and redistribute it to other people as they see fit.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • Maybe I am missing something here. Are you saying that you woukdnt be doing reservation Indians a favor by assimilation? Have you considered the possibility that they do not want to be assimilated? “Racial segregation”? Is that not a forced situation? Natives are allowed to assimilate if they so choose. We also have the right not to. What I am reading, author, is that you would like to eliminate our rights to remain left alone to our own way of life. You may not think its as good as yours is, but you are assuming reservation natives bear any desire to have a life like yours.
        Again, nobody is forcing anyone to stay on the reservation. But you want to force people off the reservation.
        Maybe its not your place to dictate what others do with their lives. If you want to eliminate poverty, start with inner cities in your own world.

      • Big misunderstanding about “assimilation”. To me it just means having the same opportunities for education, jobs, equity, freedom, mobility, health that everybody else has. Statistically Natives are getting the short end of the stick on average. Doesn’t mean having to give up one’s culture. Re: staying on the rez – why not stay there and OWN the rez instead of having to jump hoops for the government whenever you want to do something? Many reservations are so screwed up you can’t get a mortgage on a house because the ownership of the property has been divided 50 ways.

        Yeah, we really need to work on some of our inner cities, they are much worse than most of the reservations. I drove through Anacostia (Washington, DC) a few months ago and it was astonishing.

        We gotta quit denying that some Americans aren’t getting a fair shot.

    • Thank you Maja, this guy is stereo- typing like mad. Has ever ever lived on a rez? The American government stole land, lied, cheated, and committed out right genocide upon Native people, and now he is saying the government gives “too much?” I would agree that the American government did not set Natives up to win, but if we lose our reservations…our land, what little soverighty is left then what?? I would suggest instead that he try to understand the affects that genocide has had, and instead of laying out all the figures of how too much is spent by the government — to see that is not enough for what was taken away, and to suggest taking away what land is left and trying to “assimilate” people that he perhaps to speak to the people among our Native populations who are making difference, and ask them their wise council. Instead of complaining about how much money is so called “wasted” funding reservations.

      • Right Ginna. You say the government is screwing you. And when I say you should get yourselves free of the government so you can control your own property and lives, you kick my butt.

        You can’t have it both ways. Do you want the feds running your life, or don’t you?

  5. I understand what you are saying. But u could end reservations and the people still won’t leave, unless force is used. But I kind of agree in some way, but It’s not my generations fault, we are slowly but surely winning elections and making it on council. We shouldn’t have to suffer and lose everything because the older generations were crooked and greedy. Give us younger guys a chance to make a change, America made a huge change n it’d the older generation bringing our country back to segregation

    • If the assets of the reservations could be distributed to the tribe members fairly, many would choose not to leave. Others might take a huge cash settlement and use it to improve the opportunities for their families, i.e. education, move to a good job location, start a business, etc.

      No way do I want Natives to “suffer and lose everything.”

      I’m taking a lot of heat for this article from people who apparently didn’t read it.

      • If our land wasn’t taken illegally and If the white man (including you) didn’t come here, we would have everything we need…family, food and living good. But trust the government and ppl like you and this is what we get, ppl thinking we don’t have anything and we live off the government and get so much. Hell no,..what’s that money going to get us? It won’t give us our land back and yes we should have it back, because all we ever did as a ppl was trust the corrupt Damn white ppl and government that were suppose to take care of us.

      • Your point is well taken. BUT. We can’t change history. It is what it is. If Native land was contiguous it would be pretty easy to grant full independence. But it isn’t. So now, how do we go forward? You guys are getting screwed by the federal government but unfortunately many of you seem to like it that way. What’s the answer?

  6. It’s easy to set back n take a look at it. Only have you ever lived on any of them? An lived on them for longer then a few days, month’s? I’m talking about living there for year’s? Then see if it’s easy? It’s not. For someone on the outside looking in? Yeah it does look like we got it made. All these Billions or Millions you’re talking about don’t always make it to each tribe’s. By the time it gets handed from one person hand to the next person hand. An all these hands are taking a share of it for what ever reason they think they need it for? All these hands are taking n taking so by the time it gets to where it’s suppose to be?! There’s nothing there but a few dollers n some change. An I don’t know bout anyone else but you can’t build a Castle with those kind of funds. An for school’s?! Did you know most natives do finish school n go on to College. We play the hand we’re giving. Yes the school is poor and the lunch programs suck!! Are kid’s are starving cuz there’s hardly any money there. Yes we do need more programs for our young adults. Like a young family program. We need so much n this money you say we’re “giving” isn’t there. Yes we could do away with the reservation and “welcome into the United States” but it’s our “UNITED STATE” from the start. The land you’re standing on this very minute was ours wait! It was the Creater it don’t belong to you or us?! It belongs to mother earth. An she let’s everyone borrow it. That’s why we went anywhere we wanted to. We respect mother earth An give thanks to everything she provides for us. An the water don’t belong to you or us. It belongs to mother earth. She let’s everyone use it. Our water right’s are being sold to this “UNITED STATE” you’re talking about. For money! An it’s money we don’t even get see let alone use! Sold for this “LUMP” sum you’re talking about. An now you want to give us this “LUMP SUM” for what little land we got?! Shit! That would be nice. An most wait some natives did sale for this “LUMP” sum. It’s called the Cobell! Ok now I invite you to come live where we do?! An you’ll see where all the Billions go. Then after you done living like we do. Then you can sit back n talk bout. So till you do?! You shouldn’t go round talking bout thing’s you don’t know anything bout.

    • Here we go again.

      Georgina, you are saying “the government is doing a lousy job of taking care of us.”

      And I said “maybe you should get the value of your property and tell the government to take a hike, and take care of yourselves as you know best.”

      And then you go off on me.

      You can’t have it both ways. Do you want to settle for what the government gives you? Or do you want to receive the value of your property and have freedom?

    • Just somebody who wants every American to be happy and successful. Nobody has talked about the fact that Natives (on average) don’t have near the opportunities (financial, educational, health, mobility, freedom) that other Americans do. From what I’m hearing, Natives really love their culture and are willing to put up with all kinds of crap from the federal government to preserve it. Understandable, but I wish they could have both culture and opportunities!

  7. You are looking closely at reservation statics in order to take the reservations and make us American citizens? What? We’re not American citizens? What little was not stolen from us is ours. You talk about billions of dollars going to natives. Did you look at the billions going to farmers n ranchers in food stamps, welfare n such as your saying only natives gets? Did you look on your city streets at all the people who don’t have jobs and have to live off all the billions of dollars in government benefits? On our reservation I’d say over half of the people work, if not in an office, in other self-employment. And you know the government aren’t going to get left out of their share. You non-native Indians like to believe you support us and give us free checks. Very untrue. We pay our way. We help those that can’t when we can afford to. Family take care of their homeless, in most cases here. You don’t see them sleeping all over the streets here. Can you say the same for you race? Take pictures of the cars and shacks you impoverished have to live in.

    • Okay, Dawn. I guess it’s okay with you that Natives on average have lower income, worse schools, poorer health, more unemployment, less mobility, than other Americans.

      Or at least it’s okay with you because there are other miserable people too. Don’t try to help them, or fix the problems. Just step over their bodies on the sidewalk.

      I don’t get it.

  8. Yes I read it. Typical for a non-native to determine what is best for the Natives. If the Natives want help they would ask for it. White privilege a little? Please don’t give advice unless you are asked for it.

    • Don’t give me the racist crap. That dog don’t hunt. If I was a racist, why would I be looking for a way to make life better for Native Americans? Duh. Julia, the racist thing is a weak liberal tactic. Whenever a liberal can’t make a good argument, they just scream RAAAACIST! It’s juvenile, you can do better.

      Regarding the non-native determining what’s best for Natives – do you vote? Well stop it! Because you shouldn’t be determining what’s best for me!

      Just returning snark!

  9. You said, “the fact that you read my article and responded indicates that (assuming you live on a reservation) you are probably in the small minority of Natives who are doing great.”

    Translation: Most natives living on reservations can’t read, and don’t use social media.


    • Sorry. That was cold, and not right.

      I have been overrun with comments from people who are contradicting themselves so badly it makes me crazy! I’m getting frustrated.

      I’m just saying you can’t have the government in control of everything on the reservations and then complain about how lousy the government is. Why not own your own property and be free of the government control?

  10. I would just like to say, you Americans need to just leave us first inhabitants alone. I hear everything you’re saying and it makes good sense but if you’re not indigenous keep your ideas to yourself. You pay taxes because you didn’t originate from this land. Take away the reservations and make natives pay taxes? Really, that’s really what this rant is about. Taxes.

    • No, no, no, Roseen! That’s not at all what this is about! It’s about freedom!

      On average Natives have lower incomes, more unemployment, worse education, poorer health, and less opportunity than other Americans. It’s because reservation Natives are under the control of the federal government and are getting screwed. I’m just saying if you owned your own property and didn’t have to jump through government hoops every minute of your lives, your life would be even better. Nobody wants to take away your culture or your property. Just the opposite.

  11. Obviously you don’t know what your talking about. But that’s okay. You really have to be a member of tribe to know and understand how things work on reservation. Those of us who are members of tribes know that most non natives are ignorant of how life is in Indian country. You should take some American Indian classes so you get clue! Have a good one.

    • You sound like a nice lady, Cindy. You want the best for everybody. Don’t look past your brothers who are struggling. Your life might be fine, but statistically, Natives are getting the short end of the American stick and it doesn’t have to be that way.

  12. So throw in the towel & take away what little these people have struggled for the past 5 centuries? Rather than sacrificing the traditions & pride why not build proper housing, water, schools & opportunities?

    • Take away? All I’m saying is let Natives own the land they live on, and have the same opportunities other Americans do instead of getting the short end of the stick (on average).

      You say “why not build proper housing, water, schools, and opportunities?” THE REST OF AMERICA IS DOING THAT, PRIVATELY, EVERY DAY! You don’t have it because you are stuck under federal control.

      Keep your culture. Don’t let anybody take that from you. But for crying out loud, don’t sacrifice your family’s standard of living, you can have both.

  13. This was already tried in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and it was an abysmal failure. Why would you try to repeat that terrible history?

    If you think that this political and land use system should be discontinued, would you extend this to all public (state and federal) lands as well? You could give all this land to individual US citizens as private property too!

    The real issue here is that reservations represent a land-base for sovereign tribal nations. These nations are recognized by formal treaty and several hundred years of legal precedent.

    The impulse for suggesting this approach (abolishing reservations) is normally part of a false notion about tribal lands and status, in general. The idea tends to be that there is a failed system and Indians are just a bunch of poor wards of the federal government. That is not accurate. There are 566 tribal nations currently recognized by the federal government and some are highly functional. Some reservations generate BILLIONS of dollars that have to share revenue with states as part of tribal-state compacts (e.g. for gaming or gas, or cigarette sales). But, pointing out reservations that are having severe social problems and then claiming that is representative of ALL reservation is disengenuous. Or, it would be like saying Detroit or Michigan is failing so we should just dissolve the state or municipality and have them join surrounding jurisdictions. The northern part could go to Wisconsin, and the southern part could be included with Indiana. Detroit should just be disbanded and be placed under surrounded city jurisdictions (that are doing better).

    No, that is not how it works. And no, reservations should not be abolished based on uniformed whims and arbitrary political impulses.

    • The reservations can claim to be “sovereign nations” all they want, but in reality they are at the complete and total mercy of the federal government.

      Yes, some tribes are highly functional. More than highly. And some are Pine Ridge.

      And yes, most public and state land ownership should be abolished. The US constitution strictly forbids the federal government from owning land other than for military bases. It was amended to include parks, but that has been terribly abused.

      I would just prefer that Natives own the land they live on, and have the same educational, financial, job, health, mobility, and freedom opportunities that other Americans do. Statistically they are getting the short end of the stick.

  14. Dawes tried that already.. Your government isn’t any better than any tribal governments. How about saying uphold the treaties instead of trying to oust tribal members from their lands? Haven’t you benefitted enough from your colonizing of our ancestral homelands? If you want to pay us off, make sure you consider reimbursement for the land you live on and all of the gold and oil you dug out of treaty lands on top of that 100 billion. Typical coming out of the right wing.

    • Frank, I understand your frustration. You can say “uphold the treaties” all you want, nothing is going to change because you are terribly outnumbered and don’t have nuclear weapons.

      Whining about how you have been mistreated will not change anything. And the thing that’s crazy Frank, is you are saying “the government screwed us” and when I say you should get extracted from the government you get mad at me. You can’t have it both ways, do you want government control, or not?

  15. You write an article based on…? Assimilation? This is NOT what natives want our at least the ones I know and are related to. Look at the US assimilation and the way the achieve it then turn around and incorporate an industry of prisons for control. Why don’t you write about the abuse of it the profit it that takes to assimilate ppl you deem worthy of it. Quite frankly, you can the the article& dive up your ASSimulated back side. I lived, worked on the reservation and guess what…..ppl from in town (Caucasians) dump their trash out in housing ,however they didn’t see fit to come clean it up but sure complained about it. Our relatives were beaten, killed , raped and ridiculed for this do called assimilation. They just keep taking because ours never enough for the fat takers, wicasu’s.

    • Assimilation is misunderstood. To me it is just having the same opportunities for education, jobs, health, mobility and freedom that other Americans have. Statistically Natives are getting the short end of the American stick.

      I guess you think life under federal control is working out just great for all the Native across the country. Good luck with that.

  16. Your first mistake is assuming that all Native people want the American dream of greed, selfishness and materialism. When in truth we want the freedom to live as we choose to live, without greed, selfishness and materialism. Not wanting to be restricted from the freedom to roam the land, the mountains and the waters freely, is as simple as it can be, to be free to choose on our own. America is becoming the reservation where everything is divided up and sold to the highest bidder, becoming private lands to be selfishly horded to the point of not sharing with each other. To the point that everyone will become a private land owner and then enslaved to the government to pay taxes for those lands that you will never truly own. Sounds to me that everyone has already been duped that to be free, we must use up all the land, become tax payers and enslave ourselves to the government. Welcome to the reservation buddy!

    • Oh come on, Coyote, you’re telling me that Indians want to be poorer, have worse health, less freedom and mobility, more unemployment than the rest of the country? I don’t buy it!

      Now, you are talking about sharing the land, and we just have a serious philosophical difference there. I believe the natural order of man is to have the freedom to earn, use and keep his own property for the benefit of himself and his family. You believe in sharing. That’s fair, but throughout history private ownership has always elevated standard of living, and shared ownership (communism) has always reduced standard of living. Always. Check out what’s going on in Venezuela.

  17. We do not want to get rid of the Rez. Once again white people think they know what is best. The reservation is the last place we have left to preserve our cultural identity, the identity you white people tried so hard to destroy. Leave us alone, if you want to help poor people go to the soup kitchen and volunteer. Rez business is none of your business.

    • Keep your culture, and your land if you want. But own the land you live on! Don’t rely on the feds to make your family’s decisions, they always screw up!

  18. It is time to do away with all communities who are living in poverty. Where people can only get jobs working at minimum wage. They should not be living on government handouts like food stamps and use medical care. They should all be drug tested before we give them anything, because of course they are all wanting to live like this and not better themselves. What shall we do with them? Well we can round them up and process them by who can serve our oligarchy the best and I guess dare we say it, he’ll get rid of the rest.

    You disgust me, that you do not even understand that the whole USA is becoming a reservation, we were just the first to experience it.

  19. The unemloyment, alcohol, drug abuse, crime etc etc aren’t just found on reservations, you can find these social problems anywhere, there r a Lot of good things happening on reservations, not all of us live in poverty, we work, pay taxes, it’s home to alot of us and have no wish to leave

    • Carmen, too many reservation Natives are struggling, compared with the rest of the country. Just because there is a bum in New York City doesn’t mean it’s okay to have ten bums on the rez. I want better for all Americans.

  20. Treaties were made because the American government wanted something….land, water, mineral rights, etc. Reservations are all that is left of our homelands! You assume too much! Just because you say sell the land, take the money, join the American dream, we should do what you suggest? Who are you? You are insulting and are like those peddlers of old who used to sell those magical elixers that state they heal whatever ails you! You start with your inner cities or rural mountain areas. There’s many positive things coming about in Native Tribes all over, a new spirit happening. Our people have survived every thing tried on them to kill them off or remove them. We will survive and thrive.

  21. I didn’t bother reading past “Surely nobody would argue that the quality of life for families isolated on Indian reservations is acceptable. Yet no effort has been made to assimilate reservation Native Americans into the American mainstream.”

    Because, it’s obvious that you do not understand why Native people remain on the Rez in the 1st place. Since you didn’t bother to go to a single reservation as it is apparent by the way your article is written, I’ll explain.

    Reservations today, are the only things that ties my people to our ancestors. Our languages are being eradicated, the many religious beliefs from more than thousands of thousands of tribes, nations and even individual villages are now mostly based on the Bible.

    Had you gone to a reservation, you would have seen and experienced the many reasons why those who continue to live on reservations choose to do so.

    Go visit, talk to those who live on reservations and to those who don’t, listen to both sides instead of making assumptions.

  22. Your government has been screwing natives since the beginning. This just sounds like another way to screw them again. You are on their ancestral lands! No amount of money can take the place of that. Unless all the accumulated wealth to their lands were given back to them. Wounded knee, big horn, trail of tears. You all came here for a future, just not theirs..

    • Listen to yourself.

      “Your government has been screwing natives since the beginning.”

      That is EXACTLY the point of my article. When I suggest maybe you should look at owning your own property and stop getting screwed by the government, you go crazy on me. You can’t have it both ways! Government control, or no government control! What do you want?

  23. I don’t know your motivation to remove reservations, but everything you propose has already been tried and it didn’t work first of all you people forget these are people with treaties with the federal government and some states these tribes are sovereign nations , but irregardless of that you should study up some more these reservations are starting be producers and they are no longer prison camps they are the last of our homelands so please think before you start saying these kinds of things we have put more of our people in uniform than any other group of people combined even though there are so few of us we have still fought your battles and served this country faithfully because we know what it’s like to lose your freedom we also have begun to turn the evil that was done to is into a strength of resolve that will carry us long into the future of our people and these reservations will be the womb from which we grow and no one is going to stop us.

    • God bless our American Native warriors who served and serve.

      And glad that some reservations are doing well. Many aren’t, and we need to deal with it. More government programs will not solve anything.

  24. The reservation system was not our idea, and it has done many harmful things to us over the years, but the one overriding function that we actually benefit from is sovereignty. America came to us without our request and without our permission, we should not have to be forced to “become one also”. The reservations functionally mete out areas of land where we can still be pre-American to the modern limited extent that it is possible, and where we can operate as our own separate nations with our own sovereign governments. This separation IS our identity.

    • Jim, what “sovereignty” do you have? On many reservations, members can’t even own their homes because the land ownership is so complex. Nothing can be done without climbing through layers of government control. Aside from the cultural value of living with other tribe members, name one thing about living at Pine Ridge that is better than Denver or Santa Fe or Tampa? Sovereignty?

      Time for the government to pay Natives what their property (what’s left of it) is worth and get out their business.

  25. Welcome to the United States? American Indians are Americans…..The true Americans and they are U.S Citizens. They live in the United States of America like everyone else. The only difference is a good majority live on their own sovereign land which is also known as a reservation….In the United States of America. They’re not living in a foreign land. I also wanted to add that my husband and children are native American , enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe and I myself am of native blood and raised around the culture. My husband was raised on a reservation. Speaks his language fluent and keeps his culture. His father is second chief of their small tribe. He has never drank smoked or did drugs. He has a good job. Not everyone living on reservations are alcoholics or drug users. There are some really amazing educated people coming out of these communities and they are doing great things. To imply that the reservation system should be abolished is easier said then done. It’s not going to make things better for indigenous people by doing so. They’re lives, culture, families and traditions have been connected to these communities for generations. Have you actually visited these communities? Talked with people? Your writing this article from a non native point of view.

    • Thanks for your comment Victoria. Yes, I grew up around reservations.

      Too many Natives living in oppression and squalor. Not all, but too many. I won’t look the other way.

      • Knee jerk react? Surely you are joking after the things you said.
        If you’re not joking, you’re incredibly heartless and extremely uneducated about the subject you opened this can of worms about.
        Keep in mind, YOU’RE on our land, spewing things like “time to do away with Indian reservations”. Yeah, you’re not going to be winning any genius of the year award.
        We’ve already lost enough. The Land Is OURS…. Thieves can never own what they have stolen, doesn’t matter who they are, a thief is a thief and stolen is stolen.

      • Read again, Lee. I advocate turning the land over to the Natives, taking it away from government control. You say “the land is OURS!” Great. On many reservations you can’t even get a mortgage to buy or sell a home because the ownership is so convoluted. Try to do anything on Native land without an army of lawyers and government forms!

        Yeah, the land is YOURS all right. You just don’t have any rights to it, all the control is with the government.

        Lee, I hope you are one of the few Natives who actually has titled land and are empowered to do what you want with it. The vast majority of reservation Natives don’t even own the homes they live in, let alone any land.

  26. Tom, please know that assimilation efforts have been done before. Have you heard of the boarding schools? Children were forcibly removed from their families and put into military schools. They were submersed in the English culture (hair cut, taught that their spiritual beliefs were of the devil and forced to accept Christianity, abused and beaten for speaking their native language-the only language they knew. (Imagine if this happened to you, your children if you have any, or to your parents or grandparents when they were small.) They were taken from very young and not released til adulthood. The idea was to kill the Indian and save the man. Being taken away from their families, they no longer had role models. They were subject to abuse daily and put to work to learn a trade. When they would get out they didn’t know how to function. They might know a trade but they didn’t fit into society. A whole generation lost who they were. So some turned to self medication. Because they had no role models other than abusers, they didn’t know how to raise their own children. They wouldn’t dare speak their own language to them for fear that their children would also suffer. This assimilation process did a very good job of breaking the people. It’s true that the government stuck them on the worst pieces of land and told them to exist, but the treaties they made with the people this land belongs to, promises care and education. There needs to be checks in balances on where the money goes, it’s true, but to divide up an amount, give it to the people and say you no longer have reservations would be detrimental. It would cause division in a people where community and family mean everything. Native Communities are literally families. The money would help some for a short time then be gone. Others who are still broken will not keep it long. With no reservations/family community they will have no where to go. You have to understand that family, culture, language and spirituality are everything. Splitting people up will continue killing it. Coming together makes them stronger. Ever hear that the family who prays together stays together? It’s so true in Indian country. Money doesn’t last. People and relationships do. Then the land will be up for grabs and belong to someone else. I hate racism too. Having reservations is not racism. The racism exists outside of the reservation in mainstream America. People can leave the reservations if they want. But reservations are like their hometown where their family is, that’s why they stay or come back. Imagine if you came from a tight knit family community type neighborhood or town and the government came in and said they would pay you money but you can’t be part of that community/family/town anymore. It wouldn’t exist anymore. It would be divided up. Dividing up land between families has been done before btw. It may eventually be sold off or lost. And it ONLY benefits the current person. What about their descendents? Seriously, if you look around at many Americans living the Dream, they don’t know who they are. They kinda know that a grandparent might be part “something” but they don’t know the original language or maybe even customs of their lineage. They are searching. Community/family is knowing who you are and is strength. Indians are finally relearning what was lost from the ones lucky enough to have escaped the assimilation process. Native Communities are having a cultural resurgence. This is a good thing. They are coming together. They are working at healing. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it. Educating the public would help. Fighting racism will help in mainstream America will help. But scattering Indians to the wind to “assimilate” will not. Let me tell you a story. Imagine if this country were invaded by (insert your choice here) and they killed off many of the adults and took the kids and put them into facilities that only spoke (inserted place’s) language and taught their history. Any English spoken would have the kids beaten. They were to stay there til adulthood by which time they would have little or no knowledge of who they were. Now imagine that you are one of a handful of people who knows the history of the US, can speak English. What would you do? Wouldn’t you be drawn to other people like you? Wouldn’t you want to teach the young people who they are? These young people will have problems. But if you can bring them into a loving community/family you can start work on reversing the process. Assimilation has already done so much damage. And don’t you think they have been assimilated enough? Don’t they speak English? Live in houses? Drive cars? Cut their hair? Wear mainstream clothing? Go to mainstream schools? It’s nice that you want them to live better, but that’s up to them. You are not told that you should drive a certain model car and should work whatever job and do whatever with your life? And if the government made a promise to your family, you’d expect them to honor it, right? And FYI if Indians have income, just like everyone else, they pay taxes.

    • Sonya, your main message is that Native culture should be preserved. Good. We agree. But why do so many Natives have to live on crummy reservations to preserve culture? I know, not all reservations are crummy, but many are! Isn’t there any alternative? This mess was created by the federal government. I don’t trust the government to straighten it out. Give members the value of their property (what’s left of it) and get the government out of the rez biz. Let members buy and own their own property on the former rez if they want.

  27. Good lord, why do people keep coming up with the idea of taking things away from our people. This is so poorly written and full of stereotypical crap. The government needs to fully honor the commitment it has made to the tribes. Quit trying to push what you think is best for a whole group of people. It’s condescending and demeaning.

    • You said “The government needs to fully honor the commitment it has made to the tribes.” Good luck with that. How has that worked out for you?

      The government is screwing you, and you yell at me for suggesting maybe you should get free of the government? You can’t have it both ways!

  28. The Native American reserevations are treaty based which raises many legal issues. I do not have answers but to assume that any of the indigenous people want only financial success is wrong in my experience. I am opposed to racism and work against the Native American stereotypes in sports team identities after living in Cleveland for many years and becoming familiar with the Chief Wahoo issue. What many folks may not realize is that the team issue has the potential to open discussions around all issues facing Native Americans and even indigenous people everywhere. One point you made, about the questionable distribution of funds is something that a legitimate and something athorough investigation should be able to expose. Where is the oney going? I would hope the tribal people find a way to have such an investigation started, perhaps nationwide.

    I have one question though: why did you not make the suggestion for your proposed actions, perhaps privately to Native Americans you know, and yes, I’m assuming you know many although you did say you are working from statistics? Their responses might have been helpful. For a responsible article on the subject they must be included, they must be the starting point for any proposal.

    If though you are only working from statistics then you are taking a colonialist’s and white supremacist’s position. If statistics and your own assumtions are what created this piece then my serious and strong suggestion is that you do a whloe lot of reading, stay quiet on the topic, learn, think and consider an apology to the real people involved in the situation. We all need to be in the discussion since we all do share Mother Earth and we do need new ways forward so there may be real potential for you to be a good voice in the conversations–if you are willing to take a long look in the mirror, face your arrogant assumptions and be open to change and new information. If none of that is true then please, find something else to write about. I write this as a white woman, just so you know, someone who has been involved in the issue for many years and who has been on reservations–invited and sometimes escorted–someone who has tribal friends and as someone who knows the history books used in schools need to be seriously revised.

    • If you don’t seek improvement, you must be satisfied with the way things are.

      Sherrie, I have no dog in this hunt. My only motivation is my hope that every individual has the best opportunity possible to be fulfilled and happy. There are many reservation Natives whose plight is pretty severe. We need to stop accepting the status quo.

  29. Hi Tom. I appreciate your thoughtful replies above.

    You said assimilation has not been tried before, but it has. Indian reservations were carved up and Indians given plots of land to farm before, with the hopes of assimilating them. It was called the Dawes Act. It was a disaster, but my point is that you statement that “no effort has been made to assimilate reservation Native Americans into the American mainstream” is untrue. This is pretty basic stuff -something any American History 101 student knows. The fact you don’t seem to have a basic command of American Indian history makes your arguments look pretty thin.

    All reservations are not the hell holes you make them out to be and many urban Indians are not doing so well either, so I’m not sure elimination of reservations is the answer you hope for.

    • Yes, I know all about the Dawes act. Do you think I want to force every Indian to become a farmer?

      Assimilation means joining the mainstream of a nation economically. Having the same opportunities to good education, jobs, equity, etc. Many reservation Natives are on the short end of that stick. I know not all reservations are hell holes. Some are. You may be willing to give up on your neighbor. Not me, I want everybody to have a chance.

  30. I have a simple question for you: what is this “good life” you would sell Indians to get them off the reservation?
    Poverty, hunger, addiction, poor health, poor education, failing social infrastructure, domestic violence, alcoholism, child abuse, rape, all of these are endemic in most of the United States. Opioid overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Loneliness and suicide are plagues that rise like a shroud over the bright future life outside the reservation might otherwise offer. Globally, U.S. Healthcare us poor. Highest cost and lowest effeciency of any industrialized country. Talk about corruption!!!??!!! Education is middling on a global index. Quality of life, likewise, well behind a number of countries with far less GDP than we have. Money has never and will never fix any of these problems. But you know what can? Communities. And that’s what reservations are. They are communities. Your heart may be in the right place, but read some history about what happens when Indian tribes get Terminated. That’s what you are advocating. Termination is a thoroughly failed, and cruel, policy. At its base is the presumption that anyone other than an Indian Tribe should decide what is best for that Tribe. Don’t cover up your cultural chauvinism with the notion that “you want what’s best” for Indians. If you want what’s best, ask them. And then advocate for that. If you can find ten who support the idea of terminating their status and their land base for $100,000, then I’ll take your argument seriously. Or better yet! Ask yourself why in the 400 years we’ve had the opportunity so few Indians have “assimilated” into Euro Western culture? It’s because there is no there there. All you have to offer is the spiritually bankrupt cult of isolation and individuality that eats at the craw of every person in this country. We fill it with opioids, we fill it with alcohol, fast food, pornography, money, more money, and more money, but we’really all still empty inside. We know which Kardashian is on our talking rocks (where I am typing this) but not what kind of tree is growing outside our window. We know how to read stock indexes, but can’t tell whether we should put on a coat without our Weather Channel app. We have 10,000 friends on Facebook , but we don’t know whether our Grandmother has enough to eat, or where our Great Grandmother got her food from. Look, I get it. You want Indians to have a better life. Well, guess what, we want YOU to have a better life too! Build an America worth coming off the reservation for, and then we can talk about the Termination of reservations. Until then, they keep us intact. They keep us connected. And they are a fine place to stand, while the rest of Western society spins toward collapse.

    • Okay, life sucks. More for some people than others. Some people have the opportunity to build a good future for their families. Many reservation Natives don’t. Why not pay them what their property is worth so they use the cash to start a business, find a great job opportunity, get a great education, do whatever THEY want to do instead of living in Pine Ridge? Or do you think just because some people’s lives suck, everybody should suffer the same?

  31. Most, not all think like this. The embodiment of the great white hope persona. If those Indians would just be more like us…all their problems would go away. Claiming reservations segregate racially…and it dose. However, they fail to realize the foundation of NDN problems were birthed with colonization…so logically the only cure is decolonization..not more assimilation. They’re also so arrogant, they assume what is best for the poor native ppl…without ever asking the native ppl. Imagine, your entire system of society, forced on all other nations…..with the strong belief that it’s purely good and no other way to live…now, a group of natives say…no thank you, we would rather you left us alone completely….how dare they…don’t they know we know what’s best? Quite a blow to the ego. It’s ego, under the guise of equality….some just can’t stand the fact their ancestors were not only wrong…they didn’t finish the job…and the survivors of the attempted genocide is the new Indian problem. It has nothing to do with us…it’s a flaw of their society.
    That having been said…I won’t educate you on history between our nation’s…if you waneed to know, you would have done so…because even with my humble native background, I am fully aware. Maybe, and I know at best you’ll reject this thought…but just maybe your way of life is not perfect…hard to wrap you head around I know. But stay with me….maybe your society could take teachings from mine. I mean more than what was already taken…federal govt, the number zero, most fruits, vegetables and medicine (I could go on) was useful…but all tangible…what about our socital norms, ethics, manners and tribalizm? For example, our vets do not kill themselves at the same rate as yours, our elders do not live in nursing homes unless thereis a medical problem…why? Because we are different from you. Your society that’s been created is children forgot who they are..your elders forgotten left to rot, your people fighting amongst themselves for the most frivolous reasons…perpetual war, hunger, violence all across this country…but native ppl..we are what ails you…I think not. You see, you do not treat any other race this way (maybe you do) beva use when you look at a black do not continue to enslave them…your society had (rightly so deemed that as evil) you can see the history when you look at them…when you look at us. you do not see the mass Graves of children at the boarding schools, or the rapes and beatings of children…the mourning mothers who’ve had their children forcibly taken…the suicide…because you’ve completely blacked that out from your history pages..we remember…because those children (the ones who survived assimilation) that are still alive are now grandparents…so we know full well what is in store for is within your world…and we respectfully decline…we will live out our days here happy, loving eachother, praying in the way we see fit to…without the consequences we’ve already paid for. You just need to accept the fact…money isn’t everything…it’s not. One day we will all be gone…I hope your money buys your way in…me, I’ll be judged by the kindness I give to my people.

    • Fee, I’m trying not to get angry.

      You said “now, a group of natives say…no thank you, we would rather you left us alone completely”


      Read it again!

      Sorry, I’m just getting tired of comment after comment from Natives saying, “the government is screwing us”, and when I say you should get free of the government, you attack me! Geez Louise! You can’t have it both ways!

      • I’ve read your artical, thoroughly. Your ego is showing. I’m spot on about the intent. However, I will give you the benifit of a doubt…you don’t want the native community to disappear into the white washed ocean around us..ok, I’ll believe you. So, what’s the answer? Obviously, from the onslaught of opposition…assimilation is not going to fly…what can be done? I’m glad you’re concerned. To start, your schools can begin with the truth. Simply. The native experience is directly intertwined with “American” history…leave not a word out. How will that help? Knowing your history ensures you won’t repeat it…how can we move forward when the past is so misinformed? Next, you can demand that tribes are given “back” jurisdictional and judicial freedom over their own lands. This can be done at the Congressional level…to give the tribes the right to protect its own citizens and should be supported by the feds until a sustainable system is in place. Why? Because 1 in 3 native women are sexually assult ed and killed at 10 times the national average…80% of the time my attacker is non native…almost 100% of the time he will walk without see a single day in jail..because tribal police do not have arresting powers and the courts have limited power as well. Next, the feds should give tribes equal sovereignty as a nation, not a domestic dependant. This can also happen in congress. What good will that do? It would give tribes the ability to enter into deals with other nations. Allowing more opportunities for tribes, the US shouldn’t be the only country we can deal with. The treaties should be honored fully and completely. All monies should be paid in full and unceded territories should be put back under the jurisdiction of the tribes. What good would that do? It would improve the trust and relationships of our respective nations (and it’s the right thing to do). The feds should grant lesions of tribes to be appointed by the tribes and not the feds…allow us to pick our own ppl, ensuring our best intrests. Hunting and fishing territory should be expanded, many native families still provide for themselves this way and our limited territory makes it a bit of a challenge…I come from such a family. End the IRA, aklowing the tribal governments to be reformed in the best intrest of the people they intend to serve. All thos can be dont without ending the reservations. There is more, information on how to truly help is out there and available…you need just look. Before, you get anymore bent out of shape over the opposition to your artical.. allow me to clear your dilemma. You see, those invisible boarders, your govt created in the most dishonest of ways…now protects us…we are surrounded by an ocean of strangeness and what’s within is what comforts. We have a right to that much at least. I mean, to live…truely live as we please…is not so much to ask for, especially since we’ve given so much to this country. No one complains when our children enroll into military at a higher rate per capita than any other race in America…then again, no one congratulates us on such a sacrafice either. If you really want answers as to what your suggestion would do….read, thoroughly, about the termination era, do so objectively. There is good reason…many states stood with tribes and fought against termination. Education is key, self education is free.

  32. Mr. Balek – First, I am appeciative of your willingness to engage and provide feed back to those who have made comments to your article. It is pretty rare to have that type of discourse. Now, as for the content of your article, having lived and worked on many reservations in various capacities from laborer to upper management, I can tell you that yes there are problems, social, addictions, health disparities etc… on and off reservations that impact Tribal peoples and families. Addressing those concerns and issues, is challenging, with one of those challenges being a lack of resources, for example it is estimated that the Indian Health Services is funded only at about 60% of what is needed. What your article does not address or acknowledge is fact that Tribes are Soverign Nations, with a government to government relationship with the United States. This relationship is embedded withn the US Constitution, acknowledged by legislation and defined by US supreme court decisions. A prime example is the Indian Self-determination and Education Act which allows for federal agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Services to contract with Tribes to provide services that those agencies had previously provided. The premise being that Tribes can better serve the needs of their citizens in culturally specific and acceptable ways. Is this system perfect, no, some Tribes do a better job then other Tribes. There have been Tribes where leadership has failed their peoples either through incompetent management of programs or by corruption or combinations of both. The solution is not however to terminate reservations, that has been tried before with disastrous results, the solutions lie in better education for individuals and leadership, and most importantly, acknowledging and upholding Treaties, as well as respecting the soverign rights of Tribes to determine their own destinies. Finally, your proposed solution of calling for the end of reservations, as I stated has been tried before, and assumes that Tribes, and Tribal peoples want to be assimilated into the mainstream dominant culture, that this needs to occur in order to save us from poverty, from racial segration and discrimination, with the implied assumption that the dominant culture is superior. This is a very privilaged viewpoint, either conciously or unconciously derived.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment David.

      At the end, you said I am condescending. Completely wrong. My assumption is that Natives want independence, control over their lives and property just like everybody else does. I worry that the federal government practices soft bigotry by assuming that reservation Natives must be cared for. Now THAT is condescension, and the early trust documents were pretty explicit to that end!

      If you are telling me Natives do not want personal independence then it would be a cultural or educational anomaly, or might be a product of generations of indoctrination. The history of mankind has pretty much proved that everyone wants to improve their standard of living, and the freedom to earn, use, and keep personal property is the best way for that to happen.

      I understand the argument about “sovereign nation.” If the reservations were contiguous, a separate and independent nation could be created. But with dozens of little landlocked clusters of people spotted all over the map, there’s just no way any of them will ever be sovereign. And 300 million Americans are not leaving their homes to revert custody of the land to the Natives.

      So what’s the solution? My main point is, the federal government has been screwing the Natives for a long, long time and isn’t it about time we consider an alternative?

  33. While you are correct that Native “americans” are treated unfairly, which is putting it mildly, you couldn’t be further from reality with the rest of your article. To do away with reservations is an extremely ludicrous thing to say but to make matters worse, you actually tried to justify it! What was done in the past is still happening now so what do you do? You promote the completion of the genocide by basically saying… take the land called reservations and throw us to the wolves yet again. These reservations are the only land we have left and you think it’s alright to take it too? Obviously you have no clue how much the land means to Natives or you would have kept your mouth shut. If you truly object to the way our people on any or all the reservations are treated, what about coming up with solutions instead of “do away with” reservations?
    That would be focusing on the positive instead of eliminating something so sacred to us, as the land. You’re clueless. Maybe you should find another subject to spout off about cuz you’re wayyyyyyy off base and out of line.

    • How is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lump sum being “thrown to the wolves?” Buy the damn land with it! At least you will have control over it, which you sure don’t have now! Please read my article again, I do not want to “take your land.” Geez.

  34. Unlike, I suspect, most of the people commenting, I actually lived in Standing Rock , so I have seen the mess first hand.
    Living on the reservation is a choice, not a requirement. Everybody there is free to leave any time they want.
    The late Russell Means made a video called “Welcome to the Reservation.” Watch it.

    The reservations are a Marxist paradise: all means of production are owned by the state. All jobs are government jobs. Anything you have which somebody else thinks is more than you need is confiscated and given to somebody else. No matter how hard you work, how long you stay in school, you will never improve the quality of your life.
    When I lived there I saw the bad complexions, premature aging, rotten teeth, flat affect, obesity, alcoholism, depression and despair but I didn’t know what caused it until I saw all the same things in recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They were all suffering from the same disease: socialism. Socialism is a disease which destroys human beings.

  35. “If there was an effort to assimilate Natives there would be no reservations.”

    “Yet no effort has been made to assimilate reservation Native Americans into the American mainstream.”

    Perhaps you’re unaware, Tom, of the premise of your Great Country.

    Welcome to the USA! Or how about Welcome to Turtle Island! It’s true, the ‘reservations’ are an embarrassment to the USA and a blight on the policy of Manifest Destiny which extends to the false premise of the American Dream, attainable by none but the already privileged.

    There have been hundreds of years of a policy of Forced Assimilation (read Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee or/ and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States if you need to be reminded of the things you weren’t taught in school) and the fact that there is still indigenous culture here is testament to the spiritual strength of that culture and the moral weakness of the colonial culture. Indigenous culture is land based so yes, sever the connection to land and you sever culture and serve it on a plate to the homogenous Euro-American culture of displacement and exploitation for personal benefit over the common good.

    Our land is worth more than the abstract concept of money. We know the current cronie corporatocracy is greedily eyeing what little pieces of land they have no control to exploit. Drooling over the oil, uranium, copper that lies here. Keep your dirty, slimy, soft-handed mitts off!

    End the ‘reservations’, for sure. Give back every inch of land that was stolen, swindled and ill gotten. Understand this perspective and then understand why repeating the phrase,”I hate racism” is fatuous, patronising and downright disingenuous. One would go so far as to say cynical and racist.

    Come home. Unci Maka needs you, now.

    • Earth Shine, please read my article again. You missed the whole point.

      You complain about how you are treated by the federal government. And when I say you should get out from under the thumb of the “crony corporatocracy” (federal government, mainly) you abuse me for it! Doc, it hurts when I do this. Well then don’t do that!

      YOU should have control over your property, what’s left of it, not the feds! And if you think the 300 million people of the United States are going to leave the country so you can have back every inch of land that was stolen, well, good luck with that.

      Either you continue the way things are, or you try to change it. If you think Pine Ridge is peachy, I can’t help you. If not, what’s your plan?

      • Tom, thanks for responding, I read your piece and I have been reading through these eloquent comments and your responses and trying to understand where you’re stuck, why you keep saying the same thing over and over.

        We do not define Mother Earth as ‘property’ any more than you would define your own mother in such a way. Does you mother have a price? $100,000? This might help you to understand. The notion of privately and personally owning something which has and will endure without us is false. Land does not exist as an entity separate from the rest of creation. Title exists, a piece of paper proclaiming entitlement to relate to a place as the government of the day allows. This does not allow the right of existence and personal determination.

        Giving back all that has been stolen, the only morally just way forward for the US, does not necessarily mean displacing anyone, although some might and do advocate for that. Think outside the box. There has to be a process of truth and reconciliation for the conflict that the USA brings to the whole world. The USA is not and has never been ‘great’ in the eyes of any other than the few beneficiaries of capitalist exploitation. I have travelled extensively and the world looks upon your country with shame and horror. Your country becomes more dystopic daily. I love Pine Ridge and the people there, what of it?
        The land was common to all until the Land Enclosures in 17th century England. That’s when we started to die, morally. Let’s start talking about the restoration of the commons as an option beyond the binary,”buy the American Dream or suffer in squalor”. We can define poverty for ourselves and America does not exist without it. The world is incredibly abundant.

      • Well said, another beautifully written piece. I am starting to see from the many comments that the traditional Native value of “sharing” property is way different from most of the rest of the world, which values individual ownership. My worldview is very economics based, Adam Smith style, and historically individual property rights has been the big winner. Shared property, mostly referred to as communism, has driven down standards of living and usually resulted in mass violence. Somehow Native Americans made shared property actually work for them, and it’s hard for non-Natives to understand.

        I disagree with your view of “my” country (isn’t it yours as well? the deductions from your paycheck go to the US and state governments, right?). Our reputation has taken a serious hit over the last decade or two, but most of the world still views the US as the nation who saved Europe from a madman, and has been a peacemaker and defender of freedom. Thanks in large part to the contribution of our Native warriors. I am optimistic that we will again be respected.

        And yes! The world is incredibly abundant! I praise God for that.

      • There’s a lot to unpack there, Tom. Nation states, same as land ownership, are only social conventions, political head trips. It’s not a point for agreement or disagreement, America (named after an Italian explorer) is not my country. I am a free person and I am not bound by indentured servitude to pay rent because I can shelter my family and myself. Job culture is enslavement. ‘MortGage’ in Latin is ‘DeathGrip’. ‘Rent’ is when something is torn apart (a person from a place).
        Not long ago all uninhabited land was common and still is in many non-Abrahamic parts of the world. I am no communist but Communism has never been tried. The Soviets were and China is State Capitalism (go back and read some Marx). Communism has been demonised here by McCarthyism because it was such a threat to the Capitalist elites (you’ve probably read Howard Zinn). The notion of ‘private property’ is recent in the course of human history, ‘winner’ for a minority, forced displacement for the rest of us losers. The word ‘pauper’ came about in 17’th century England. People were forced into overcrowded living conditions, life expectancy went way down and is still not back to where it was pre-industrial.
        The right to subsist has been denied so we have to assert it, sometimes fight for it. Gerard Winstanley proposed,”No man shall own more land than he can work with his own hands.” That would be fair. The Federal Government is less the enemy than the unelected Corporate Government exercising power with no accountability. Perhaps you’re familiar with Inverted Totalitarianism? Look it up and then we can converse further.
        I think you are swallowing propaganda. America came late and reluctantly to the Second World War. There are few people with the faculty of Critical Thinking who would buy America as ‘peacemaking’! That’s risible! America has been at war with someone, somewhere since it was founded. Post WW11, where would you like to start, Korea, Vietnam, Palestine, Iraq,Afghanistan and this is all just from the top of my head.
        Re-evaluate your exceptionalist, supremacist attitude, in the name of selfless service, Tom. We’re ready to move on. Are you?

  36. no attempt to assimilate them into American mainstream? yes there was a major attempt its called boarding homes. And if there was no rez then they would not be a sovereign nation with their own laws. Maybe you should travel around because many rez are cleaning up and this is just a small percent of ppl who are just addicts. Yes the government gave them the worst parts of the land, it wasn’t right, but I don’t know any Nisqually ppl who wish to assmimlate.

    • Boarding homes is not assimilation!

      Assimilation would be a Native getting a check for $250,000 and having the opportunity to get a great education and career, or start a business, build wealth, get his/her kids a great education, and have the opportunity for a fantastic future alongside every other American. Notice I said opportunity, because you can’t guarantee equal results, just equal opportunity. Many reservation Natives don’t have much opportunity.

      BTW, you are right, many rez are cleaning up. There are still many problem areas though, and I trust individuals more than the federal government to get things done.

  37. or hey, go to YOUR city whatever that may be, and look downtown under the bridge? u see homeless ppl? probably. the streets of seattle need more clean up then the rez here. Olympia has a HUGE homeless and drug problem. Talk about embarrassment of reservations? its in the city too open your eyes.

  38. There is no “racial” segregation when it comes to Native reservations. Each tribal government is essentially considered a “sovereign nation”. While each individual Native might check a racial box that says “American Indian/Alaskan Native,” tribes (and collectively each tribal member through our enrollment w/ our respective tribes) are political entities, not racial entities. You show your naivety(/ignorance) when it comes to the history of national Indian policy. Your thought experiment you seem to like to consider yourself an expert on was done in the 1940s-1960s to horrible ends for Native tribes and their members. This was termed the “Termination Policy/Era”. Broadly speaking, from the signing of the treaties the US government now has a “trust” relationship to tribes. I think it would be wise to remember what the US government *got* in return (and conversely what Indian tribes paid) for that trust relationship. We are currently in the “Self-Determination” era, which attempts to empower tribes themselves to solve these societal and economical ills with solutions that fit the individual tribal governments. Regardless of what is going on in Indian Country at this moment (i.e. your coveted data) solutions from “the white man” will never hold, solutions need to come from Indian peoples and tribal governments themselves. Whether or not you are comfortable with using the term genocide, the polices the US government has used to “civilize” (i.e. assimilate) Indian tribes and their members were indeed genocidal. It is a miracle Native cultures have endured until today. The resulting trauma from these policies have been passed across generations and needs to be addressed (IMHO, by each tribe and by each tribal member) in order for healing to begin. I agree, the data have painted a grim picture of Indian Country and dramatic change needs to happen on reservations across the country. However your idea of termination has been played out in history and would be doomed to fail Natives again.

    • Yeah, I know. Pretty much everything the federal government has done with/to Natives has been a disaster. That’s why I would have guessed Natives would want to get independent from the feds.

      What’s your plan?

  39. While reservations have problems, they are essential for maintaining tribal culture. assimilation destroys tribes. Privatization of tribal lands has been tried before, and the results was a disaster. My tribe was the first to try to assimilate and maintain our culture, it also failed. What we got in return was nothing, our land taken, we were wiped out of the history books, and to this day so called historians claim to have no idea what happened to the Weapemeoc Nation. In 1914 when we left the British Empire, we we the largest tribe in the US. After US citizenship was illegally forced on us in 1928, our numbers dwindled till now we are one of the smallest tribes. Assimilation is just another way to wipe Indians out, take what little we have, and erase us from history.

    • I understand the concern about destroying tribes. See Brandon Stevens’ comment, it is encouraging.

      Your note saddens me. You said “assimilation destroys tribes” which mean Natives must be kept sequestered away from the rest of society and economy, and that’s not right. You said “Privatization was a disaster” which means Natives must be not be allowed to own and control their own property as individuals, but must be subject to government control. You said “Assimilation is just another way to wipe Indians out, take what little we have, and erase us from history.”

      Historically, you are probably right, but do we just give up and continue to get screwed?

      Look at it on a case basis. If a Native got a substantial cash settlement for the value of his tribal property and his share of the future government outlays, move to a new state, started a business and became wealthy and independent, would that be an Indian who was “wiped out”?

      Really, I don’t think anybody wants to wipe out Indians, take what little you have, or erase you from history. Just hate to see you getting screwed, day after day, year after year.

  40. Your analysis of statistics don’t necessarily equate to your recommendation, yiubdont mean all but your solution includes all. Here in Oneida we have the same issues as every other community but we pay federal taxes and are the biggest tax payers in the Green Bay Area, second largest employer in the area, and highest education level in all categories(Green Bay, GED/high school, associates, masters degrees). Further, Native/Indians is not a race per legal standing, only in the census which is skewed because it’s “self-identifying” we are considered a political entity so it’s not considered segregation. We operate under what is called “self governance” which we take Federal funds and WE determine what programs we need, we are very accountable as we have our own internal audit department and we do annual external audit conducted by a third party auditing firm. No curruption here!

  41. Your remedial suggestions fall on deaf ears for several reasons: 1) the assumption there is acceptance or confidence in a system that is in arrears some 20 trillion dollars of worthless paper and moving fast to insolvency, if not already (place the greatest value in food products for if we don’t eat we perish); 2) where was the consideration​ for a branch of humanity from the outset (had original inhabitants been made landlords, so to speak, much of present ills likely would have never gotten to their present states (in all reality, we can never call the continuum of governance sound management/practice; 3) your suggestion aims to increase taxpayers, but if the system is consumer based, l would suggest with the present Republican majority it may be time to convert to a user tax system and eliminate the IRS or drastically reduced its staff refocusing on the valuation of all products/economic segments … IF WE ARE TRULY CONFIDENT IN A CONSUMER BASED ECONOMY (past governance has been corrupted by allowing a Federal Reserve oversight). To refine there must be a complete two-way evaluation/negotiation. Anything less is tyranny.

    • Gary, thanks for your comment. My remark about making Natives “happy taxpayers” was too glib. What I really want for them is control of their own property and more opportunity to join the free market economy by getting out from under the government’s thumb.

  42. It can happen through a government law called termination. Ultimately the Native Nations of what is now known as America are in bondage to the US Government/Nation/People. The captivity/bondage of the Native Nations is strikingly similar and parallels what had occurred to the Hebrew people in regards to their captivity to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The Native Nations had escaped slavery only because it was finally outlawed on Dec. 6, 1865. Many of the native nation’s people have become so used to the government handouts that they wouldn’t know how to exist outside of the bondage, which has become their provider. The Native people would be lost forever to history and I believe in many cases, tribes would become extinct as many tribes have already become to manifest destiny. The only thing I see for the Native Nation’s future is deliverance through Christ, or they will indeed be terminated and just a distant memory in the American history books. We need a Native American Moses to lead us to Christ and freedom from the bondage we are in.

    • Thanks for your comment, Joseph, good points. I worry too that the Native culture would be threatened but it would be up to the tribes to decide how their land would be split among member/owners, and I assume many would stay intact, maybe as an association if the land ownership stayed with the Natives. But the landowners should have the right to sell their property, so there is a risk.

  43. Reservations are sovereign nations. Their internal affairs, whatever you percieve them to be, are the business of the citizens of those nations. Maybe you should keep your nose in the business of your own corrupt, crime ridden, rapidly imploding country.

    • Um, Nick – maybe you didn’t notice – THE RESERVATIONS ARE RUN BY MY OWN CORRUPT, CRIME RIDDEN, RAPIDLY IMPLODING COUNTRY! I was just suggesting maybe you want to get control of your own property instead of letting the feds run your life!

      How “sovereign” is your nation? Do you have your own schools and hospitals or were they built by the government? You have your own army and air force? The highways are built by your tribe? Do you have border patrol around your sovereign nation? Doesn’t party of your paycheck go to the federal and state governments? I know, I’m just being flippant, but the point is the reservations are tiny clusters of people, landlocked and separated from each other, and there’s just no way they will ever be truly sovereign, politically or economically. Ain’t gonna happen.

      Look man, I’m just searching for alternatives. So many Indians complain about what the federal government has done and is doing to them, but when you suggest maybe they should get extracted from the clutches of the government, they get all wonky.

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