*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”
May I ask a question or two? Have you personally been to a reservation? Have you ever had a conversation with a Native American? To publish an article only based on statistics and other articles is to say the least very irresponsible. What good has come from it except to point out your ignorance when it comes to matters concerning Natives and reservation life.
Yup, Kathy, I grew up around reservations and have many Native friends. I guess you deny that Natives are being screwed by the federal government and Pine Ridge is just a peachy place to live. Whatever.
At least they get lots of free land (from what Ive read only). Would it really be better for them to mix with the states (by force) and subject them to the same state property taxes? Your nuts
i for one have never visited a reservation and am trying to find a good one too visit.. if u can help please respond .. and as for this crime and Etc .. It’s a stigma now ,, not a way of living unless the person chooses to live this way .. if us poor americans and Africans can make it .. what is the excuse for the Indians who came from the same. way as all of us still struggling and fighting w. out drugs and liquor that is their personal demons .. not the way of living and making .. g.b. and thank u .. G.d.
I spent 2 years on a reservation. They are not good places to live. There is no animal control, so wild dogs run rampant, many with rabies. If you have a problem where you need the police, you have to call BIA, and they won’t show up for at least half an hour, of they show up at all. All the natives on the rez are given sub-par health care within the rez, and if you need to go to a doctor out of the rez, the Tribe will pay for it, but don’t expect the doctor to treat you very well. There are a lot of people outside of the reservation who misunderstand the rez, and as a byproductof this misunderstanding, they come to dislike the natives, so you get treated like crap outside of the reservation, and fear to even leave the reservation unless you absolutely have to. Dissolving the reservations, and giving the money government would have used to maintain them to the tribal members in one payment would help everyone. Tribal reservations should have ended long ago along with the segregation of the blacks. By segregating them from society we are hurting them far more than helping.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Dustin.
Also tom, if they want this “help” your suggesting, then let THEM ask for it. Who are we to decide?
Also tom, if they want this “help” your suggesting, I say let THEM ask for it. Who are we to decide? Am I right?
What a very interesting article! Obviously something needs to be done so that these people can get help. Have you looked up the White Clay issue in Nebraska? I have been trying to follow it and it is a very interesting movement. However the problems that pose on the reservations now are starting to spiral out and affect sorrunding communities. I would be very interested to know your view on this, and what you would think to be a solution for the core of the issue (Pine Ridge Reservation) and the rampant alcoholism that they are trying to deal with and is obviously a grave issue for this tribe. Might I add that they have recently installed a Nursing Home in White Clay, however have never had any real talks about substance abuse treatment community centers.
Thanks for your comment Tam.
If you follow the many comments here from Natives, it shows how really difficult the issue is. Most of the letters say “we are getting screwed by the federal government.” And then they holler at me for saying maybe they would be better off without the federal government ruining their lives. ???
I am by no means an expert on this issue – I grew up around reservations so I have some familiarity and Native friends. Mostly I am just looking at all kinds of problems with the federal government now that there is actually an opportunity to see things in a new light and get tough changes done.
The natural order of things – the economic and social way of life that has been proven to work best – is that individuals should be free to earn, use, and keep their own personal property. THAT is what has been taken away from the Natives and I think it could be restored, but the reservations (as a federal government operation) would have to go.
Tom, I’m an urban Native. My ultimate goal is to return “home” to my reservation to live out my last years. Many, many tribes are working on their infrastructure, getting people back to work, as well as becoming self sustaining. In the beginning of the reservation program, it was for segregation. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many Natives who view it as such today. For some, yes, it is the only option for a plethora of reasons, yes there is some corruption……However, for the most, we are living where we want, whether on the rez or surrounding urban areas.
Diana, that’s good to hear. Thanks for the balance.
At least they get lots of free land (from what Ive read only). Would it really be better for them to mix with the states (by force) and subject them to the same state property taxes?
At least they get lots of free land (from what Ive read only). Would it really be better for them to mix with the states (by force) and subject them to the same state property taxes? Your crazy imo
Let me start by stating that I’m not Native American. I’m a white conservative from Ohio.
It is arrogant and demeaning for non-indigenous people to think we know what’s best for the uncivilized natives, and to force our will upon them. Our government has stolen their land, their culture, their livelihoods. We literally kidnapped their children and forced them into boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language or practice their beliefs. Now you suggest we finish the job by doing away with the reservations?
My point it, who are we to tell THEM what THEY need to do? Why not instead empower our nation’s indigenous peoples to decide what’s best for themselves? Why not get rid of the bureaucratic obstacles that make economic growth impossible? Instead of taking away what little is left of their land by eliminating reservations, why don’t we work toward restoring the stolen lands that belong to them under the various treaties? And most of all, why don’t we get rid of our arrogant, condescending, racist attitudes toward Native Americans?
I agree with most everything you said, Rich. The federal government is screwing the Natives, and perpetuating racist attitudes. The answer you propose is restoring the stolen lands. What does that mean? If Native land was contiguous, an independent nation could be created. But it’s not, and in fact the ownership interests of much of the land on the reservations is so divided and subdivided that it can’t even be sold. If you are saying everybody must leave the United States except Natives, that ain’t gonna happen. So what’s the solution? I say get the federal government out of the management of these lands. Turn the ownership over to the tribes, cash them out, let them stay or move or sell or whatever they want. Can’t think of any other solution, other than just leave everything as it is, and they will continue to be screwed.
I enjoy my life here on Ft. Belknap among my people. Yes, it is a hard life on the rez, but, when the treaties were being done by the U.S. Gov’t for it’s people benefit we were royally screwed. If we knew about rental of property, I believe we would not have been a burden as you so call it. But by treaty, your government promised, “As long as the grass grows and the wind blows….” we would be treated honorably. If your unhappy with the treaty, we’ll happily reclaim what is rightfully ours.
You obviously didn’t read my article.
YOU wouldn’t even be here if not for NATIVES..
True, Danette. There are some Natives in my family tree!
I doubt that’s what she was getting at, but I think you know that already. Are you being purposely obtuse?
Only inhumanity going on is this country listening to KKK..We have Beautiful reservation.. N Lotsa resources.. ALL you want..Be honest.. You weren’t with my great grandma
I’m glad you are happy Danette, really. But check out Pine Ridge some time.
Well!! First of all I was raised in the city most of my life not on the reservation and as I got older I felt I had to move back to where I was born and to my tribe and to learn more about my people that I losted living in the city and you say that the government takes care of people living on the reservation excuse me but I didn’t see any of that because I still had to work so I could pay rent and didn’t get food stamps because it didn’t help us enough, the government was to greedy, how could 100$ in food stamps help take care of me and my grandkids for a month? So the government doesn’t help like they say they do all they do is help themselves and just use the people on the reservations to help themselves more. So everything your saying about natives living on reservations is all lies, all you people do is lie to us, steal from us and most of all the only thing in your mind is GREED, so please start telling the truth about how your government lies to everyone and gets their story ass back wards.
Well okay! You obviously did not read my article and just jumped to conclusions!
That’s exactly the point of my article.
“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.”
Federal policies do not “effectively keep Native Americans there, dependent on their benefits.” At the heart of Native American communities, cultures and identities is the land, itself. The land that tribal communities exist on, live on and depend on was protected, fought for and shed blood for. Many of our ancestors gave their lives in horrendous massacres in order to protect our rights to tribal lands. What keeps up on these lands is the dedication to our distinct identities as Native Peoples. The failure of the reservation communities lies with the United States federal government’s inability to uphold and honor sovereign nation treaty rights and the patriarchal institution of “domestic dependent nations”.
“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.”
The justification for archaic systems such as reservations lies within the Constitution itself. Article 1, Section 8, states, “[The Congress shall have Power…] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;” This is where plenary power lies, also where tribal sovereign rights originate. The reservation system is not an Indigenous concept, this was forced upon tribes by the U.S. Federal Government. It is not a racially-based system, it is a politically based system. Political rights that stem from treaties.
“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.”
Every effort was made by the U.S. Federal Government to assimilate Native Americans into the American mainstream. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 created the reservation system, itself, as a tool of assimilation by prohibiting tribal communities from their hunter-gathering ways, their means to diverse agriculture, economic trading, etc. The Dawes Act of 1887, or General Allotment Act, attempted to do exactly what you are proposing; dividing up the lands and appropriate acres to Indian families. It was considered a failure due to many factors, including poor agricultural lands being allotted, the division of communities and families, taxes levied against allotted lands with no means of economic development or income, and a failed guardianship system where tribes and tribal People were taken advantage of and oftentimes, deemed incompetent, denied rights and/or murdered for their allotted lands. (See the Osage Murders) The boarding school system was another way of forced assimilation for Indian children. Unfortunately, beating, raping, murdering and dehumanizing children is not a successful tool for assimilation. These experiences are what contributed to the generational trauma that exists today. The Termination Era was another time period in recent history where the federal government attempted to force Native American assimilation into mainstream society by terminating tribal political recognition altogether. Another failed attempt at assimilation. There are currently 567 federally recognized tribes and tribal corporations in the United States. Further, there are more state-recognized and unrecognized tribes. There were thousands more, at one time. My point being, you cannot erase all of our distinct identities.
“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 “fiscal disaster” that exists among reservations is by and large due to the federal government’s mismanagement of reservation annuities, land payments, treaty rights, fiduciary resources, etc. The fiduciary trust relationship between the U.S. and Native American tribes has never been honored by the U.S. and consistently being drained of funds while blaming Native American communities despite the fact that resources to Native American communities is merely a fraction of the national budget, and consistently being targeted for cuts.
“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.”
Water rights are inherent in treaty rights. Rights to water are rights to life for tribal communities. Forcing Native American communities into fixed tribal reservation geopolitical borders with no means to water resources is genocide (the intent to eliminate entire groups of people). Courts have recognized and upheld tribal water rights as they oftentimes supersede private landowner rights or municipal policies. Tribes are not stealing water rights from farmers or the agriculture industry, it is actually the other way around. The lack of knowledge around tribal rights and histories contributes to the misnomer that tribes are stealing water rights, but instead these rights were secured in law long before they were granted to big industry or private citizens. It is local legislatures that are perpetuating the myth that tribal water rights threaten local communities. Pick up a book and read about the Winters Doctrine.
“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.”
Once again, I point you to various treaties that promise health care, education, land rights, housing, annuities, employment and citizenship to tribes in exchange for land cessions. The programs that exist today for tribal communities come out of the trust relationship, treaties and domestic dependent nation status that tribal communities exist under. Once again, a failure to uphold the guardianship relationship that Justice Marshall outlined in his trilogy of Supreme Court opinions.
“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.”
The reservation system is not a racially-based system, rather it is a political based system based on treaty rights. However, imposed policies such as one-quarter blood quantum laws from the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act racialized the Federal Trust Relationship and attempted to limit the civil rights of Native Americans. As much as racial stereotypes would have you believe that many Native Americans are not “happy, healthy, productive taxpayers”, that is simply not true. Many Native American communities are hardworking, sustainable communities but as a result of the intrusion of federal laws and federal overreach, tribal communities are consistently targeted for further regulation, exploitation of resources, diminishing rights and decreased resources. It is this discrimination that leads to the poverty and lack of economic development that exists today.
“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.”
Thanks to the former mentioned General Allotment Act, many reservations have checkerboard style land ownership patterns. Many reservations contain both tribal trust lands and privately-owned lands. Check payments, or annuities, were rarely honored, and in fact were withheld from communities, or paid out in fractions of the amounts that tribal lands were worth. The fact that tribal members still pay taxes on tribal-based income means that the federal government would still benefit from such household checks intended to benefit tribal families. The Cobell Settlement is one example of tribal communities keeping meticulous records of revenues owed to them where the federal government failed to maintain or pay out such revenues. Much of this revenue money came from the selling of reservation land.
“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.”
Assimilation by it’s very nature threatens Native American cultures and traditions. Notice I said “Native American cultures” (plural). This is plural due to the fact that Native Americans are not one monolithic group. You are lumping hundreds of drastically diverse groups of people under one common inaccurate term. In fact, it only makes more convenient the erasure of the distinct nature of tribal identities. The subjugation of tribal communities is exactly what was intended all along by the “cold-hearted” federal government. These ideas that you think are so novel are in fact relics of past failed tribal policies. They failed because tribes fought and laid down their lives to protect our existence as tribal Peoples.
“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.”
Tribal communities are NOT a very old problem. The problem started in 1492, was codified in 1789, and still exists today.
Wow! Thanks so much for your great comment. I learned so much from your thoughtful and beautifully written responses. I honestly had never thought of the reservation system as a political-based system, and I see your point. I am aware of the land-ownership issue, and since I believe that the right to earn, own and control one’s own personal property is paramount, this to me is one of the most difficult problems.
I completely agree with your point:
It’s tough enough for regular American citizens to deal with our bloated, inefficient and misguided federal government. Natives have it much worse in that your assets are controlled by them, and you are geographically locked in. What a mess.
I will read and re-read your great post here as it has helped my perspective on the issue. Thanks so much for taking the time to write.
A lot would need to be done in order for all people to be treated alike. I’m all for this type of equality. Some i am afraid may not like it as well as one may think.
Well the Spaniards did the natives a great service just south of us and now they have their whole country of Mexico. We have the racist Christian doctrines to thank for all of this discovery. Amen🤣🙏🏽
Thanks for your comment Blake.
I live on the reservation,,,i use to drink but gave it up over thirty years ago, at one time in our history nobody ever drank , used drugs, there was no poverty, we were self sufficient, our children were taught values from a young age that included respect and generosity . everyone was taken care of in the village.
That was all taken away when Columbus came it went down hill ever since. There has been attempts at changing the people to be like you. The church run boarding schools which did everything to kill the Indian in the people, the languages ,,culture , way of life , through beatings, physical, mental and sexual abuse.
the children were forced to convert, to a god they never knew. My grandparents never spoke of the schools, because of the horrible memories.
There was also the relocation program, where the people were moved to urban areas such as the bay area or Los Angeles. This was a utter failure with the people now living in poverty in the cities, this is all an assimilation plan. it failed,,,
then there was the termination era back in the 60z where whole tribes were terminated their holdings sold off and now those people living in poverty, landless, some have become federally recognized again , but others haven’t,,,
Then there is the corruption that was brought to us from the BIA or bureau of Indian affairs the Cobell settlement with the US government ,,,they settled the case with about 3 billion dollars going to all the tribes,,,it was supposed to be over 100 billion which was cheated from the people by the US government EVEN WHEN THEY WERE ORDERED NOT TO SHRED DOCUMENTS THEY DID. well out of that 3 billion 1 billion went to payouts to people for timber sales and land leases that the US MISMANAGED,,,1 billion to land buy back so the tribes could buy back fractionalized lands and 1 billion for scholarships
all said was this 3 billion was just a drop in the bucket from that 100 billion that was mismanaged. even then when the settlement was made we had to agree how to use it,,
Can go on and on but evidently you don’t know our history, the real history of the people,,the US ‘s dark history with the people otherwise you wouldn’t have written what you did. Everyone focuses on the negatives, they never look at the positives, those being we still have some of our languages and are striving to bring that back, their has been a revival in our way of l;ife,,,not religion as we never had any,,we call it a way of life,,such as sundance,,which is prayer,,,our culture and just simply being a distinct people,,,this doing away with the reservations is just another attempt at assimilation,,, the melting pot thing the US strives for,,,
just wanna say pidamiyapedo or many thanks for the good comments out there and lets focus on our positives because they are good and I would much rather live on a reservation with my relatives than in a big city
Thanks for your comment Jimmy.
“We could, within a year, eliminate the embarrassment of Indian reservations from our landscape.”
Have you been to every single reservation in order to state to the public that they’re an embarrassment?!? Until then, you should probably keep your thoughts limited to what you actually know and have witnessed for yourself. The only embarrassment is people, like you, who assume they know everything about reservations without actually going to see for themselves.
Go check out Pine Ridge some day.
So you base all your opinions from Pine Ridge Reservation. Wow….. that’s sad. You know nothing. What you write about is all wrong.
I take no solace in the fact that someone who knows nothing about me or my family has the gall to call out Native American Reservations and insist he’s not being racist. The reservation is the land set aside for the “original ” people of the land. Nobody is going to take that E V E R, N O B O D Y. The people did NOT choose to be here we are from here. We didn’t choose to “Live” on reservations we were forced. We are the most mistreated people on the face of this earth who were given no options for where we could live. We pay taxes!!! Just like everybody else. Natives were forced to live in the reservations and forced to go to boarding (aka European brainwashing schools) schools then forced to conform to the “norms” of”American” society and now you want the reservations dismantled just to satisfy your curiosity?
Thank you Ruth, I’m glad you agree with me. You ARE the most mistreated people, in the USA anyway, forced to live in reservations. I rest my case.
Welcome to the United States of America!!!!! Just STOP…..White privilege at its finest smdh
Thank you, Ruth. You spoke the truth and you spoke it well
First of all, there was an effort to assimilate Natives. I’m sorry you don’t know that part of history. Second, it isn’t that simple. Tribes have tribal government and sovereignty. You go off of BIA consensus and facts you find on google but, that doesn’t mean anything. Research more and learn about each tribe and see what you’re talking about is all wrong. Poorly researched.
Don’t forget the government made the reservations
We Native Americans are still here, regardless of what the government tries to do to us.
We did survive Columbus, and thankfully Custer
We will survive
Wow instead of bashih pine ridge maybe u should come visit and see some off our good ppl there ya we live rough but we still have good people there and we have wonderful teachers and not all of the pine ride is bad my family is from Kyle sd about 45 min away from pine ridge and alot my family are ranchers and do very well for them selves and alot my family is highly educated we own alot of business and we are teachers and nurses. So yes pine ridge isn’t the best of towns on our rez but alot of us who still have well power are trying and some of us even move away and come back to try to help. It so sad that because of some of the lazy ppl there white think we are all that way smh… I’m a proud native women and I am from pine ridge sd no I don’t thing rez sound be taken away but yes they need more help.
Tasheena, I do not broad brush any “group” of people, whether by race, or sex, or size or left-handed vs. right. You are certainly right, there are “good people” everywhere, and you sound like one of them! On average, though, Native Americans have lower earnings, poorer health care, worse education, less mobility, less access to equity, and generally fewer opportunities than other Americans. When you say they “need more help”, that’s what worries me. Because it is the “help” you have been getting from the federal government that created the problems! I would like to see Natives get less government “help” and be allowed to own and use their own land and assets. There is tremendous property value, mineral rights, etc. on the reservations and you should be able to own, use, and keep that property – not the federal government.
Rich, you have no idea what you are talking about!! This idea of ending reservations is What Trump & Republicians want to steal More Native American Indian land and end Native sovereignty! Reservation problems are learned behavior that are choices each person makes of their own free will! So now you want to do way with all the treaty between the US Government & the Native American Nation? As a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation & US Citizen I take both very serious. All the members of my family do!
So, you’re basically advocating for the dissolution of tribal national territory.However, this just represents the land base of tribal nations. Are you also advocating the dissolution of tribal nations too? On the basis of what…because they are poor? Or, “most” of them are?
The same argument could be made for the dissolution for the state of Mississippi where about 22% of the population lives in poverty. Or Alabama or New Mexico. The poverty rate average for all reservations is about 28%. That’s not far off of Mississippi’s poverty rate, and this is just aggregated numbers and averages. Sure, some rates are higher, but some are less. In fact, most tribes are NOT POOR! In fact, some tribes are economic powerhouses in their states. If you do away with reservation lands, you’d wipe out billions of dollars of revenue going into state coffers via state-tribal compacts (e.g. gaming revenue) each year.
Let’s clarify here. You said:
“About 1 million Native Americans live on reservations, most of them in poverty.”
The very first opening sentence of your article is factually incorrect. The embedded link takes you to a wikipedia page on Reservations. The word “poverty” is only mentioned twice on that page, once in the main text, and second is a topic link to “reservation poverty.” That page clearly states the average rate is 28.4%.
So….most? 28% is most now? Do most people in Mississippi live in poverty too?
Again, maybe we should dissolve that state and divvy up all public lands and put it in the hand of individual land owners, cut all federal funds to that state. That will help them too. Why just focus on Native Americans? Let’s “help” Mississippians become Americans and get out of their tragic system of poverty as well. I mean if this theory of dissolving poor polities is the best approach, we can apply it across the board. Dissolve Mississippi first, then New Mexico, then Louisiana, etc. All the failing states where “most” live in poverty (according to our new, arbitrary definition of most).
You also don’t seem to understand that Native Americans are dual-citizens. They are Americans already. No need to “welcome” us to the United States. We are very aware of the political realities here. We actually value the continuation of our tribal nations, and we have not allowed for them to be extinguished.
By the way, much of the funding that goes to tribes are for administering standard federal grants. It’s not special “Indian money” and supposed benefits doled out on the basis of being Indian. These would be grants that also go to states, to operate a variety of programs. So, if you pulled that money out of the tribal-administered grants, it would just have to be redirected to states, and then they’d have to turn around and serve the SAME population (again, because we are state residents and US citizens). Right now, tribes are just administering these grants on a localized level. Examples would be Child Welfare, or Child Support Enforcement (which funds operation to collect child support from Native parents) among others. Cut those, and these Native clients or populations would then just have to go to state offices for services…and here’s the kicker: the funding level at the federal level would be exactly the same!
What about legal precedent or jurisprudence here? What would be the legal argument to reverse 100s of years of legal precedent and supreme court rulings? A whim? A theory? Fortunately, our legal system doesn’t work like that (or, shouldn’t anyway…it’s constantly being eroded though).
There is basically no right or justification to dissolve tribal nations by force of arms or via illegal (and immoral) means. Look, I fought in Iraq supposedly to bring self-determination and democracy to those oppressed people, and yet, I come back here and fellow Americans will advocate for the hostile take-over of my tribal national lands? That’s sad…and ironic even!
Please tell me this: at what point did my right as a tribal citizen get stripped? I mean, at what moment and by what authority? I’d like to know. If this kind of approach ever gained support and started to look like it could come to fruition, I’d sure as shit take up arms against enemies foreign AND domestic. You think its a coincidence we still have our nations intact and some land remaining. We’re stubborn as f*ck! I’m being a little rhetorical or bombastic in my last few paragraphs here, but you get my point. My nation would be dissolved literally over my dead body. That’s just a fact. And I’m just one of many Native warriors that have this mindset. This has been the mindset for 500 years.
Anyway, this issue isn’t going to be resolved by some random dudes arguing theory on social media platforms in 2017. It’s a lot deeper and more complex than you probably realize. Thanks for reading!
No, no, no Vet! Do NOT think about dissolving your tribal nations. But DO think about getting more independence from the federal government, because they are screwing you. You don’t have access to the tremendous equity in the land that the tribes and members own. You talk about “our” land. Heck, you can’t even get a home mortgage on many reservations! Curious what percentage of Indian land is owned and controlled by individual Natives. It’s mostly controlled by the federal government in one way or another.
Sorry you worked so hard to put words in my mouth, almost none of which are accurate. But thanks for your thoughtful reply. And you are right, we won’t solve any of the problems on social media, but we may draw attention to them which might help down the road.
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I agree with your premise. I think these people should be taught skills, such as money management and useful job skills among many other things. They need to be shown how to assimilate.
If given the same access to our free market economy, “these people” will quickly learn all they skills they need to thrive just like everybody else does. My issue is they do not have control over their own property because the reservation land and asset rights are rigidly controlled by the federal government so they can’t thrive. And they have become so indoctrinated by big government and radical left-wing politicians they don’t even know they are being held back.
Tom Balek, I applaud your thoughtfulness and you measured responses to those who have replied. I have read each of your words and accepted your intention. It is extremely difficult to rationally discuss a complex problem especially when there are people who chime in with knee jerk reactions without trying to understand your meaning. I agree that most of us would be better off without the nanny state skimming the cream off of the top.
I also wish to thank those native Americans who took the time to add to this discourse. Your articulate reasoning is deeply appreciated. Social media may not solve our problems but it allows us to discuss our problems without the filters of media and government which both have agendas that do not help us.
Wow! Thanks Glenn!
I am part Blackfeet from Montana. Although I lived on the reservation I was isolated from the tribe, most lived 30 miles away. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, 30 miles was a long ways away. The population of the tribe has, in my estimation doubled since then. I was schooled in a predominantly white system. I didn’t actually choose one lifestyle over the other since the Blackfeet lifestyle just wasn’t something I was raised with. It was actually AM radio night time skip and out of state newspapers that caught my interest in traveling. At age 18 I was on my own and having broken up with a high school girlfriend I thought about dating a native girl. Those I met were all single mothers which was a turn off. It wasn’t hard to meet non native girls who were single and didn’t already have babies. I started working and moved with my jobs in the oilfields. I married a non native and spent all my working life away from the reservation. I felt part of America seeing that all of the US was not white or TV program blacks. My marriage ended with my wife passing away a few years back and I eventually came back “home”. During my working years I paid FICA tax and I am now disabled. I live on that since it is very hard to find a manual labor job let alone a job requiring a professional degree. I don’t have a traditional last name or a government assigned name which to be frank, is out of place here. I don’t believe I will ever have a job on the reservation or even date here since the Blackfeet life is very distant to me. I miss my old life and feel terribly lonely but I would never give up my life as a mainstream person for the reservation life even if I could.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m proud to share a nation with you. (30 miles away – Cut Bank?) I’m from Augusta.
Bill thanks for reading my post and your poignant comments.
I hope all goes well for you and the virus panic hasn’t been too difficult. I have a disabled (blind) son and the isolation is killing him!
I miss Montana, but that might be mostly nostalgia. When I was a kid my band used to play dances all over the state including Browning. I have not-so-fond memories of driving home in blizzards!
Take care, best wishes.
I love this article. It takes the emotion out and it focuses on the real issue. I never really understood why we are still on reservations. I lived on the reservation for 23 years and I seen NO PROGRESS with any Native government using the word sovereignty.
I am a northern cheyenne member. I left the reservation when I was 12. I speak cheyenne and know the traditional ways. I left because my Father was killed there, My brother also. My family members are addicted to alcohol. I lived with a family in Washington state. I graduated there and had a good life without all the reservation worries. The reservation is not good for my family but they have no where else to go. I have been gone from the reservation for 42 years. I go visit but not to stay. Its still the same and always will. I am for doing away with reservations. Its great being away from their, I only wish more would leave and see that theres alots of Jobs and great people out here. I am married and 3 of my children have college degree’s. one is a Doctor in Pharmacy. I live in Idaho and I hunt and fish. Its been good for me to grow up and away from the reservation.
Reblogged this on ARLIN REPORT……………….walking this path together.
Thanks Arlin. This post is now three years old, and is by far my most-read and circulated blog.
I am glad I came across it. Have native American blood. My great great great great grandfather was Black Hawk. Sauk chief. My great grandparents spoke in a broken, rhythmic English. While I don’t know of any family members living on a rez, my dad told me about his going into the cellar of his great grandparents and saw headdresses, bows, arrows and tomahawks. He said it was kind of scary. 🙂 So, native Americans are dear to my heart. I share your opinion, give them their property and set them free. They haven’t left because they got to trained to be there. Hard to leave what you become use to. Take care and stay healthy!
There are way too many problems to confront when trying to end the reservation system. Congress would never go along with it for so many reasons, too numerous to count, and then the BIA as a federal agency would fight against putting themselves out of a job and access to ALL that money, and no lobbying entity or politician would sign on because kick-backs and payola from access to Indian venue is very lucrative; you scratch my back chief and I’ll scratch yours (we’ll keep things under control). The Indian governance paradigm of chief(s), council(s), cultural curators, etc, I am completely sanguine do not want to become unemployed, so they’re not going to argue for a change or dissolution. Everybody or anyone who is making a buck off the pathetic situation that reservations represent are going to be against change; e.g. casinos, whiskey, and cigarette vendors. It seems the people cashing in on the reservation paradigm are just fine with it. That’s a tough nut to crack.
The only way to end it and then hope that it opens other opportunities up is something derived as a side consequence, such as another American Revolution, where the status quo ends and something new develops …hopefully in a good way. Still, that’s a big wish. Unfortunately, subjugated Indians will continue to suffer the mess they find themselves in with crooked self-serving Indian aristocracies within tribes and greedy grafters working the fringes. I am all too familiar with our local Montana Reservations and the pitiful nuances.
Not to sound so down about everything I can add that I am simply always proud of any person who can break away from a suppressive situation and then strikes out on their own to become all they can …by the seed of their own dedication to succeed. Decent people who care enough about their own future take a chance on themselves and go for it. Get some distance between you and any problems. The key to success has always been courage, but networking a little bit helps, too. Knowing someone who can give moral support and a recommendation is just as important as self-drive. Life is a tough struggle ALONE so having a network of a few good friends to lean on during rough times helps. 50-years down the road and looking back I got some lucky breaks by being courageous, friendly, and happy. Nobody likes a complainer or quitter.
My advice to a person that feels trapped ON a reservation is don’t wait for the babysitter to change your life, they’re only there for the loot. A coward always takes a beating whereas brave souls explore for better options.
I’m 73 and I lived my life being courageous, friendly, happy and exploring.
Chet Walker, M.P.A.
Chet thanks for your very thoughtful reply and for sharing your experience. Hopefully this year we will see some political change that will benefit Natives nationwide. As our president says, “what have you got to lose?”
I guess the government disagrees, with the communist supreme court handing half of Oklahoma including two major cities (coincidentally the best state in the union for gun rights) for reservations.
Quite frankly, the whole notion is disgusting to me. They’re not native, they migrated across the Bering strait and they only got their land through war and conquest. It’s not like the European pilgrims saw any reservations for the Scandinavian settlers who made it here before the “native” Americans. And it’s not like handing over US land for reservations helps solidarity. Next the blacks will want to take a chunk of the US for themselves (I think some have already demanded it) because of the distorted and perverted lies which masquerade as history in public schools. The hispanics have already said they want Texas to be Mexico again, despite Texas being a free state that chose to join the union.
Did you know the most popular history book in public schools was “A people’s history of the US” or whatever written by Howard Zinn, a card-carrying communist party member who lied to the FBI about his membership. “Higher education” in America just cements the communist indoctrination in the public school system. Go look up some before/after liberal arts college photos/collages and you’ll see just how destructive is this BS.
Doing away with public schools would help so much. But then it’d be much harder for the government to raise generation after generation of mindless sheep willing to die for the counterfeit Israel, big oil, and the military industrial complex. Ironically, no mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible are allowed in schools yet public schools in America were initially founded to teach children the Bible. You’ll also find a reference to God in every preamble of all 50 state constitutions. I can’t wait for Christ to return and destroy all the wicked already, between the media/government lies, the endless hypocrisy, and the communists destroying our cities… I’m just sick of these wicked freaks.
Why can’t the government officials be smart enough to think about this and take action?
Native American Reservations:
When it comes to the DC establishment, they really are a one trick pony!
Historically they’ve always thrived on theft, slavery and genocide. I can’t help but notice the similarities between ghettos & reservations… Both were designed by the DC establishment and “coincidentally” both perpetuate poverty and vice, while preventing the growth & betterment of the residents.
I wonder how many times a corrupt establishment government can get away with using the same failed model to “Benefit marginalized people” by way of poverty, segregation and government dependence?
Strength through weakness?
Wealth through poverty?
Freedom through slavery?
This corrupt establishment grinds it’s own people to dust without a second thought.
We are all slaves trampled under the jackboot clad feet of the establishment…
With that in mind, let me be the first to say Welcome to America!!