Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving: How to fix poverty on American Indian reservations

The issue of justice for Native Americans is near and dear to my heart. I think the goal for which we should strive is for the American Indians to be at least as prosperous as the rest of us in this country, and consider that the smallest return on their welcome that we could, in good conscience, accept. I have long pondered how we could realistically reach that goal.

I would like to float an idea as a possible solution: what if the American Indian nations were given permanent seats in the U.S. Congress? Benefits of congressional seats:
  • Representation: a voice in policy;
  • Representation: a voice when lobbying for federal projects;
  • Electoral votes: every presidential candidate in a close race would be obligated to visit the reservations, a thing which is almost unheard of presently.
  • Presence: it would go a long way towards alleviating the "out of sight, out of mind" forgotten status of the American Indians
.I'm sure there would be a thousand details to work out. But I expect the end result would be well worth it.


LoieJ said...

Interesting! They need more of a voice, besides the voice of the casinos, which don't help reservations in remote locations.

Pastor Dave Ruddat said...

I can't speak for the rest of the country, but Obama visited the reservations in Montana.

At what point does the responsibility shift to the Native Americans? That is the question to ask when there is a huge labor force on the reservation but no incentive to work hard when health insurance/welfare/other aid is there for the taking. I don't think promoting idleness under the guise of reparations is the key to a people's prosperity.

I and my members want the Native Americans to prosper. We want them off of drugs and the abuse of alcohol. However, there is only so much we can do...

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi there

I have odd ideas of responsibility: I think there's an overlap, where in some places both parties are 100% responsible. I promise I can do percentages, but I think responsibility is like a relay: if there's not an overlap, the baton gets dropped. If either party is apathetic, it's a problem; if both are apathetic then it's a bigger problem. And every once in awhile it's not so much apathy as frustration ...

If the problems were easy to fix, they'd have been fixed awhile back. ;)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

BK said...

The biggest problem with the reservations that I have seen is that they are intentionally disconnected from the larger society. In an effort to maintain a seperate life, they do not welcome (in fact, they repel) the general civilization around them -- including the help that it can provide through integration of the communities into the broader communities.

Weekend Fisher said...

You know, I don't think repelling the larger civilization bothers me *if* they have achieved the prosperity level to which they aspire. That would only bother me if it became a "catch 22" situation where someone insisted that we have it both ways, with isolation that can only be achieved without integrating, *and* benefits that can only be achieved by integration. It would also have to be clear that the choice to what extent to integrate was up to each community. No borg-style assimilations, no discrimination or rejection from the society at large.

Good to see you again, BK.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Anne / WF

BK said...

I am obviously not suggesting that Borg-like assimilation is necessarily good. As a Christian, I believe in living in the world while not being of the world. I can understand where the Native Americans would feel the same way.

But, as you point out, they do so at a cost. They simply don't have either the resources or the numbers by themselves to generate the wealth needed to alleviate the poverty in which they find themselves. They have to spend money off the reservation to buy much of what they need, but they have no economy on the reservations themselves where the reservations are producing goods or services (other than casino money and Indian art) that are purchased in large numbers outside of the reservation. The flow outward of money coupled with the disdain of inviting the outside in leaves them in poverty.

If that's what they want, that's their choice. But they cannot have it both ways: they cannot at the same time both complain about the poverty on the reservations and complain that they want nothing to do with the larger society around them. It just doesn't work economically.

Happy Thanksgiving to you too, WF.

LoieJ said...

Don't forget that the American Government intentionally "gave" the American Indians the land that was away from where the white people wanted to be, where there are few resources (or thought to be at that time) and where the land and/or weather is harsh.

But don't assume that all reservations don't welcome people or repel visitors. Yes there are difficulties, but there are places where the reservations are completely separate, and others that are more open to outsiders. Some Reservations are closed to outsiders buying land, others have had land sold off.

One of the reservations near us invites the kids from the predominately white schools to visit and learn about cultural things related to the land. The Indian kids later attend the public schools for the higher grades.

Weekend Fisher said...

You know, I think every reservation has its own history. The nearest reservation to me wasn't a "force the Indians away" thing, but Sam Houston (back in the day) set aside a fairly choice piece of land after all the help with the war of independence with Mexico, what with the nomadic lifestyle being endangered he got them on the official records as owners of some pretty nice land. Still, they're not exactly rich ...

For the purposes of my post, I wasn't trying to argue for or against isolation or any particular policy, but I think it would be a huge step if there were some reserved seats in Congress so that there was better representation.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

LoieJ said...

Several years ago, an Indian man, my brother in law's boss and a great business man, was in the interior department in charge, I think, of the BIA. He had to give up his businesses to be in government. He didn't stay long. Too frustrating, I guess, but he was the first Indian to run the agency.

I'm sure there would be constitutional problems with the congressional idea because of the sovereign nation thing.

Weekend Fisher said...

No doubt there would be lots of legal details to work out. I have wondered whether it would take an amendment ...