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View Diary: Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334 (244 comments)

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  •  We Get Mail! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, translatorpro, Fresno, Aji

    I received this thru email. I don't have the answers so I thought I would open it up to this community.  Please reply to this comment and I'll direct the emailer here.

    This diary describes what is, and how this came to be.  I want to know
    what can be.  I'm dashing this off, so do not take offense at poor
    turns of phrase.  I am deeply interested in positive change.

    The winter heating gas diaries demonstrated that specific causes give
    rise to specific actions.  What are the specific actions that need to
    be taken now?

    To me as a layman, it's not clear what the governmental structure is,
    either within or without the Rez.  First for soveriegnty.  What does
    it mean to say that Navaho are "wards of the Federal Government"?  The
    statement that "communal ownership of property was abolished" implies
    that on the Rez, nobody owns any land or structures.  This would mean
    that individuals cannot make positive changes.  Outside the Rez, one
    would assume that state and federal laws apply in the same manner as
    to white citizens.  Is there a significant population living off the
    Rez which could buy land adjacent to the Rez?  That would provide an
    anchor for private projects.
    Does all approval for construction and development have to be signed
    off on by the BIA?

    Statements about the lack of electrical power give rise to the
    questions of how that would be addressed.  If Navajo own the land,
    putting up solar panels or other generators would seem to "simply be a
    lack of capital".  In a similar way, pointing to the moldy housing
    stock would seem to be something that could be addressed quite easily.
    The Amish do it with community barnraisings.  What are the immediate
    problems stopping such a community movement?

    The high unemployment leads directly into the questions of what kinds
    of things can and should people be doing?
    Local projects could be financed with a completely local currency.
    Does that exist?  What would it take to jump start it?
    The diary discusses both the dropout rate and the teacher retention
    problems.  Both are worthy of their own diaries.  What needs to be
    done to provide valuable education and instill an ethic that values
    it?  Should high achieving students be the subject of scholarship
    Does the infrastructure exist to create something like a customer
    service call center?  That would seem to be a low risk, low reward way
    to get some people working.
    The diary discusses pervasive health issues.  Would creating a medical
    fund to pay for nurses be possible?  What are the specific kinds of
    benefits that would be achievable by a few motivated agents?

    What are the cultural issues associated with any of this?

    Thanks for any replies you care to offer.

    •  There are all kinds of complex issues tied up (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      navajo, TiaRachel, translatorpro, Aji

      in the answers to these questions.  One place to start could be the FAQs on the Indian Land Tenure Foundation's website, such as the answer there to the question, What are the land issues Indians face?

    •  Okay, I'll take a stab at some if this. (7+ / 0-)

      In the weeks to come, you'll be seeing diaries from a number of us on the Native American Netroots team addressing specific aspects of these issues, including action items.  I have one in the works myself, dealing with housing at the three South Dakota rezes we worked to help over the winter.

      I have a couple initial questions.  First, WRT your questions about the "Navaho":  Are you referring to the Sioux?  This diary dealt with problems at Pine Ridge, which is a Lakota Sioux rez; the Navajo (properly spelled with a "j"), or, more accurately, Diné, live on a number of reservations spread largely across northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona.  Many of these same issues do apply to the Navajo reservations, as well as to those of many (perhaps most) of our other tribes, but each tribe and each rez is also unique in the distinct mix of issues they face.  For a number of reasons - based largely on deliberate, intentional action by the U.S. government - Pine Ridge suffers even more than most.

      I'm not sure where the following references come from:  "Navaho are 'wards of the Federal Government'"; and "'communal ownership of property was abolished.'"  Neither is an accurate statement.  "Wards" is an outdated term that does not account either for sovereignty or for other legal doctrines and classifications that relate to Indians and Indian Country.  The notion that communal property was abolished sounds to me like one of the tropes I hear constantly from folks who want to rationalize European theft of Native lands:  a deliberate misinterpretation of our (widely varied and complex) notions about property and land ownership and stewardship.  Without more background as to the source and context for these two statements, I can't really address them in any meaningful way except to say that they are not accurate when stated that way.

      Now, to the practical issues:

      Generally speaking, rez-adjacent lands are not available for purchase, and certainly not by Indians, who suffer redlining at rates roughly equivalent to those of African Americans in the best of times - and with an employment rate at Pine Ridge approaching 85% and an average annual household income of less than $4,000 (yes, you read that right), that sort of credit is impossible for most folks there to get.  It also doesn't address the problems of inadequate housing on the existing rez lands themselves - two years ago, Pine Ridge was short 4,000 homes to shelter its people; it's worse now.

      Saying that electrical and solar power and "moldy housing stock" "could be addressed quite easily" quite frankly floors me.  "Lack of capital" - exactly.  And with an 84% unemployment rate and annual household income below $3700, raising such capital individually is unrealistic, to put it mildly.  The BIA is supposed to work directly with tribal housing authorities and HUD to ensure housing; eight years of GWB, on top of the last 40 years of systematic efforts to dismantle programs and legal protections for Indians by GOP and blue-dog members of Congress and success administrations, have rendered most programs related to our peoples dysfunctional at best.  Bush and his people, in fact, did their damnedest to demolish them entirely, but it's flown under the national radar, as usual.  And, of course, South Dakota's own governor couldn't be bothered to issue the requisite disaster declaration to save Indian lives until we started bombarding his office, state and local reps, the White House, and Congress with demands that he do his damn job.  (Which, I might add, he did in far less emergent circumstances a few months previously for non-rez areas of the state.)

      With regard to health care, there is a federal statutory obligation to fund the Indian Health Service fully.  Bush and congressional Republicans made sure that it never got even one year's full funding during those years.  In fact, the best it could get was emergency continuation funding, for lack of a better way of putting it, just to keep the lights on and doctors on staff in some clinics.  Numerous facilities have closed in recent years, and many others have significantly reduced services.  Worse, there's a long and well-documented history of overt medical malpractice within IHS (some that I have reason to know of personally), and there have been efforts in recent years to get rid of it entirely.  We are now at a point where IHS doctors in some areas are openly advising their patients to seek private health insurance, because they're afraid that IHS won't even exist in a few years - despite the fact, I repeat, that it is a statutory obligation.  And thanks to 500 years of contact and deliberate efforts at genocide, our people are in the midst of a whole host of health crises that would render them uninsurable - if not under the law, surely under the economics of it.

      To address your final question, cultural issues exist WRT all of these subjects.  The things is, there is no such thing as "Indian culture."  There are something like 563 currently federally-recognized tribes, with dozens more unrecognized, and we each have our own cultural traditions, language, and spiritual practices.  Many are similar; none is identical.  But I think I can say safely that one thing we all share is a commitment to those traditions, and that often involves ways of doing things that may be community-oriented in ways that the dominant culture doesn't (or refuses to) understand.  So I guess the ultimate answer to this question is that ti depends on the issue, the tribe, and the potential solutions being proposed.

      WRT providing concrete assistance, as I said at the outset, several of us are working on specific action diaries for the relatively near future.  But appropriate action is impossible without awareness and context.  That's what navajo's diary here has provided.  For next steps, I'd recommend watching for future diaries from members of the Native American Netroots team - and perhaps seeking additional reading from Native sources (which, I must point out, does not include Wikipedia).  There are several of us Native Kossacks; I imagine most are willing to provide recommendations WRT to their own tribes and/or specific issues with which they're familiar.

      Authentic Native American silverwork, jewelry, photography, and other art here.

      by Aji on Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 09:13:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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