Hat tip to Larry Kurtz!
American Indians have problems with poverty, unemployment, and other social ills. (Violent conquest can do that to a people.) But something in South Dakota makes our Indians poorer than Indians elsewhere in America. What gives? And what will solve?
Rep. Kristi Noem and various ax-grinders and libertarians believe that government can't solve problems in Indian Country. One man in Indian Country doesn't think churches or other non-profits do much good, either:
Pine Ridge reservation is drowning in saviors, drowning in missionaries and non-profit organizations. The reservation has hosted supposed saviors for most of its history. Yet going back to the beginning, few of these Christian groups or non-profits have been out for anything but themselves. Most have allied with the forces of colonialism rather than allied with the Lakota people. These groups have served as functionaries of mental and spiritual genocide while the US government carried out the physical extinguishing. Even when trying to help, these people too often haven’t questioned toxic assumptions about Native people, and wind up poisoning rather than helping [Tom, "The Failure of Christian Groups and Non-Profits on Pine Ridge Reservation," Notes from the mad Abstract Dark, 2012.02.21].
Moving from the abstract to the concrete, this blogger contends the money we white folks spend to send our kids on "mission trips" could be better invested in local skilled labor:
...RE-member charges $375 dollars a person for trips like these. For a 17 person crew like the one mentioned in the article that’s $6375. I also wonder, just how effective can 17 high schoolers be at attending to any needs of the reservation? I don’t mean to put down the high schoolers, or their desire to help someone. However, high school by definition is typically before someone has become advanced in any particular skill. Why pay so much to have unskilled high schoolers come all this way, when maybe that money could go toward hiring tribal members, already skilled in carpentry, building houses, waterworks, developing infrastructure? Perhaps its assumed we have no such people. The article seems to assume so. Yet there are people here skilled in every vocation, who are already connected to this community. If a group really wanted to help, perhaps they would empower and enable these local people, rather than parade outsiders about the land. At some point it starts to look like tourism, rather than whatever else it is supposed to be ["Failure...," 2013.02.21].
But even that cost-benefit analysis assumes those outside groups should keep sending resources to the reservation. Is the solution really a withdrawal of every fork-tongued white man from Indian Country, plus wholly indigenous self-improvement programs funded by billion-dollar reparations scheduled to sunset in 2076 (the bicentennial of victory at Little Big Horn)?
If Tom is right, and if nothing in the status quo has worked, I suppose trying something completely different couldn't make things much worse.