I take issue with several misguided, even misleading statements made by Mr. Garza in this column. I've number the quotes from him and my answer underneath each quote. 1. "You would think having the coffers of the U.S. government at one’s disposal would offer the joys of utopian life liberals dream of." Mr. Garza, no Indian Nation has ever had the coffers of the US government at its disposal. Those coffers have been enjoyed by Euro-American (white) people in power--like your former boss, George W. Bush. Instead of spending money on education or healthcare, President Bush started several wars and crippled the U.S. economy with borrowed, reckless spending on those wars that have disproportionately take Indian lives. Honestly, I'm not aware of any "liberals" or Indians or liberal Indians who dream of utopia. I am aware of some including myself who dream of adequate housing, fresh food, potable water, and access to excellent, universal healthcare. 2. "In fact, it is in government-managed Tribal reservations where we get a clear picture of how communal land ownership and federal trust restrictions on land ownership hinder an entire people from thriving." First, this is the neoliberal argument, aka Tea Party rhetoric. But the truth is that communal land ownership allowed communities to THRIVE for tens of thousands of years before a Euro-American ideology of individualism interrupted it. Second, federal trust restrictions have kept the small bit of Indian-owned land in Indian hands. Breaking up communal land into individual land ownership is otherwise known as allotment. We tried that. It didn't work. In fact, it served to destroy cultures, which are directly correlated to tribal ills you describe. It resulted in over two-thirds of all Indian land to be stolen in less than 30 years. Read the Meriam Report, Mr. Garza. The theft was only stopped with the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. I'll leave to the attorneys to explain the specifics of that to you, Mr. Garza. Third, you do great disservice to the Yakama people by suggesting their reservation is managed by the federal government. The Confederation Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation is governed by THEIR Yakama Tribal Council -- not the federal government. I don't presume to know what other Indian peoples believe, but I know that my people, the Muscogee, want to talk about what is happening within our world. We find it insulting when others come in and decide what is good and bad for us. We do appreciate and utilize our allies, but it's this general attitude of "we know better than you" that has "hindered" Indigenous Peoples for the last 500+ years. 3. "Our government must seek to unleash the entrepreneurial potential of American Indians by incentivizing more risk-taking, free enterprise and capital accumulation within reservations." In this instance, you position individual Indians, as dependent, and as the problem, and the government as the solution. Yet, you said before that the government was the problem. Also, you're basically saying that if only Indian people worked harder and took more risks, then we'd make more money and then we'd enjoy the ever-elusive "freedom" we so often hear about from the Tea Party and Republicans, alike. Actually, if we had the money that the federal government owes us, then we had more fiscal freedom. But that might mean you have to pay the Yakama Nation taxes for living on their land. So you see, fiscal freedom does not necessarily mean the freedom to reclaim our lands, languages, and spiritual beliefs. You're pushing assimilation, Mr. Garza. And you do it, sketchily. Now to your point about entrepreneurship. Actually, Native people, make less money than almost every other raced group whether in private business or wage employment. And 93% of all businesses owned by Native women have NO employees other than themselves compared to 83% of businesses nationwide. Small business ownership and entrepreneurship is NOT always the answer. In fact, most of the time, it's only a short-term solution to survival. Most businesses, no matter who owns them, are gone within three years. 4. "There is no substitute for free people earning success on their own merit, with their own creativity. Entrepreneurship is not antithetical to Indian cultures and history." Generally, most Indigenous groups do not believe that we earn our success on our own merit. We understand that we succeed only because of the sacrifice of our ancestors before us and the constant support of our community and family. You're right about one thing, what you call "entrepreneurship" and what I call trade does have a rich history in Indigenous cultures. The difference is that the sociohistorical trade of Indigenous Peoples was done for the good of ALL the people, not just individuals here and there. This column pushes a colonizing mindset. My job is to decolonize.
Friday, October 12, 2012 - 12:28