They’re Called Reservations, Not Preservations

Micah Armstrong

For quite some time I have told people, “They’re called reservations for a reason. If the government had any intention of helping our people and lands, they’d be called preservations. But as we all know, the government makes no business of preserving anything good.” The answer has been in front of us the whole time; as if the mass genocide of our people wasn’t a telltale sign of what was to come: there are continuous genocidal acts committed against our people by the federal government, and now our lands are being targeted as well. The federal government is exploiting our lands. Why? Because the majority of natural resources in this country can be found right under our people’s feet, on our reservations. I believe that not too long ago when the government mapped out what portions of our lands we were able to keep, that they had some idea that a day would come when they could no longer genocide our people through war, disease and murder. Or at least, they could not do this in the open for the public eye to see.

What would be one of the easiest ways to genocide our people? There are a few ways in which this is happening. For starters, the amount of gang-activity on our reservations is much like the gang-activity found in the urban ghettos of the cities. In particular urban areas around cities where the majority population is of African American descent, gang-related crimes have skyrocketed off of the charts. Most of the time unless a white person is calling the cops about a disturbance in those areas, the cops never show up. This is a blatant act of racism. Even the founder of Planned Parenthood was a staunch racist who believed that any minority race should be wiped off of the earth. Doesn’t it seem strange that the majority of Planned Parenthoods are located in the urban ghettos and projects? If the federal government is working on ways for the African American population to be destroyed, why would our people be held at a higher standard? Gang members on our reservations were in some cases raised together as friends, and often as blood-related family. So what happens when two cousins join rival gangs? They are no longer family, and they are no longer a people standing strong in unity. They are enemies; albeit of the same blood and same tribe

Another common way in which our people are being killed off is through the lack of locally available sources of healthy foods. Most of our people who live on reservations cannot afford to drive into the nearest town to go to a decent grocery store to get any food that their bodies truly require to survive. Besides, even if they had a mode of reliable transportation to get there, how would they be able to buy anything that they would need? The local stores around most reservations offers little to nothing next to the same stuff we used to live off of: foods high in starches, sugar, flour and of course, commodity cheese. These foods that are high in starches and sugars quickly raises our dependency upon sugar. And what is the quickest and easiest way to get sugar into your body? You may be able to eat a huge bowl of lucky charms in record time but I have found that the simplest method is by taking a shot of liquor. I have a hard time when white people come right up to me and ask me if alcoholism is a common occurrence on my reservation. This is very offensive, for I understand that not many of our people are as dependent upon alcohol as they are dependent upon sugar. Our people not having the ability to farm the way we used to is truly killing us off. We need options to be able to live as we once did before, or at least, to be able to sustain ourselves while not having to leave our reservations to go to the grocery store. Our lands that were once rich in vegetables, fruits and other food sources have become barren of anything natural or good. This is especially true on the reservations who do not even have the ability to attain clean drinking water. If you can’t drink it, you can’t grow anything good with it.

Often times, people praise the IHS (Indian Health Services) as being one of the best programs which is offered to us on our reservations. This may be true for the tribal council members and federal agents who are given VIP treatments at IHS locations, but what about the people who are much more poverty-stricken than those in leadership within and outside of the tribe? According to the National Library of Medicine, even in 1976, the government admitted to forced sterilization of Indian women. The report says,

“A study by the U.S. General Accounting Office finds that 4 of the 12 Indian Health Service regions sterilized 3,406 American Indian women without their permission between 1973 and 1976. The GAO finds that 36 women under age 21 had been forcibly sterilized during this period despite a court-ordered moratorium on sterilizations of women younger than 21. Two years earlier, an independent study by Dr. Connie Pinkerton-Uri, Choctaw/Cherokee, found that one in four American Indian women had been sterilized without her consent. Pinkerton-Uri’s research indicated that the Indian Health Service had “singled out full-blooded Indian women for sterilization procedures.”

There are still accounts to this day of the IHS doing the same sort of despicable thing. Only now, we are living in the year 2015. This makes me think that at least since 1973, all the way through today in 2015, the same form of genocide is taking place. That is a staggering 42 years. My opinion is that these are 42 years in which we could have multiplied our population. It seems to me that someone doesn’t want us to be able to populate our sacred lands or reservations any longer.

I have not seen nor heard of one time in the years of my own life, nor the years of my parents, my grandparents, or my great-grandparents when the federal government has done anything for the betterment and survival of our people. Although I have experienced, seen and heard horror stories in which the exact opposite has been true. Everything from diseases, to boarding schools. From dirty water, to uranium never being cleaned up… I have heard quite enough. But, maybe you haven’t yet. I will bring up one more topic— one that really hits close-to-home in my opinionated, yet strong family. Remember my other article about Certificate of Blood? What if I told you that C.O.B. is another way to remove our lands from the hands of our families and place them right into the hands of the federal government?

There’s a war going on in Indian country. But instead of the cavalry against the tribes, this time it’s the tribes against the tribes. Many tribal councils on reservations do not offer a way for those who are lineal descendants of the tribe to live on the reservations and to legally own land there. This places many people in a position to be torn between two opinions. One side of the controversial coin claims that by abolishing the certificate of blood standards and by creating a way for lineal descendants to join the tribe, maybe fifty years down the road there would be no full-bloods left living on the reservations. This sparks a belief that it could destroy the culture, and would leave lands to eventually be owned and run by people who were just half-breeds, or less than even that. This seems like a reasonable argument to many people in numerous tribes, especially when not thoroughly thought through. These sort of knee-jerk reactionary arguments and ideals are the kinds that can tear families apart. This holds especially especially true when those same full-bloods who are against lineal descendants were also the same people who created “half-breed” children by marrying a white man, or white woman. But this can also pose a problem for those who have lived on the reservation with their families, even if they are less than the minimum blood-quantum for being an enrolled member. Just because they weren’t enrolled due to the government’s standards, doesn’t always mean that they are disconnected from their cultures, or even their people’s languages.

On the other side of this figurative “controversial coin”, many people have begun to consider that through allowing lineal descendants to join their tribe, there would be less disconnection between family members. There could also be a greater opportunity to teach others who had not lived on the reservations, or who had not been raised in that culture, how to continue to use the traditions and trades which had been passed down from generation to generation. Many people also think that by allowing only those with a minimum blood-quantum level to be, or stay enrolled in the tribe, one day there would be no one left alive on the reservations to take care of the land, culture or traditions. Why are so many corrupt tribal councils (whom many of which are below the blood-quantum requirements) trying to make it so the lands cannot be passed down to grandchildren who were raised on the reservation, although they may not have been enrolled? Why is it that if you are a full-blood Native, you are often seen by others or yourself as a mystical savior to our people? Unless you are planning on procreating within the tribe at an astronomical rate, it’s hard to save your people when the eventual inevitable happens: death. Where does that place those who are not enrolled in tribes due to being slightly under the blood-quantum requirements? And where does it place those of us who are so staunchly against blood-quantum, that we are holding out to enroll until lineal descendants are also able to do the same? I will tell you one thing for sure: it’s hard for a family to own land if there’s no more family to pass it down to once the oldest members of the family passes away.

So think for a moment, if blood-quantum requirements stay in control, what happens to our lands? It’s obvious: they default straight to the federal government. That is unless you are a wealthy Indian who can afford to buy the land back. We all know how much subsidy money we are rolling in! Not. It makes sense to me that if the federal government is still playing a huge roll in the genocide of our people in order to steal our lands, that they would use every method possible to turn their evil schemes into a wicked reality. So why are they called reservations? Because the federal government is reserving our lands until a later time when they see it fitting or necessary to use the natural resources found in our sacred mother. If they had any interest in helping us out, they would be doing everything in their power to preserve not only our lands, but also our people. Without our culture, without our language and without our traditions, there is no longer an “us”. And eventually, there will no longer be any remaining lands for us or our families to preserve which we can call our own.

Micah is a Blackfoot Indian of the Siksika Nation. His mother and grandparents raised him traditionally, so it has always been his biggest goal to honor his ancestors in any way possible. He enjoys writing, doing beadwork, preserving his people’s language and of course, loves to cook frybread.

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