Trouble on the Reservation
The Native American people, despite being American citizens and having sent their sons and daughters to serve in our wars, are in dire straits. Native Americans are among the most impoverished ethnic group in the United States. Majority Native American counties have unemployment rates that are significantly higher than other American counties. The poverty rate is as high as thirty-two percent among some Native American families and some tribes report poverty of as high as over eighty percent. The Sokaogon Chippewa have an unemployment rate of ninety-three percent.
The Roots of Poverty
Crime is rampant among Native American reservations. Women are particularly victimized. Half of Native American women have experienced sexual or domestic violence, according to the New York Post. This crime may be a result of the substance abuse that is also quite common on reservations. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that Native American youth were substantially more likely to drink, use drugs and smoke. This is no doubt a direct result of the poverty that permeates reservation life.
The roots of Native American poverty are quite simple and easy to discern. Native American tribal lands are under the control of the United States government. This has enormous psychological, economic and social effects and none of them are good. First off, it denies Native Americans a sense of freedom and self-determination. Secondly, it makes it difficult for a potential Native American entrepreneur to open a business. He or she can’t put his or her land or mortgage as an asset in getting a loan because he or she does not actually own the land nor the house. Let’s say a developer wants to invest in a Native American community. This would be of no benefit to Native Americans as any royalties generated by this development would be held “in trust” by the government “on behalf of” Native Americans. The government supposedly distributes this money to the inhabitants of the reservation. Why then is the poverty rate so high? Strangely, the government often loses track of who they’re supposed to pay. This is either gross incompetence or malice.
The regulations on Native American reservations are also prohibitive towards businesses. According to Forbes, to get an energy development permit requires forty-nine steps. Off reservation, it takes four steps. Perhaps, this is why many homes on reservations lack electricity.
One could say, Native Americans could move away from the reservations. There are numerous difficulties with this. There are the emotional ties that binds one to their family and ancestral land. Then there is the simple fact that many Native Americans do not have the money to move.
The Road to Riches
There is a clear link between property ownership and prosperity. If Native Americans were allowed ownership of their own resources, they would be able to use it as they see fit. They would be able to open more businesses without the red tape of government regulation to slow them down. Individual Native American entrepreneurs could put up their assets to receive loans.
In addition, an easing of government regulation would encourage investors onto the reservation. This would means jobs for Native Americans and a chance for them to prosper. More than that, it will give Native Americans a psychological sense of freedom and self-determination. Natives have shown themselves to be as capable of running businesses as anyone else. Many tribes have prospered by building casinos, obtaining more revenue than Las Vegas. Interestingly, these casinos are not subject to government regulations.
Imagine how prosperous Native Americans could be if they were given ownership of their land and could therefore invest in their own resources. More than that, it is morally wrong for the government to hold on to land that by all rights belongs to the original peoples of this nation. It is a violation of that most sacred of all rights-the right to one’s own property.
If you enjoyed our articles, please consider making a small gift to The Washington Ledger. 100 percent of your donation goes to fund the small editorial staff and basic tools that TWL uses to support our journalists. Please consider supporting our mission by allowing our team to focus on what we do best. The future of journalism depends on it.