July 21, 2008

Jobs and homes needed

Tim Giago writes a column that serves as a corrective of sorts to Charles Trimble's call for personal responsibility:

Tim Giago:  Jobs and homes in Indian CountryThere is a paradigm shift in Indian country today that is probably as pronounced as the one that occurred in 1492. When the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act became law in 1988, just 20 years ago, the shift moved into full motion.

If there is anyone out there that still believes that the federal government is the answer to all of our problems they should have visited any Indian reservation in the United States 20 years ago and they would have changed their minds very quickly. The poverty in every facet of Indian life could have been blamed directly upon the supposed benevolence of the government.
If Indians aren't looking for government handouts, then what are they looking for?If a reporter from the New York Times would stand outside of the Sioux Nation Shopping Center and ask any man or woman exiting the store what is most needed to alleviate the poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation they would be told by all–homes and jobs–but not necessarily in that order.

Homes should not have been a problem to a government that spends trillions on weapons and war every year. Housing and Urban Development sent its director, Anthony Cuomo, to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the final year of the Bill Clinton Administration. He returned to Washington with a collection of photos depicting the worst housing conditions as could be found in America. He had the pictures hung in the hallways of HUD, but unfortunately, the pictures did not stir enough concern to turn them into the action needed to solve the problem.

Jobs? Congress has the power to make a dramatic difference. It could offer financial incentives to any major corporation willing to build factories on the reservation. As a matter of fact, some of the government buildings constructed in major cities could be built on the poor Indian reservations thereby providing jobs and opportunities. There are thousands of unemployed Lakota men and women just dying to find a good job. Congress could also construct a trade and vocational school in Martin, South Dakota, a community located directly between the two poorest Indian reservations in America, Pine Ridge and Rosebud, to provide job skills training. Now how hard would that be to do?
Comment:  So even if Indians on poor reservations take responsibility for their problems, they still can't do it all themselves. They can start small businesses, with difficulty, but they can't start major corporations. They can build cheap shacks, again with difficulty, but they can't build the kind of modern homes the rest of us expect. Not until they amass 10-20 years of savings from one of the nonexistent jobs on the rez, anyway.

This is why talk like Trimble's doesn't necessarily help much. You've decided to take personal responsibility...now what? Does that magically put a modern school or company within your reach?

True, you can always leave the rez, but that means abandoning your friends and family and your cultural roots. It's not much of a solution to leave several people in poverty because you may earn enough in 20 years to return and help them.

For more on the subject, see Blaming the Victim.

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