May 28, 2009

Rosebud too poor for airport?

Criticism Over Tribal Airport Borders On Racism

By Kevin AbourezkIn a May 19 editorial, Madison (S.D.) Daily Leader Publisher Jon M. Hunter criticized $4.1 million of stimulus money that will pay for an airport for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Hunter didn't question that construction of the airport would fall under the provision of rebuilding infrastructure, one of the stated goals of the federal stimulus act. However, Hunter questioned whether a new airport was what was most needed on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, "where alcoholism and poverty are pervasive, education is substandard and healthcare quality is questioned."

While failing to support his assertions with facts or statistics, Hunter continued to rail on the horrendous conditions of the reservation.

"Since many tribal members don't have enough money to buy a used car or the gasoline for it, we would guess that there are a limited number of private or corporate airplanes at Rosebud," he wrote.

And that's where Hunter revealed his ignorance.
And:While poverty certainly is rampant on the Rosebud Reservation, there are still plenty of people who can afford to buy cars, gasoline and, yes, even plane tickets.

Rosebud Tribal President Rodney M. Bordeaux retorted in a column this week on, saying some tribal members are so angry over Hunter's "derogatory racial stererotypes" they are considering legal action.

"If the only factual support for these statements are the gut feelings of whoever ‘we' are, why not simply say all Native Americans are alcoholic, poor, lazy, and uneducated people?" Bordeaux wrote.

As Bordeaux pointed out, the airport will allow the tribe to transport critically ill patients from the reservation to larger hospitals. A significantly smaller airport on the reservation is barely able to support the more than 270 flights a year that take patients to hospitals beyond the tribe's borders. Construction of the airport will create about 150 jobs, thus meeting a very clear goal of the stimulus act: job creation.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Good-for-Nothing Indians.


dmarks said...

"...where alcoholism and poverty are pervasive..."

So? The conjuntion of alcohol abuse and aviation is hardly news, and I don't see anyone demanding that they shut down the other airports where alcoholic passengers and drunk pilots board.

However, in regards to the last paragraph, that this is medically necessary for the community, I wonder if perhaps the Rosebud community would be better served if the money were spent to build them a splendid hospital. In the community. Instead of an airport just to make up for the fact that they lack a hospital.

Rob said...

I don't think Hunter was worried that drunk pilots or passengers would board the planes. He was saying Indians are alcoholics so it's pointless to give them money. They'll just spend it on booze.

I think Hunter raised a valid issue, but he did it badly. He could've said something like, "Is an airport a better use of stimulus money than a school or a hospital?" Then people might've debated the issue on its merits.

I don't know if Bordeaux's argument about transporting patients is the best or only argument he gave. I imagine the airport would be useful for tourists and for government officials who go back and forth to Washington DC. It also might be useful for law enforcement, fire-fighting, and search-and-rescue missions.