September 27, 2010

Indian reservation = "Wild West"?!

Indian reservations a land of the freebie

By Jennifer FerminoBargain-priced butts, cheap gas and gambling casinos get all the attention, but life on an Indian reservation includes other lifestyle elements that are as foreign as the Wild West to most New Yorkers.

Step onto an Indian reservation and you're leaving the United States and entering a sovereign nation that includes free health care, a tribal justice system with its own courts, jails and police--and even separate license plates and passports.
Comment:  The headline and the first paragraph ("as foreign as the Wild West") are the problem here. They sound like race-baiting scare tactics.

The second paragraph and the rest of the article are reasonably accurate. They correct the initial impression created by the article. But if someone doesn't read the article carefully, the damage will be done.

Some specific problems with the article's language:

  • Some tribes didn't sign treaties and some don't have reservations, so I'm not sure every tribe gets free healthcare.

  • Free healthcare would be familiar to any New Yorkers who get it through their jobs or through the government (e.g., veterans). It's hardly a foreign concept.

  • "Free healthcare" is supposedly found in "socialist" societies, as thousands of screaming teabaggers have told us. It's the opposite of what you'd find in the Wild West, where rugged individualists had to help themselves or die.

  • The article states that an Indian tribe has "a tribal justice system with its own courts, jails and police." That sounds exactly like the US, not like a lawless "Wild West" environment.

    Really, the article provides no basis for using "Wild West" to describe an Indian reservation. It's pure stereotyping. "Watch out if you step onto a reservation!" the message seems to be. "Indians are a wild, savage bunch, so they'll cheat you, rob you, or scalp you!"

    And the so-called "freebies" (healthcare and no state income taxes if you work on the rez) aren't really free. That's like saying Americans get free police and firefighting services. No, they pay for them with their taxes.

    And Indians paid for their "freebies" with their land. It's the same kind of arrangement: You give something to the government and it gives something back. There's nothing "free" about it.

    For more on the subject, see Enemy Territory as "Indian Country" and The Essential Facts About Indians Today.


    Johnny White Man said...

    Basically what she is doing is mocking Cowboys and their famous image.

    Wild West=Cowboys="Whitey"

    Cowboys own that phrase/title. When one thinks of "Wild West", one is actually thinking--Cowboys, lawlessness, stagecoaches and shootouts at the corral.

    So yeah, her analogy of this is wholly incaccurate.

    Burt said...

    Freebies? Really?

    This person must not have gotten out of her car on the "rez" to live as a native.

    Another so-called American ignorant of their own country and its policies that created the reservation systems so their childrens children could grow up "free" of the "Indian problem" by placing them on scattered islands across the continent and then have the nerve to judge the people their forefathers forced off lands at gunpoint so their foreign infection and the creation and cause for white privilege for prosperity or "way of life" as the proud patriots lament, 500 years later point their fingers at the desposed and call them "freebies?"

    Who in this country really got all the freebies?

    Have they forgotten the dead beneath their feet and the blood on their forefamilies hands?

    Until I see any "Indians" burning down the fort, I think this person should just shut the hell up or go back to where'ever her people crawled out of!