May 18, 2007

"Indian industry" exploits Indians?

Native writer slams 'Indian industry'The best way to kill a man is to pay him for doing nothing.

So goes a song by the French musician Felix Leclerc. The idiom was evoked Thursday by Calvin Helin, author of Dances with Dependency, a book calling on aboriginal people to empower themselves by acknowledging and overcoming their dependency mindset on "Indian industry."

"Some of them are doing a good, valid job, and a lot of them are out there just exploiting the situation and exacerbating the problems so that they can make more money out of it."

Helin said that the problem in the aboriginal community is that money has too often been regarded as the solution to problems.

"You would think with $9 billion a year, we would be able to solve this problem," Helin countered, referring to the $9.1 billion annually the federal government puts into programs and services for aboriginals. "If money was the problem, we should have been able to get a long way from where we are now."

The first step, according to Helin, is to simply begin talking about the issues and to give ordinary people a say in what goes on in the aboriginal community.

"Let them decide the direction we should take, not a handful of people," he said. "We need to be able to exercise our view whether it's heard or not in a democratic way to make a change just like every other Canadian has that right."
Comment:  Helin makes some valid points but he's also blaming the victim. Tribal citizens can't do much more than stay clean, work hard, and vote for the best candidates.

Outfits like,, and Blue Corn Comics are doing exactly what Helin advocates: disseminating information, talking about the issues, and giving ordinary people a say. In fact, for every corrupt tribal council blocking progress, there must be dozens of groups trying to foster progress.

Non-Indians get paid all the time to do nothing. Capital gains, mortgage interest deductions, inheritances, farm subsidies, etc. People rarely say that these things hurt society. Why should they say it about government payments to Indians?

Of course, these payments to Indians are akin to rent paid to use property. Indians are "doing nothing" in the same sense that all landlords are doing nothing when they sit around collecting rent checks. The landlords reached their present positions by trading something of value and so did the Indians.

But the landlords risked their capital, you say. Well, yes, these landlords took a chance when they bought their properties to gain a future stream of payments. And Indians took a chance when they sold their properties to gain a future stream of payments.


OPechanga said...

Other sites like and Paulina Hunter's blog are also talking about the issues, such as civil rights, and denial of due process that have happened to the disenrolled members of CA tribes.

Interesting choice of and Corrupt Tribal Councils...are they related?

Rob said...

The alleged denial of due process, you mean.

No, isn't related to a corrupt tribal council. It's a privately owned business that gets most of its income from advertising.