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An Open Letter To Leech Lake Indian Reservation
How It All Began
“I believe the best service to the child is the service closest to the child, and children who are victims of neglect, abuse, or abandonment must not also be victims of bureaucracy. They deserve our devoted attention, not our divided attention.”
A little over a year ago I wrote an article about Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, and in that article I discussed the concerns of a woman who has witnessed child abuse on that Reservation. It was not a pleasant article nor was it meant to be. There is nothing pleasant about child abuse. There is no way to sugarcoat a topic like child abuse.
Amazingly, it took about a year for the citizens of Leech Lake to discover my article, but when they finally did read it, they wasted no time in commenting about my it. Many of the comments were inflammatory. Some were supportive. I thought I would share some of those comments with you and then respond to them.
The previous article that caused such an uproar
- Problems At Leech Lake Indian Reservation
A look at some disturbing allegations about Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota.
Here Are the Negative Concerns
“I am a white female that lives close to this reservation. I am also a social worker & have worked near the reservation as well as other areas of the state. I am upset with this article because it neglects to point out the very same abuse of children & the system happens off the reservation as well as on. to me, its unfair to pinpoint the reservation problems without stating it happens as much as with other races, including white people that are on county support.”
And another one:
“I am an enrolled member of leech lake and also was a foster child through out Minnesota including the leech lake area; where I was raised and family still resides; I have to say that the story is all bs and hearsay where are the facts!!! Yes, there are issues and bad behavior along with judgement but how is that different from any where else in the world. With insight from being a foster child myself and being in a total of 38 foster homes non-native inculded there where equal mistreatment and abuse between non-native and native foster homes. There was an equal of loving foster homes that cared and wanted nothing more then to provide a safe stable environment. There are good people in the world and there are people in the world that do horrid awful things so, to just place all the ugly in the world on a few reservations and not through out the world is just as awful “
“I am non-Native and I worked on the Leech Lake Reservation for 16 years as an Environmental Health Specialist. I was in an out of homes performing housing inspections, water analysis, etc. Yes, Leech Lake Reservation has their share of problems as does any area negatively impacted by poverty and lack of economic opportunity.”
And one more:
“Leech Lake has the same problems as any other area in the United States. Why is it so sensationalized, exaggerated and even fabricated in this story? Is it for the fame of the writer? It makes you wonder.”
Now for Some Support
“Reading the comments , one has to wonder how the people of Spirit Lake, Turtle Mountain , etc .... responded with similar comments when Billy brought awareness to the horrors that came to light from his reporting. For those who do not want to believe that children are being harvested for financial gain here at Leech Lake Rez, you had better open your eyes up and uncover your ears, in place of being enablers for cruelty and exploitation to continue.”
And this one:
“The book "Dying in Indian Country" is a first hand account of a family from the Leech Lake Reservation. It corroborates the high level of child abuse.
Many who deny the reality at Leech Lake
1. Have become so used to it that they think it is normal - or
2. Have become used to hiding the realities due to shame or fear of a loved one going to jail (think co-dependency) - or
3. Are involved in the abuse and deny it to protect themselves.
The abuse is horrific and wide-spread.”
And finally this one:
“plz contact me at (I have deleted the phone number for privacy issues) i have many horror stories about the foster care system here”
An instrument of change
- Spirit Lake Nation In North Dakota: A True Story of Injustice
On the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota, children are being abused and raped, and in some cases murdered. Those who should be protecting them are not!
My Thoughts About the Responses
The first thing that struck me while reading the negative comments was the fact that they said that yes, abuse happens on the Reservation, but it happens everywhere else too, so why single out the Reservation? Yes, they have their problems, but why highlight them?
As if that makes everything alright!
I was also struck by their insistence on using the race card as an argument against my accusations. According to many, because I am a white man I have no right to speak out against child abuse among Native Americans. If there is logic in that argument I fail to see it. Child abuse happens in all societies. That is a fact. Child abuse knows no color barriers. It is not limited to a particular race. Child abuse is wrong…period! I have written about sex trafficking in Portland, Oregon. Does that make me prejudiced against the citizens of Oregon? I have written about child abuse in Topeka, Baltimore, Skokie and Tampa Bay. Does that mean I have a vendetta against the citizens of those cities?
The central point that cannot be denied is this: child abuse, anywhere, anytime, is wrong, and if it is happening then it must be discussed and dragged out of the closet and stopped.
Quite frankly I am sick and tired of the race card being played. It has no place in this discussion. I do not live in Greece but I know abuse occurs there. I do not live in Germany but you can bet child abuse happens there as well. Child abuse is a sickness that happens in all societies, and the only way for it to lessen is for awareness to be raised and for caring, compassionate people to stand up against it. That is what I did with my earlier article and I offer no apologies for it at all, nor do I apologize for an earlier article about the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota. Interestingly there was practically no outrage about the Spirit Lake article and yet it was much more scathing. In fact, those allegations were investigated and changes were made within the foster care system on that Reservation.
Here’s the Bottom Line
I offer no olive branch of peace in this matter. Children are being abused. Children are being sold. It is happening here in Olympia, it happens at Leech Lake, and it is happening in thousands of other locations around the world. Abuse is wrong no matter where it happens, and I will continue to speak out about it. If that makes people uncomfortable then that is just too bad. If that outrages people then oh well! Who will speak for the children if not me and others like me who understand that no civilized community would ever condone the abuse of a helpless child?
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)