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The Problem With Native American Sovereignty

Updated on December 10, 2014

OVERVIEW

This is Part I of a three-part series about Indian reservations.

There are over 550 recognized Indian tribes in the United States, and 310 reservations within the boundaries of this country. There are approximately 2.9 million Native Americans according to the 2010 Census, and 78% of them live outside a reservation.

The two largest tribes in America are the Navajo and the Cherokee.

According to the Federal Government, Indian Reservations are considered “domestic dependent nations,” located within the confines of the United States borders. 310 separate nations, each with their own customs, within the boundaries of the United States.

Welcome to the concept of sovereignty!

Indian Sovereignty
Indian Sovereignty | Source

So What Is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty is the legal term that refers to a nation’s right to govern itself and have complete authority over its own affairs, citizens, and economy. According to Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, American Indian tribes are recognized as separate nations and distinct governments within U.S. borders.

Tribes may enter into a legal relationship with the United States, and all have done so in one way or another. The Federal Government is responsible for protecting Indian land, treaty rights, resources and assets. The Tribes are responsible for everything else.

Historical Background

During the 19th Century, the Supreme Court handed down three important decisions regarding sovereignty. In Johnson vs McIndosh, the court ruled that only the United States government could negotiate for American Indian Land.

In Cherokee Nation vs Georgia, the court held that the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes was similar to the relationship between a guardian and his ward. And in Worcester vs Georgia, the court decided that state laws do not apply in Indian Country, and that only the U.S. Congress has overriding authority over American Indian affairs.

In 1953 Congress passed Public Law 280, which stated that the Federal Government and Indian tribes shared jurisdiction over criminal matters on tribal land. As specifically written, this Law applied in California, Alaska, Wisconsin, Oregon, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Variations of this law now exist in all fifty states. Generally speaking, in the matter of criminal activity, tribal law handles everything other than felony offenses, which are handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Finally, in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed, and this established federal requirements for child custody proceedings involving children who are part of a federally recognized tribe.

Map of Indian Reservations
Map of Indian Reservations | Source

Jurisdictional Agencies

The situation is ripe with possible jurisdictional controversy regarding crime on the Reservation. Depending on the crime, the investigation may be handled by either:

· Tribal police

· Bureau of Indian Affairs police

· County sheriff

· City police

· State troopers

· Federal Bureau of Investigation.

To further complicate matters, once the crime has been investigated, it may be subject to prosecution by one or more jurisdictions, including Tribal, State, or Federal.

All of this leads to mass confusion, as jurisdictional responsibilities are clouded on the best of days, and nearly impossible to navigate on the worst of days.

Determining jurisdiction in criminal cases depends upon several factors:

· Where the crime occurred

· The type of crime

· The race of both the victim and the perpetrator

· The statutes that apply to the particular case

Finally, and this is of great importance, the law enforcement agency that receives the first report of the crime assumes the responsibility for determining who will investigate the crime.

Assimilation into a white culture is not an easy matter
Assimilation into a white culture is not an easy matter

The Role of the F.b.i.

As stated earlier, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is generally determined to be the investigative source for felony crimes, including murder and child abuse. Consider for a moment that the rate of violent crime on Indian reservations is 2.5 times higher than in the rest of the United States, and yet….

· 65% of the time, the government did not pursue rape cases on reservations

· 61% of the time, the government did not pursue sexual abuse cases involving children

· 52% of the time, the government did not pursue cases involving violent felonies overall.

Obviously, this all begs the question of why? Why is there an epidemic of violent crimes on reservations, and why is so little being done about it?

The Causes Are Many

First and foremost, alcohol and drug abuse is ten times higher on reservations than the national average.

The rate of poverty on reservations, especially those isolated from major population centers, is drastically higher than the national average.

Lack of adequate police presence on reservations makes it very difficult to respond to crimes and provide protection.

Inadequate Social Services mean fewer child welfare departments, and less family counseling.

Jurisdictional disputes and confusion means much-slower response time to crimes that are committed, and oftentimes leads to no prosecution at all.

A breakdown in the social structure within the tribes themselves; the number of births to unwed mothers is alarmingly high, and the number of children growing up without parents is so far above the national average as to appear an illusion.

Poor and/or corrupt tribal leadership

The reluctance of tribal leaders to ask for help from outside sources; a general distrust of the U.S. Government.

One Obvious Question

Knowing the current state of affairs on many of the reservations, why would anyone choose to live there? Why not move off of the reservation where safety, if not assured, is certainly more likely?

I posed that question to a friend of mine who has lived on a reservation in North Dakota. The answer I received was troubling and revealing. She said:

“Combination of reasons. I think resistance to change is one reason. Lack of self esteem and constant exposure to prejudice. Fear of unknown and the lies they are fed by those in power about how they will be treated if they leave. Handouts and laziness for some. Then there is ICWA that prohibits anyone fostering a kid from leaving the Rez. When you consider the numbers of kids in foster care this is huge. And then there's the crab bucket theory. I've seen this at work many times. If someone leaves and starts to become successful then every relative and friend believes they are entitled to a portion of the success. They can't stand to see someone succeed. They guilt them into coming back.”

Sit with me awhile

SOLUTIONS

It cannot be denied that the system is broken. Something has to be done, but the question is what?

It is too easy to say that this is an Indian problem. They wanted sovereignty so let them work out their own problems, right? No, that is much too simplistic. The fact is that human beings are being murdered. Human beings are being abused. Humans being are growing up without a snowball’s chance in hell of having a healthy, happy life. Human beings are living in poverty normally associated with Third World Nations.

And something has to be done, because these are…human beings!

I am not a politician, and perhaps that is to my advantage, because several solutions appear obvious to me.

If the system is broke, then fix the system. Streamline the system so that there is no doubt who has jurisdiction when a crime is committed. I would eliminate the Bureau of Indian Affairs so quickly it would make heads spin.

When the ward can’t take care of its own problems, it is time for the guardian to take over. The United States government has the power to step in and clean up this mess. They recently did so in a high-profile case in North Dakota, and they can do so again.

Believe me, I am all for sovereignty, unless sovereignty interferes with the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Once those most basic of rights are refused, then all bets are off with the established system.

The United States government has a rich history of entering other foreign sovereign nations where “justice” is being deprived. If we can do it overseas we can certainly do it within our own borders.

My thoughts
My thoughts

Last Thoughts

This is not a sovereignty issue. It is a human rights issue. No amount of political double-talk can change that most basic of truths. In 2010 President Obama declared war against violent crime on Indian Reservations. He signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, a law designed to do the following:

“The law requires the Department of Justice to improve coordination with tribal justice officials in prosecuting crimes on reservations, and provides resources for better overall cooperation between tribal, state and federal agencies.

In addition, the measure increases the maximum sentence that tribal courts can impose to three years, instead of the previous limit of a one-year sentence. Supporters of the measure say the sentencing provision will expand the number of cases handled by tribal courts, increasing local tribal control on reservations.”

A step in the right direction for sure, but my concern as a human being is that it is a step when what is needed is a triple-jump.

I want to believe that the average white American is as concerned about this as I am. I want to believe that these Native Americans are not being denied that which is their birthright because of their race. I want to believe that someone out there cares about abused children, sexually assaulted women, and poverty so horrible that most of us cannot conceive of it.

I want to believe!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Austinstar...they have a right to their opinion, and this is one hot subject where tempers will always rise. I expected it.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Wow, billybuc - I would have deleted that comment in about 2 seconds flat.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for your opinion, Doesnotmatter!

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      DOESNOTMATTER 3 years ago

      HOW DARE YOU!!!!!!!!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, it's a pretty complicated subject; I'm glad you learned something from this. Thank you!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This was really interesting. I did not know much about sovereignty. Thanks for this.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I think it's all part of the original agreements...guardianship is defined the way it is, in specific terms, and it leaves a great deal out. Quite frankly this is an incredibly complicated mess; I'd be all for complete sovereignty if the tribes could protect the children and women.

      Thanks buddy; hope you are having a great day.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Wow, Bill, you certainly have stirred up the HP waters! I think Dancing Water brings up a lot of good points, and so do you, Bill. But doesn't the American government stepping in negate the definition of sovereignty? Shouldn't the tribes be left to determine how much intervention they will accept? Yes, something needs to be done, I agree. If the American government wants to be 'guardian' would that not include education and food if needed? Why does it only pertain to criminal activity?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, it is an amazing and interesting story, but also one that is tragic in many cases. I don't have the answers but I do know for sure that on many reservations the current system is not working. Thank you for the visit and I hope you are well.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      It is interesting to think about the fact that there are groups in our nation that remain isolated from society. The Amish and Native Americans have managed to segregate themselves well from others. They seem to portray a satisfactory lifestyle; however, there is abuse within the segment. I agree there should be triple steps to correct the wrong within these groups.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LInda, believe me, I understand completely. Probably explains why I got in trouble so often in school; couldn't keep my mouth shut. :)

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      Bill, you are doing the only thing that can feasibly be done - SHINE THE LIGHT on the problem. It really is so very complicated. Yes, I have tried to stifle myself and not comment further but I have fought for these people for so long that to shut up just doesn't feel right. :-)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda my dear, you are back! What a surprise! LOL You are right of course. At this point, problems are so deep and numbered that I can only concentrate on keeping these people alive and safe. This has nothing to do with what you wrote...just thinking outloud....if a man is drowning, do I throw him a life preserver, or do I try to change his lifestyle? Which comes first? :)

      Thank you my kindred spirit!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nova, thank you for weighing in on this. I have deliberately chosen not to get into a discussion about reservations. I think the problems are much more deep-rooted than that. There is so much poverty, so much alcoholism, and so much addiction to drugs, as to render most discussions meaningless. People are crying for help, and first and foremost they need to be given a hand up so they can live a day without worrying about food or dying from addiction.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      This has generated a lot of dialogue and that is great. Like Bill, I agree that the abuse needs to stop. The conflict of who has jurisdiction, if solved, would certainly make accountability and punishment a lot better but to get at the root of abuse, you have to improve socioeconomic conditions through, health and education. As far as erasing the boundaries of reservations and making Indians normal citizens, I think we must remember they were normal citizens before the European invasion. In fact, they are the only race of people who didn't come here by choice or force. Reservations, health care, education were the promises made to them when their land was stolen. What would it cost us to repay that debt when we force them to assimilate. It's all part of the problem, isn't it?

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 4 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Billy: Another highly interesting and controversial article - bravo! The problem doesn't only exist in the US, it also exists in neighboring Canada, in Australia, in South Africa and probably in other places as well. The system is totally outdated and based on old laws. Reservations should be dissolved and all citizens treated equally. This also means no special perks!!!!! such as free housing and other welfare programs or hunting rules only applying to native people. Unfortunately this is one major point why people stay in the reserve and want to keep their status. People who are automatically put on welfare and who are treated like children until the day they die lose all their pride and that's the end of their culture and the beginning of alcohol and drug abuse. Treat them like normal citizens and integrate them and they will prosper.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Passionate I respect, Derek; rudeness I won't tolerate. :) I get passionate about that! Thanks for the link; I'll take a look at it.

      I do respect your fervor about this; obviously I feel strongly about it or I wouldn't have written about Spirit Lake several times. I've gotten death threats over that and it hasn't stopped me. :)

    • profile image

      Derek 4 years ago

      Heheh, I get a little passionate about this topic.....

      Something that might be of interest to you is this interview with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, S James Anaya, about the UN's look into Native rights in the US.

      http://www.npr.org/2012/05/09/152341530/un-explore...

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Derek! I appreciate and respect your viewpoint.

    • profile image

      Derek 4 years ago

      Any steps you take towards fixing problems are political, as there are multiple directions you can go. Please don't pretend that there is such a thing as a 'non-political' solution. Also, it's important to know that tribes aren't sitting by doing nothing. If you want to do something towards helping fix this problem, and this is something that tribes are supporting, you can write people in congress ask them to pass House Resolution 6625 which will help prevent domestic violence against Native women (it's a provision that was removed from the more general Violence Against Women Act). This in affect strengthens tribal sovereignty, because they don't have much legal power in prosecuting people who commit domestic abuse, and the federal government isn't doing much in that area anyway.

      At least look into multiple avenues for possible solutions (or maybe even the solutions being offered by the tribes themselves?) before you start presenting 'non-politcal' ones.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Derek, I evidently dd a poor job of explaining how I feel about this. Sovereignty in and of itself is fine, as long as that system protects the innocent. I have no issues with it as long as those who cannot protect themselves are given protection. That is not the case, however, at reservations like Spirit Lake in North Dakota and Leech Lake in Minnesota. Children are raped, abused, and killed on a regular basis at those reservations, and many more like them, and that trumps political views every single time in my opinion.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mark, and of course I agree!

    • profile image

      Derek 4 years ago

      Interestingly, many tribes have much more humane views on environmental issues and on war and imperialism than the United States does. Is that a factor in the crimes against humanity questioning of sovereignty? I do think it's fair to question US sovereignty on the question of crimes against humanity if you're going to question tribal sovereignty on those grounds.

      I think it's fair to ask the question as to whether it's the sovereignty that is the underlying issue causing discrepancies of health/well-being of Native Americans. I'm just curious as to whether it's the sovereignty that's the underlying problem, or if the history and present day continuation of colonialism and racism is perhaps the major underlying factor.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      I don't thing anyone said "Sovereignty does not matter" Derek. I do think several of us have shared the opinion that the crimes against humanity happening trump the issue of Sovereignty. There is a big difference in the two concepts. Stopping the murders, rapes, thefts and horrible poverty is the issue.

      Mark

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Derek, it is a complicated matter and question for sure. I have no solution for it, and honestly I don't care much whether there is sovereignty or not. I just want the abuse, rapes, and murders to be addressed. :) Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

    • profile image

      Derek 4 years ago

      I think people calling for the end of sovereignty of tribes should also ask the question of why it's important for the United States to have sovereignty. Does sovereignty matter? And if it happens to matter for the United States, why wouldn't it matter for any other country/tribe/entity that has some form of legal sovereign status?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mark, thanks as always for the visit and the respectful comment. I appreciate it buddy!

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Well, this is an incredible hub Bill, and has generated many excellent comments!

      I am of the opinion that all reservations need to go away and the people should all be considered citizens just like everyone else. Same rights, same recognition for history and culture, same responsibilities and same status as human beings.

      Thank you for this opportunity to share an opinion!

      Mark

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Highland, thank you for a great comment.

      I have toyed with the idea of all the tribes coming together; the problem is that this idea has floated around for centuries and nothing has come of it. I understand the roadblocks and hurdles involved.....510 separate tribes, all with different customs.....but as a political force it would have to be an advantage. I also know that someone will write explaining how impossible it would be.

      I agree, poverty, hunger and abuse have been with us seemingly forever, and will continue to a certain degree. This nation in which we live, however, is much more concerned with secondary goals and not with taking care of its people. I could live with a little hungrer, a little poverty, and a little abuse, if I knew that everything possible was being done to curb it. That, sadly, is not the case, and as you point out, it is not the case in other countries as well.

      Maybe I'm just a dreamer. :)

      Thank you my friend.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I remember reading somewhere, donkey years ago, that one of the major reasons the Indians or Native Americans lost so badly against the invaders was the fact that they just could not come together. They remained enemies of each other even when faced by the Europeans, they seemed to find it impossible to get together and form one massive army on a consistent bases.

      Now I know that in all likihood they would have lost anyway, the invaders had greater fire power and also brought smallpox with them which I believed destroy whole villages and tribes of Native Americans/Indians.

      Even today if instead of splinter groups of tribes on little patches of land the tribes got together and formed one big group, got politicians involved and lobbied like hell, the situation should improve.

      Learn from the African Americans, they got political and look at their success. Now I believe the Hispanic are going down that road and are being very successful at it.

      So why not the Native Americans/Indians. Anglos, African American, Hispanics all came after, yet nowhere does the world know anything about the Native Americans.

      If Billy had not published this hub I would know nothing about the conditions of the resevations, I did not even know that they were little countries within America. I guarantee you that nobody in Ireland knows, I doubt even our political parties know.

      Yet even here on Billy's hub those of you who say you share blood lines are arguing.

      Stop now and fight the big wigs in power, become politicial in a major way. Get into everything, the African American got into film and television,I believe every television show had to have an African American actor so why not a Native American, get the world to sit up and notice.

      As for doing away with poverty and hunger, abuse of all sorts, how can this ever be achieved? I have come to the conclusion just from lo0king at Ireland over the last ten to fifteen years, when scandal and after scandal of moral corruption in our state and church has shamed Ireland on a world scale that this a pipe dream.

      Thank you for this hub it was very well written and extremely informative, I look forward to the part 2 and 3.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nancy, bless you for your passion about this subject.....I won't debate this with anyone, because my point is beyond debate....kids are being abused, raped, and murdered. I'll leave the debates to someone else....for me, whatever it takes to end those atrocities is what I want done. Those sorts of things go far beyond discussions of tribal sovereignty. I have discussed, in length, these issues with people who live on reservations in North Dakota and Wisconsin, and the overwhelming majority of responses are ones of fear....fear of retribution from the tribal leaders if they speak out about the atrocities.

      Thank you for the visit and the heartfelt comment.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I understand where you all are coming from, a place of stopping abuse. But you are infringing upon a culture that you do not understand. Instead of telling the Indians (what they preferred to be called in my part of the country), what they should be doing; We should be asking them what solutions work for them. You might be shocked at the answers you receive.

      We do not need to fix the Indians, we need to respect their ways and culture and the treaties that we have already made with them.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vinaya, i am aware of the struggles in your country, and it will be interesting, to say the least, to see how the struggles turn out. Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Austin; I can easily support your last few words....civil rights for all humans. I fear that once it becomes a political debate over sovereignty that the main point gets lost. I am not smart enough to take on the matter of sovereignty; it does not, however, take very many brains to take on the issue of civil rights for all humans.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paula, the problems that are outlined here seem to occur most often in the remote reservations, those far distanced from major population areas. The reservations in western Washington are quite healthy and well-managed. It's a different world, however, in many of the states in the midwest......

      Thank you for weighing in and your point is accurate and needed.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, I will repeat, that this is a human rights issue. Even though what you say is true, I would rather focus on the rights of human beings....that is an argument we can win each and every time.

      Thank you for caring so much.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Phoenix, I always hesitate to mention my concerns about foreign aid for fear it will make me appear to not care about those suffering in third world countries. That is not the case; I just don't want my fellow citizens suffering while we help someone else. Clean up our own country first and then I'd be happy to help other nations. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paul, without saying that I have doubts, I, too, would like to know where the profits from casinos goes. We do not have such atrocities on the reservations in my area, and yet there are still people there who live in shabby conditions, which the casino parking lot is full daily. It does make me wonder.

      Thank you Paul!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Martin!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      After a decade of armed conflict, Nepal is trying to institutionalize democracy. There are more than 92 communities living in Nepal, and reservation and right to rule both are a contentious issues in yet to be written constitution.

      Billy, your give a wonderful information about natives in United States.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I agree with fpherj48, Native Americans can and do govern themselves properly when tasked to do so. It strengthens my view that if you need a helping hand, all you have to do is look on the end of your arm.

      What I don't support is segregation. I believe in tolerance and acceptance of anyone that chooses to or happen to be an American. Going around being an activist for the continuation of the status quo is wrong. I don't go to Pow-wow to practice 'religion' or to dance. I go to show support and respect for the people.

      Native Americans deserve to have a voice and vote, own land, practice whatever religion they choose, receive infrastructure and protection from our government and pay taxes to help support that government.

      Indigenous peoples have been assimilated into modern society all over the world. Yes, they have problems and so do the rest of us. I don't think they should be singled out. Their issues should be the issues of ALL Americans.

      Stop campaigning for special sovereignty and start supporting civil rights for all humans.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      bil, etal.....I know that I have addressed this, via comment on another hub of yours, bil and perhaps elsewhere, as well. Rather than go into details again, I can suggest that those interested, google" Cattaraugus Indian Reservation" (in Western NY).

      The entire "situation," all Native American issues, is the complete OPPOSITE from what is presented here, as matters of fact and concern for many other N.A. tribes and reservations.

      Our Senecas here are nearly 100% self-supporting, sustaining, governing, protected and cared for. The wealth is impressive.

      This is, of course, the positive side. As with any group, there are negative aspects. This is a simple matter of common sense and human nature.

      I cannot suggest being as knowledgeable and/or intimately involved as Linda...and I for one, respect and appreciate her input, as well as her efforts in support of the Naitve Americans throughout this country.

      I merely know what is here, in my Western NY area and can see and experience for myself, as well as my interactions with N.A's as we share an area and live together ...on and off the Rez................Great job as always bil....UP+++

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      Austinstar, I will not engage in arguing so I will simply say this. You are not the only one here with a drop or two of Indian blood. And as for your question of what I have done. Well, I have spent my entire adult life working with and for Indians all over this country. In 1994 I started a non-profit organization that worked with Indian artists in the Northwest, with the Navajo elders on Big Mountain trying to keep Peabody Coal from stealing their land, with the Lakota in South Dakota to fight poverty and domestic violence, with the Monacan Nation in Virginia to fight racism. I could go on but I won't bother. I have organized numerous demonstrations that brought the voice of NDN's to Washington, DC. And, I have published a newsletter, distributed in 48 states and with thousands of subscribers to bring issues affecting NDN's to the forefront of discussion. This has been my life. Dancing at one powwow a year doesn't make you an NDN or an activist. Sorry.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for this informative hub. While I can understand the importance of foreign aid, I believe our own citizens needs should come first. I always suspected the plight of Native Americans hadn't improved much over the centuries but I had no idea things were this bad. I'm glad you've shed light on this very serious matter.

      Voted up, interesting and am most definitely sharing.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Billy,

      This is a great hub and I really won't have jumped into it if I didn't see the map of my home state, Wisconsin. There are quite a few tribes and reservations in Wisconsin. I have been to a few of them for gambling where the Native Americans run gambling casinos. Where do you think the profits from the casinos are going? Certainly not to the unwed mothers and battered children on the reservations. There has to be a better way of handling Native Americans than seeing them suffer on reservations. I appreciate the hub and you have masterfully put together a great argument for justice. Voted up as awesome, sharing, and pinning.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for raising awareness on this.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, you would think that, wouldn't you? You would think we all would. Thank you for your compassion; maybe someone will listen....that is my hope.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      You would think that the tribal rulers would remember the history of their plight when we took their land and forced them to live on reservations. I would think that they would want to protect, not hurt any of their people. I say that the Indian people who live within the US borders should be subject to our laws, all of our laws. Surely something will be done to protect the children from this horrible abuse. Thank you for writing about this travesty. The whole world should be made aware. You never know who might be reading this article, i felt your compassion, maybe they will too..

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Reba, and I have so much respect for you and your compassion. I truly do understand the complexities of this issue, but for now, my only concern is the suffering that is happening. Children who have no stake in political wars are dying, and that just does not sit well with me. :)

      Blessings to you my dear lady,

      bill

    • Dancing Water profile image

      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      I agree with you. As I wrote in my first comment, "Laws must exist that protect every living being who lives on our soil." Human rights laws exist in the world, but they MUST be enforced. Otherwise, they are mere paper tigers.

      We really just must love one another. Then the issue of human rights would not exist. So very simple, but we humans struggle so relentlessly with learning how to love.

      Thank you for caring so much, Bill. God bless.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Reba....Austin....Linda....et al.....All of you, thank you for some wonderful conversation and debate.

      Perhaps I am just a simple man, but here is what I know.

      What we now have is not working for a great many reservations, and I am not convinced one way or the other about sovereignty. What I am convinced of, and concerned with, is that people are starving, people are being murdered, and children and women are being abused and raped....daily....in the United States of America!

      I am not a political animal....the reason why I am not is because I can't stand the divisiveness that is in this country, and the endless debate over political issues, when sometimes the issue is as simple as taking care of human beings, no matter their race or beliefs.

      Sovereignty....no sovereignty....reservations....no reservations....I don't care! I care about one thing and one thing only....human rights. These kinds of injustices are happening right now....and inaction is happening right now because of disputes over who is responsible and because governments are too damn busy negotiating trade treaties to worry about human beings who are citizens of this country.

      I leave subjects like sovereignty to those who are obviously wiser than I am. All I care about are human beings.

      Thank you again for caring so much.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, thank you for that. I am, quite frankly, fed up with our foreign aid policies, today and in the past. They are based on economic give and take, which is tied to political give and take; all the while our own citizens are suffering. I have no stomach for it.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Louisa, what you mention is not an isolated incident....shunning does happen. This problem is so complicated as to appear almost ridiculous....and yet is is simple. Suffering of this sort needs to end in this nation.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Austin, thank you again for your input. I appreciate it.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dwachira, thank you for visiting and commenting. It is a complicated problem, and yet so simple...human rights is always more important than political rights.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MJ, a very interesting perspective coming from Belfast, and yes, I'm sure you do taste the flavor of this discussion. I would love to know more about that political and social dance some day....I owe it to myself to do some research on that struggle. Anyway, thank you my friend, for the comment and the very kind compliment.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Reba, again, thank you for your fervor and compassionate heart.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cyndi, I didn't know that about you. Interesting! Thank you lil' Sis; I hope you are having a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, I do agree that it looks bleaker. I'm disappointed in the Federal government for so many issues, and this is one of them. Thank you for visiting and leaving a wonderful comment.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Austin, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your opinion and I will respond at the end of the comment section.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, I truly do appreciate it every time you take the time on a busy day to comment. Thank you and have a restful Sunday.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Levertis, thank you so much for your comment. I will respond to all of you at the end.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, thank you my dear. I will respond to this at the end of the comment section.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Reba, I thank you dear lady. I'm going to answer you, and everyone else, at the end of this section of comments.

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      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      To whom are you speaking, Austinstar? Moi, by any chance? I'm half Cherokee, have danced in Pow-wows in full regalia, been on the drum at others, and have attended lodge, which is held in secret locations because of government harassment. Sure, everyone is harassed about this and that__some more than others. But when an entire government harasses people because of religion that is another matter altogether: apples and oranges.

      By the way, your tone could be a bit less condescending, and I find it interesting that you seem to think that you are the only human here who is part of and supports tribal life. As most of the First people understood at a visceral level, we are all brothers and sisters. Please treat us here as such.

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      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Though I read this and learned many new things, one thing stands out in my mind. Why don't we help these people we are so generous with other countries. Right here on our land all this is going on. Makes you wonder. Great hub and you brought it all out..

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      Louisa Rogers 4 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      Bill, thanks for clarifying a huge area of confusion for me. Where I live in Northern CA I live near some reservations, but I have never understood all the legal issues. Your hub sheds light on what a mess it all is. One thing I have heard anecdotally, is that another reason some people won't leave reservations is that if they do, they will be shunned and excommunicated by fellow Natives. This happened to someone I know on a Canadian reservation, but I'm pretty sure it is true in the U.S. as well. Looking forward to more education in the series. Voted up, interesting & useful.

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      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Sorry, Irc "Oh, and Austinstar, to this day tribes are harassed for practicing their religion."

      I'm harassed daily for being an atheist. Jews have been harassed since the beginning of time, Muslims are totally harassed.

      I'm saying they should do away with the reservations, not do away with their culture and religion and way of life. Give them land deeds subject to any other land deed law in the USA and quit calling it a reservation. It's total B.S.

      Why should we be their guardians? I'm part Choctaw and I have the lineage to prove it. My great grandmother lived on the rez in Oklahoma and her name and culture have been passed down maternally (as it should be) to her descendants.

      The reservations don't need special laws or guardianship - they need to be treated as full and functioning members of our American society. You are being discriminatory in thinking that they deserve special land, treatment, hand-holding and whatever.

      I attend Pow-wow every year and help support Native American business men and women all year long. What are you doing?

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      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Bill,

      When i was a young boy, my dad used to take me to movies and all i can remember is that they were movies about Cowboys and Red Indians, they were really enjoyable to watch. Bill, it is clear to me that Indians were and are part of American history, i think the government should do more on protecting these reservations, obviously it is difficult to ignore the connection. Voted up and useful.

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      mjkearn 4 years ago

      Hi Sir Bill

      Another great article. 550 tribes, I never would have thought there was that many tribes.

      Coming from Belfast I understand the fight for so called sovereignty but as you have said when it affects peoples human rites then it's time to throw sovereignty "out the window" and if some politicians go that way too, well, I won't loose any sleep.

      You make the point of guardianship which is in essence the most sensible approach. Someone or a body who can put the basic rites of being human and living life ahead of all else is surely the way forward.

      Another fabulous article from a fabulous man, great job. Voted up, up and away.

      MJ.

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      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      Oh, and Austinstar, to this day tribes are harassed for practicing their religion. For that reason alone sovereignty is desirable. Further, comparing Irish culture to that of Native Americans does not quite read. The Indians were on this soil first, and if they so desire, each tribe should be able to dwell on a tiny piece of this rock, which never should have been stolen from them to begin with.

      I do believe that if the various cultures of the tribes were respected__and not a mere tourist attraction__some would be willing to give up sovereignty. That, in my opinion, will take a long, long time.

      Just a footnote: If the European "settlers" had followed the Indians' way of living in cooperation with Nature, our planet would not be on such a profound path of destruction as it is presently.

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      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      IRC7815, I so agree with you that we need the reservations to keep what precious little that is left of First People's culture. I do not support the Fed imposing a law that disbands them. Perhaps I was thinking too equitably in thinking that the Fed and each tribe could negotiate what to do.

      You are so right. The tribes must be given equal opportunity through education, job training, opportunities in order to thrive materially in today's society. The "settlers" robbed the tribes of any means to survive, and we never helped the tribes to function in a "white" culture.

      And I reiterate that the full story of what the European settlers did to dismantle the tribes and steal the land__and their very existence__from them needs to be told in today's public school history books.

      And Levertis Steele, I must respectfully disagree with you that the average American is concerned about the Native peoples. As I wrote earlier, Native Americans, for the most part, are unacknowledged, thus invisible, in American society. And unless they fully assimilate, they are heartily rejected.

      We talk a good game about being a diverse society, but we do not fare too well with other cultures' points of views or ways of living unless it aligns with the mainstream.

      I recommend the film Smoke Signals, and any writings of Sherman Alexie to gain an insight into what it is like to be an Indian in today's America.

      Thank you, Bill, for stimulating this conversation!

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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Awesome hub, BB, chock full of information. I learned a few things about the reservations and what's going on. I am proudly part Navajo and that part has always called to me. :)

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      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I do not believe Obama means well, he has solved no problems yet and he never will and any decision he makes will be about control and the Indians do not need that, they have had the shaft quite long enough for the US government besides wiping out many completely. I agree with Irc that they simply need opportunity but now that jobs are even more scare for everyone it does not look too hopeful. I could literally cry when I think about this people we stole from and would not even be fair to and if we had I imagine now we could be profiting greatly from the abundance of their knowledge and the richness they could have brought to this country. The Indian I think will simple have to form something among themselves to right these wrongs because it will be all we can do to take care of our own once our government (both parties) are through with us. Every day is looking bleaker.

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      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      "To do so would mean the loss of their language, their ceremonies, and their culture, which IS their identity."

      Why would that happen, Irc7815? The Irish retain their identity, so do the Mexicans and Europeans. The Asians do too. That's not a good excuse for segregating Native Americans. Stop the nonsense and just treat them like human beings! No one forces a culture to stop their language, ceremonies and way of life anymore. In fact, the constitution protects the rights of the people.

      Why do we continue to "mark" certain ethnic groups. We are keeping them in "pens" just like Japanese Americans during and after WWII.

      What a crock.

      Almost all of us today are proud of our heritage and ancestry without being corralled into some "special" territory where that is the only place to practice their religion and culture. I don't buy it. Set the First Americans free! 78% have already left the "reservations". Ethnic segregation is a very bad thing!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Powerful message and as always you have done your homework. I agree something needs to be done and even though what has been done recently is a step in the right direction more needs to be done to protect the innocent (like children, the poor and abused). Thank you for sharing and have of course voted up and shared, too!!

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      Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

      As the author said, most Native Americans live outside of reservations, and that is good, I suppose. I agree with some of the commentators who said that reservations segregate Indians. This makes them appear distant and unlike the average American. Providing reservations was a good gesture to give back some of what was taken from the Natives. It was done with good intentions, I suppose.

      Blacks have often been told to stop using the slavery ticket to justify their issues. By the same token, Americans need to stop punishing America for what happened to the Natives. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, slavery was wrong. Likewise, the Israelites conquered Jericho, Canaan, and God know how many more, and they were blessed. America after the invasions was, and still is, blessed.

      Americans constantly beat dead horses because Americans won't bury them! When some Americans start burying dead horses, a few others unearth them and continue beating them.

      American Natives need to be helped, period, not because of what early settlers did to them. Just like slave traders and owners are dead and gone, so are those abusers of those Natives of long ago. How long will America whip America? If someone shot your son unjustly, what could the killer do to pay for his life? No matter what is done, satisfaction cannot be bought. So, what is the point?

      "I want to believe that the average white American is as concerned about this as I am. I want to believe that these Native Americans are not being denied that which is their birthright because of their race. I want to believe that someone out there cares about abused children, sexually assaulted women, and poverty so horrible that most of us cannot conceive of it."

      I hope that most Americans would be concerned, and pro-active where possible, after being informed.

      This hub is disturbing but very informative. I will share.

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      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      Well, if I shared all my thoughts I would be banned from HP for life. So, let me try to keep it simple. First, my heartfelt thanks for the amazing job you have done here, Bill. You know this is where my heart and soul lives.

      Sovereighnty, reservations, poverty, abuse, racism, yada yada, yada - it's all VERY complicated. The answer is not to do away with reservations and have NDN's assimilate into the dominant society. To do so would mean the loss of their language, their ceremonies, and their culture, which IS their identity. The answer is not in giving total governance to the federal government. They have never managed anything well and this would be no exception.

      The real answer lies in opportunity. It is about business investing in NDN country, prviding jobs and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, reservations typically exist on land that is far removed from major roadways, as you have mentioned, and that makes delivery and transportation of materials and finished products difficult. A walk through many reservation schools will show you that libraries are poorly stocked, sports equipment worn and in inadequate supply. Transportation is difficult. Roads have not been maintained and are treacherous in their disrepair. Gas stations are few and far between, restricting travel to only what is absolute necessity. Homes built by the government are not maintained for many reasons. No building materials are available; no money for materials; and no skilled labor to perform repairs. Most are heated with wood stoves and there are few, if any, sources of wood on reservation land.

      Healthy food on many reservations doesn’t exist. The land is barren from mining and pollution making it impossible to grow healthy food. Nutrition is a major problem as a healthy mind needs proper nutrition.

      I could go on and on but I won’t. It makes me too angry and sad.

      Part of the problem is that our country is ashamed of how Indians have been treated but to admit that shame is to admit it was wrong in the first place and the good old US government has a problem with admitting it was wrong. I believe in sovereignty. But, I think this country has a debt that hasn’t been paid and it needs to put that debt into resources and opportunity on NDN land. Instead of starting businesses in foreign countries, we need to start business in NDN country. Instead of providing books and food to other countries, we need to feed and educate our own First People.

      Just keep writing Bill. The story needs to be told and no one does it better than you. My passion gets in my way.

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      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      Bill, this is an important hub, and I so appreciate your taking on this issue of the Indian reservation in the United States of America.

      Tragically the problems of the reservations are so complex, and replete with roadblocks. The Native peoples were murdered en masse, and their way of life deliberately decimated by the European "settlers." To this day they are invisible in our culture. And until the Native peoples are recognized and respected by their fellow Americans, they most likely will retreat to the rez.

      I do know of one reservation that is "successful:" the Flathead Nation in Montana__and not just from casino revenue. They have a successful electronics corporation that does business with NASA; they have a legion of Native lawyers to protect the sovereignty of the treaties, which our government is notorious for breaking; they have a good school system; their Native tongue is still alive; they have striven to retain their culture, unlike most tribes whose spirit and culture were robbed from them many moons ago. Thus, perhaps the idea of eliminating the "rez" must be taken tribe by tribe__and MUST be negotiated between the Fed and the Tribes__NOT decreed by the Fed.

      I could go on and on, but I won't. :O)

      But I will say that Americans (via our government) as a whole must publicly, formally apologize to the America's aboriginals for the horrific acts they committed against the tribes. Secondly, our history books in public schools must tell the truth about what "we" did__in excruciating detail__similar to the manner in which we have exposed the Nazi regime's heinous acts before and during World War II in Germany.

      Healing must take place for the tribes. "Our" healing will come about as well by asking for forgiveness.

      Finally, racial prejudice must continue to be viewed as an ugly, hideous spectre that it is.

      Indians must be respected, embraced for who they are.

      A tall order, I agree.

      But back to the original issue, laws MUST exist that protect any living being who lives on our soil. Thus, all must be protected by the law__whether they live on the reservation or not. You are so right, Bill. These laws must be made simple and clean__and must apply to everyone.

      Thank you for your loving heart, and your caring for all that you put into your writing. Together we can make a positive difference. You are a true blessing, Bill.

      I apologize for my jumbled answer in this reply, but it is a very painful issue for me.

      Thank you again for being wonderful, inimitable you, dear Bill. I look forward to your next installment on the issue of violent crimes on America's Indian reservations.

      Reba

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Highland, thank you for the visit from chilly Dublin. I hope you are well this weekend.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, it is a problem that seems to feed on itself and grow stronger. I have no answers other than to start over and devise a new system. Thank you!

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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What an undertaking! Reservations are like another country. There is a lot of alcohol and drug abuse there, just like you said. For some reason, alcohol seems to affect Indian people strangely in their systems, it compounds problems even more. Many have left reservations that can, but it is a real struggle for the many that are still there.

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      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Good hub. It really is alarming to read about this.

      Looking forward to 2 and 3.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      HS, we can only hope. This has gone on for far too long, and change is greatly needed. Thank you my friend.

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      Howard Schneider 4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Thank you for this Hub, Billybuc. This situation is horrible. Hopefully the new 2010 law will be a larger step in the right direction. I look forward to reading your Parts 2 and 3.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jeff, you never have to apologize. I love comments on my hubs, and an exchange of information and opinions. Well done and thank you!

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Gus, thank you for the visit. Have a great weekend.

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      JThomp42 4 years ago

      I totally agree Bill. Anytime my friend! Sorry for the vent.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Leslie, I completely agree with you; I'm far too wise not to agree with you. :) However, it's never going to happen. I don't think the Indian nations will allow it to happen. The few are making money from the many on the reservations, and the ones suffering are caught in a whirlpool of corruption and poverty and addiction.

      Anyway, I value your heartfelt opinion.

      love,

      bill

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      Gustave Kilthau 4 years ago from USA

      Hello William (billybuc) -

      Good job of writing and a good situation about which to write. Thanks.

      Gus :-)))

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jeff, we all agree that it is criminal the way they have been treated. Most people, I think, would agree with that. And yet this continues. I really think Leslie is correct; Indians need to do away with the reservation system. it is not working, except for the few in isolated pockets of this country.

      Anyway, thank you Jeff!

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Liz, I understand completely. I have been on reservations like the one you described, and there is a basic fear that flows through the entire reservation. Tomorrow I'll give you something to be ridiculous about; I promise. :)

      bill

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michelle, you are very wise for someone so young. This is a problem that will not go away until a major change is made. Reservations are evil in this country; they cannot be fixed so they need to disappear. Thank you Michelle.

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      Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      It is probably far too late to fix the Native American problem. I would vote for eliminating reservations entirely and treat all Native Americans the same as any other American. Segregation is a crime in my book and that is what the government has done to the First Citizens of this country.

      Native Americans should consider themselves Americans first just as the rest of us do. They are human beings and should never have been ostracized in the first place. It's time to give them full national rights and full integration with the country.

      As long as reservations exist, Native Americans will continue to be imprisoned in a pigeon holed region that is ignored by most. They are segregated and this should not happen in today's society. It's a violation of civil rights.

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      JThomp42 4 years ago

      As a descendant of the Cherokee nation I have done quite a bit of research. I even wrote a hub about the treatment of the Cherokee during the relocation "The trail of Tears." What this country did to those Human beings was atrocious for the lack of a better word. They have never gotten a fair shake since the conquering of their own land. They were considered savages for trying to protect what had been theirs for hundreds of years. So sad Bill. Great job as always.

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      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      This situation is disturbing from beginning to end. My husband grew up near a reservation. He told me that people don't go there because they risk their lives doing so--even law enforcement personnel. This particular reservation is right on the border between Canada and the US, providing a great way for drugs to be smuggled back and forth. It's a crazy situation that, like so many of our crazy situations, has been ignored for way too long. I'm glad you're spreading the word!

      Your next post should be about reusing dryer sheets or something like that so I can say something ridiculous again. lol

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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I think that the whole problem, as you've subtly put, is really the fear of moving forward or adapting to change. Fear of any negative force that change might bring with it. And I think that crab theory does people in too. Selfishness....an innate human trait that all of us have to get rid of. Thanks for sharing.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, maybe I'm too simplistic, but I simply do not understand how this happens. I think Obama's new law is a sham, a political act to silence the rumblings......I think his heart is in the right place but it is just a bandage for cancer in my opinion.

      Anyway, thank you and have a great weekend.

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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Your facts are just stunning...how can this be happening to anyone right here in the good old US of A? Haven't we done enough injustice to the Indian Nations...now we turn our backs on them in their hour of need. Children need to be protected whether they live in a state, a country or a Sovereignty!

      As always Bill you have written a hub that shocks and opens the heart and mind.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Shared as well.