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Ongoing Assimilation

Updated on February 6, 2013
Chief Bone Necklace-Oglala Lakota-1899
Chief Bone Necklace-Oglala Lakota-1899 | Source

It is widely known that most of us Americans are guilty of possessing stolen property. Europeans, by means of disease, deception and brute force have driven Native American people from their land and attempted to erase their tribal identity in the name of Manifest Destiny, “progress” or simply “the west is best” ideology for hundreds of years. Perhaps not so widely known is that after centuries of these atrocities, this struggle continues for countless Native Americans. Often, Indian reservations are exceptionally rural; many of the homes have no power, there are very few jobs, teen suicide, teacher turnover and dropout rates are through the roof and medical care is nearly nonexistent. Over the centuries, one of the most popular methods for duping the indigenous person was to get them drunk and apparently it still is.

Anyone who has been to an impoverished area that's wet (legal alcohol) might have noticed a lot of liquor stores. Supply follows demand; the more deplorable conditions are, the more there is a demand for an escape like alcohol. Furthermore, liquor stores are often established a stone’s throw from dry county borders. Legal or not, this is a predatory practice that often goes unnoticed in big cities but on Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Pine Ridge is dry; neighboring Whiteclay, Nebraska is a tiny town of 12 residence and 4 liquor stores which sell an average of 13,000 cans of beers a day. The overwhelming majority of this alcohol ends up on Pine Ridge or consumed by its residence.

Probably best known for being the site of the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890, “Pine Ridge is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and is one of the poorest places in the country, according to 2010 census data.”(Williams). The majority of crimes committed there are alcohol related and one in four children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or other alcohol related disorder. Many Sioux (and other Indian) children are erroneously taken from their families each year by state run/for profit facilities who deem their families unfit to raise them. In direct disregard to national law in these cases, most of these children are placed with non-native American families, even though there are plenty of stable Indian families who are willing and able to accommodate them. These acts generate revenue for the state, perpetuate assimilation or “the removal of the Indian from the Indian” and the alcohol industry rakes in the dough.

So here we have it. The process of assimilation persists well into the 21st century. Recently the Oglala Sioux filed a federal lawsuit against Whiteclay stores and major American alcohol distributors, but these parties are operating well within the “law” so sadly, I don’t see much coming from it. Without mainstream coverage and support, no one of note takes them seriously. Back in 2007, representatives of the Lakota Freedom Delegation cancelled all treaties with the United States. They renounced their U.S. citizenship and declared sovereignty. Ashahed M. Muhammad reported back in 2008, “The geographic area making up what will be called the Republic of Lakota covers portions of northern Nebraska, half of South Dakota, one-quarter of North Dakota, 20 percent of Montana and 20 percent of Wyoming.” Five years later, the map has not changed.

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    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 5 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      I completely agree with your insights and I say the same thing about borders. It's so great to see you write about these very important human concerns. Have a great evening too!

    • Rod Rainey profile image

      RodneyBlaec Rainey 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      You’re welcome and indeed, one slap in the face after another. And they’re swept under the rug where they can slip between the cracks virtually unnoticed. Manifest Destiny was merely a subterfuge to gain the commoners support for imperialism; what is our excuse now? Convenience? “Our hands are tied” or “that’s just the way it is”? As you might be aware, the last vestiges of aboriginal people the world over are just now being snuffed out by the “developed world” system most of us adhere to. Borders are imaginary lines; our participation in the idea of civilization perpetuates the assimilation and the loss of these people and worldviews is a devastating, while not an obvious wound to all of humanity.

      Thank You for dropping by and commenting. Have a great evening.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 5 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      This issue is a great source of grief for me as an American. I was born in Arizona near a Navajo reservation (I don't remember but my parents tell me about trading with the people...we left when I was 2) and grew up in New Jersey across the street from a pond that was a Lenni Lenape meeting place.

      I have read quite a bit about the Manifest Destiny policies and the modern state of affairs for Native Americans (including the indigenous people of Alaska) and find it all completely unacceptable. The Battle of Wounded Knee in particular is close to my heart and I am extremely disturbed about Mt. Rushmore being carved out of the sacred Black Hills of the Lakota Sioux people.

      Thank you for highlighting this cultural legacy of genocide---it should never be forgotten.

    • Rod Rainey profile image

      RodneyBlaec Rainey 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I read your “A Monday Morning View - Native Americans” yesterday and it really broke me down (as it should). I learned a lot from it and I agree that a serious stink must be raised about it! A puddle that doesn’t get splashed in grows stagnant and hosts mosquito larvae.

      I think there is some mass underlying guilt at play, but the main culprit is our system. This story keeps repeating itself. I’ve been reading about the Kayapó, the Guarani, the Kichwa and the Xingu of South America who are being duped out of their land right now! Our system facilitates and encourages these atrocities. Alternative world views are bad for business as usual. Thank you for your time and kind words. Have a wonderful day.

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

      Rod, this is a subject that is rooted deeply in my heart and for which I am quite passionate. It is so good to find an article so well written, devoid of the emotion that I tend to write with. It will certainly appeal to a broad audience and that is certainly encouraging. The poverty and oppression that continues in Indian country across the U.S. and Canada has long been ignored. Perhaps it is genetic guilt that forces even this modern civilization to ignore the conditions that many Native People still endure. Whatever the cause, I only know that it is wrong and sad and that those of us who care must keep shining the light on the injustice. I applaud you.

    • Rod Rainey profile image

      RodneyBlaec Rainey 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky epigramman! It’s about 2:15 PM here. :)

      I don’t know what to say. Such gleaming compliments from someone of your caliber really means a lot. Writing (or thinking) does not come quick or easy for me, but I adore it. It’s reminiscent of magic; to read someone’s thoughts is like telepathic time travel and to have a posthumous presence is the closest known way to immortality. I am thrilled you enjoyed my hub. Have a wonderful day!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      Good morning Sir Rod - just scanning over your fabulous hub presentations here and you are most definitely an intellectual force of nature - a writer's writer and a thinker's thinker you are.

      So very inspiring to this epi-man and to receive the royal endorsement of my humble little hubpage from someone special like you really means a lot.

      I truly believe if the white man never came over that the native Indian people would still be living in harmony in teepees and hunting wild buffalo to this very day - which isn't such a bad thing. The Indian people respected the land and lived with nature in peace and harmony.

      Thank you making me think, feel and continue this dialogue with you - sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 10:30am

    • Rod Rainey profile image

      RodneyBlaec Rainey 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Thank You Snakeslane! So pleased you found it interesting. I was invited to a flash mob protest in support of Idle No More here in Kentucky, but couldn't make it. Having children makes it challenging to be a revolutionary. So the word is spreading, but as you might expect, I haven't heard a peep about "Idle No More" in our mainstream media. I heard through facebook. Shame!

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 5 years ago from Canada

      Rod Rainey, You've written a fine piece of investigative journalism here. I'm interested that it was published six weeks ago and has not yet received a comment. In Canada there is huge press coverage around the 'Idle No More' movement regarding lands and treaties. Thank you for sharing. Regards, snakeslane


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