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Opinion
Column: Too much regulation killing Indian Country


"American Indians are poorer than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, so let's try yet more dependence on federal money, even more heavy-handed bureaucratic control and more court rulings to keep creditors off their case.

Along with casinos, that will fix things, right?

Wrong, and not just by theoretical calculation, but by empirical investigation that testifies to what really, truly does work: Freedom from the overreaching of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, strategic thinking by tribal councils that eschew politics as usual, reliable rule of law and business initiatives.

Talk to Terry Anderson of the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., and you get to a fundamental truth. Friends from out of the country wanted to visit a reservation. He warned them they would encounter poverty, but instead they encountered an Indian rancher who was prosperous and distinct from many in his tribe. He owned his property.

While some land on reservations is privately held, most is held in either individual or tribal trust by the BIA with the rationale that Indians need protection from outsiders. As Anderson discovered, the privately held land is far more productive than the trust land. When I asked him why, he had a short answer: "Incentives matter." Indians, he said, have traditions of private property, as in color-coding arrows to show who had rights to a slain buffalo."

Get the Story:
Jay Ambrose: Too much regulation (Scripps Howard News Service 9/8)