Native Sun News Today Editorial: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer on the rez

HEY! Wait you dropped a nickel out of your sack of cash.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer on the rez
By Native Sun News Editorial Board

There is an old reservation joke about a man running for the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council from the Eagle Nest District.

While giving a speech to the voters he said, “My opponent has been ripping you off for the past two years; all I ask is that you give me the chance.”

This story was told in jest, but on too many Indian reservations in America it carries a large grain of truth.

It is not at all uncommon for those elected to office to serve all of the people soon find that there are many opportunities to not only help themselves, but also to find ways and means to help their relatives.

Jobs and financial assistance are not evenly distributed. Too often they go to the relatives of the elected officials. Nepotism is rampant in many tribal governments.

There are some things that are hard to discuss, but for those Indian men and women who remember the old days these things happened way back when and in many cases are still happening.

Many job opportunities were given to the iyeska (mixed bloods) because the white Indian agents and superintendents felt more comfortable around them because they looked more like them, spoke better English and dressed like them.

The full-bloods were often denigrated for their poor English. “He’s such a big buck” was a common expression used by the elitist iyeska to describe a very traditional Indian man.

Make no mistake that times were tough for all reservation residents, not just the full-bloods, but most of the jobs and housing went to the iyeska. That’s the way it was from the late 1800s until recently, and many would say that it is still that way.

There are millions of dollars, that’s right millions, that come on the Indian reservations every year and most of it seems to go to those in power and to their relatives. The Lakota word for those left out of almost everything is unsika. It means very poor, but it also means alone and pitiful. It means having nothing, little food, no home and no job opportunities. To many Lakota, this has become a way of life.

The millions coming to the Indian reservations are not distributed equally. Even the income from the tribal casinos seems to find its way into the hands of the have’s and not the have not’s.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service and the other government agencies that controlled the money flow on to the Indian reservations is largely responsible for this disparity in income and opportunities. We cannot blame those needy iyeska for taking advantage of the job offers or the superior housing. But we can blame the Indian agencies for placing one group of people above another.

The original American Indian Movement had the right idea in attempting to bring about change, but they made the terrible mistake of resorting to violence that turned Indian against Indian. This turned off many of the supporters they had at the beginning. Violence begets violence and such acts only created chaos and division.

And so today on many Indian reservations we have a corrupted system with little or no oversight. The rich get richer and the life for the unsika never improves. It is reported that the Oglala Sioux Tribe gets $110,000,000.00 every year and that doesn’t include the BIA, I.H.S. or the reservation schools. It’s an age old story, but how to change it without violence is the question. Honest leadership would be a beginning.

For more news and opinion visit the Native Sun News Today website: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer on the rez

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