I am not a believer in reparations. History has done badly by any number of individuals and groups and when the blood is all mopped up and the bodies buried, life marches on.
But not keeping our word in treaties with other nations is another matter and this country of ours has an almost inexplicable record of neglect and abuse of Indian treaties. Whatever deal we could make with these ‘savages,’ we made in the course of achieving the short-term goal at hand with no regard for our end of the bargain. When it didn’t suit us we simply moved on and walked away. More commonly, we required the Indians to pick up their lifetime belongings and hit the road. Our history is chock-full of land abuse as well, in a constancy of moving tribes to the most worthless land, then finding something valuable under it, over it or near it and displacing them once again.
Interestingly, Senator John McCain now sits as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. McCain is an ardent protector of rights and Arizona has an intimate relationship to Indian culture. It will be fascinating to see how McCain stands on a number of issues before the committee. One of those issues is that of a plan for a roadmap that could be used to resolve the Native-American side of an accounting for monies mismanaged, lost or stolen from Indian accounts. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is the alleged mismanager, loser and stealer. The number is somewhere between a high $100+ billion and a low $27 billion. The BIA admits as much, although they dispute the numbers.
Which is a laugh, because they admit to having no idea what the numbers are. But they dispute them. Whatever they turn out to be, consider them disputed.
So, if I have this straight, the Indians after 250 years of theft and neglect, we’re still planning and roadmapping, neither of which is anywhere near to solving and paying.
Drive through a reservation someday. They are the most desolate places in America. Whites are uncomfortable even stopping for gas, much less at a restaurant It’s long past time for an accounting to be made.
Sitting Bull, a ‘savage’ by white standards, said:
- “What treaty that the whites have kept has the red man broken? Not one. What treaty that the white man ever made with us have they kept? Not one. When I was a boy the Sioux owned the world; the sun rose and set on their land; they sent ten thousand men to battle. Where are the warriors today? Who slew them? Where are our lands? Who owns them? What white man can say I ever stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say I am a thief. What white woman was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian. What white man has ever seen me drunk? Who has ever come to me hungry and left unfed? Who has ever seen me beat my wives or abuse my children? What law have I broken? Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux; because I was born where my father lived; because I would die for my people and country?”
And thus we go on about our non-indian affairs, each of us understandably distracted by our immediate lives, presuming that a BIA is doing its duty and actually deals with the affairs of Indians. Little survives in our collective memory but the image of John Wayne fighting and conquering these savage first Americans.
The fight is no longer our fight, but interminably theirs—their nations made powerless, their culture demeaned and made worthless. Yes, nations, they are nations seeded into our nation, more numerous than states.
Who among us could answer Sitting Bull?