In Parts 1 and 2, I looked at a recent article by Stephen Lendman concerning a recent “re-proclamation” by Russell Means of the “Republic of Lakotah” and the various things wrong with both Lendman’s report and Means’ claims.
The article made a series of claims I want to look at now. Lakota, particularly the Oglala (of Pine Ridge) and Sicangu (Rosebud or Upper Brule) that I am personally most familiar with, are in very bad straits, but so are the Dakota and others. But misrepresentations on this scale do no LEGITIMATE cause any good.
Here I pick up in Lendman’s column:
He [Means] cited longstanding problems and grievances. They include land theft, resource plunder, poverty, unemployment, repression, and overall human depravation[sic]. All of it remains out of sight and mind.
The Republic of Lakota described ongoing genocide as follows:
I don’t know whether the claims made are Russell Means’ or Stephen Lendman’s or from someone else. It doesn’t matter: they are used to support Means’ agenda, and Lendman’s. Let us look at these.
Life expectancy for Lakota men is less than 44 years. It’s the lowest of all sovereign countries. It’s the highest in America. Infant mortality is threefold higher than the US average. Diseases are a major problem. “Cancer is now at epidemic proportions.”
Teenage suicide is150% higher than America’s average. One-fourth of Lakota children are fostered or adopted by non-Native people. Doing so destroys their identity and culture. Ward Churchill calls it killing the Indian, saving the man.
(1) Mortality: I do not disagree that many Lakota die young, that many diseases are epidemic, and that it is a serious problem. But cancer is epidemic in the entire nation. As is suicide. It is not germane. The statistics may be disputed because it is hard to track data, due to the dispersal of much of the population. On the rez, too many people die too young.
And today, to quote an Oglala Lakota friend, in South Dakota reservations, “death is a growth industry.” The WW2 generation is dying off, but so are the young people, and the baby-boomers. Only the high birth rate keeps the population growing. Disease, alcoholism, drugs, old age, and more kills people.
But the thing that needs to be asked is WHY? For 130 years, the Lakota have been living in a socialist paradise, and like ALL socialist paradises, it is a distopia – racism may be or have been a factor, but it is a smothering nanny government with “free” one-payer, one-provider health care that has resulted in this.
Teenage suicide? Why? Hopelessness, incest and other abuse, peer pressure, gangs, government-run education ALL can be identified as key causes: none are unique to Lakota but all lead to this. Nationally, teen suicide is way, way up: many have speculated on the causes. In any case, if the usual pampered and coddled teens are killing themselves in record numbers, is it any wonder that those seemingly trapped on reservations are doing so as well?
As for the one-quarter of Lakota children fostered outside the tribes? It is that or more, but the question is why?
First, it is because the average family on the rez IS dysfunctional: the father (if known and around) is a downwardly-spiraling alcoholic, the mother is nearly the same, without employment or prospects for a job; The other children are as much abusers as the parents and other relatives, and frequently victims of fetal alcohol syndrome. This is “normal.”
Second, the drive is ALWAYS to place a child with a family of the same tribe or a related tribe, but that is not possible when the only available families have the same problems as the home from which the child is “rescued.” I am not saying that every family is like that – but enough are. There are families with mothers and fathers and grandmothers (yes, and grandfathers), that all have jobs (or retirement income) and have nice houses: but they are often already supporting their own immediate blood relatives: nieces and nephews and cousins and sometimes grandchildren. They cannot take any more, whether the state or tribes pays for the support or not.
Third, many of the foster families ARE not enrolled in the tribe, but live on or near the reservation, and try to help the children keep (or gain) their cultural heritage, and honor their oyate and relatives and history of their people.
Fourth, there are a LOT of Lakota children: fully half the population on Pine Ridge is under 21: it is difficult to find enough homes in the Dakotas, which aren’t the biggest states in the land.
Fifth, many of the children are fostered when taken away from families that are NOT on the reservation, but instead have moved to cities like Rapid City or Sioux Falls or Denver or Omaha or Minneapolis. Again, why this situation? Government: federal and tribal (yes, and state, as well).
Sixth, fostering children ON the reservation does not remove them from most of the threats to them: the gangs in schools, the close-by relatives of dysfunctional families, and the peer pressures. All too often, the fostered children are so incredibly dysfunctional that their foster homes and the community in which they are fostered still must receive treatment as the most “at-risk” of any child in the community. Those issues take priority: cultural orientation and preservation take a backseat – especially when it seems obvious to many of the providers that it is the culture (that of 2012, NOT that of 1642 or 1776 or 1880) that has failed the child.
Tuberculosis is 800% higher than America’s average. Cervical cancer is fivefold higher. Diabetes is eight times the national average. The Federal Commodity Food Program provides high-sugar foods. They contribute to poor health.
(2) Disease: Yes, which is one reason WHY mortality is so high, AND growing – and will continue to grow. Once more, they refuse to see the obvious: government is to blame. Why? First, the commodity foods are part of the treaty obligations of the US government, or at least that is assumed. But commodity foods are dairy and carbohydrates: grains – flour and rice and such. Not much meat. There are a lot of Lakota children (39% of the population of Shannon County), and most go to school. A school lunch of 750 calories of fruits and vegetables is NOT what a typical Lakota child needs, based on their genetic heritage. Why? Carbs were a very small part of a normal Lakota diet before the 1870s (about eight generations back): they were meat eaters, with a variety of wild fruits and vegetables to supplement, and a trade in coffee and corn for meal and such. But the government is getting by on the cheap: they are already paying for the commodities, and so that is what is provided. When food stamps (SNAP) are substituted for the actual commodities, people buy what is relatively cheap and filling – not healthy – and what they’ve been eating for the last century-plus. Although beef is raised locally, there isn’t a lot of meat-processing done locally. And these folks are products of government schools: they don’t know how to butcher a beef (or even a deer or elk) or how to grow a garden or even cook – same as the rest of the nation: microwave “cooking” of prepared foods. This comes as no surprise, and government – government-run schools, government welfare, government regulations – all are to blame.
Annual median income is $2,600 – $3,500. Poverty affects 97% of Lakotans. [I don’t know what a Lakotan is – if it is not a typo perhaps it is a jelly or cream-filled donut of some kind (just like “ein Berliner” is a jelly donut but “Berliner” is a citizen of that city). He means “Lakota.”] Many families can’t afford essentials most people take for granted. In winter, many use ovens for heat. Simple luxuries are unheard of. Life is hard, merciless, punishing, and unrelenting.
(3) Poverty. Yeah, there is a lot of it. Both numbers are exaggerated, however. There are a fair number of wealthy Lakota, even those living on the reservations. Many are well-paid civil servants (tribal and federal), there are teachers and professors, there are medical personnel and technicians. And some are successful in private business: contractors, store owners, managers, morticians, druggists, and all the other professions and jobs in any American city or town. I’d go with 90%, but not with 97%. And median income is low, but not THAT low: not when you count ALL kinds of income, including all the welfare freebies and such. And not even when you DO NOT count that: US Census says that per-capita CASH income is $7772/year in Shannon County (which is more than half of Pine Ridge Reservation and the OST), average for 2006 to 2010. That is only one-quarter of South Dakota’s average, but well over twice Lendman’s/Means’ bogus numbers.
If they use ovens for heat, then SOMEone is paying their electric or propane bill – and that is income. Yes, I know some who have – but this makes it sound like 97% are. And as for simple luxuries? That is in the eye of the beholder: television, videos, cars, cell phones, MP3 players, and many other things are present, even if not everyone has them. But I won’t argue that for a lot of people, life is “hard, merciless, punishing, and unrelenting.” In a recent interview of a dozen young (20-25 year old) Oglala workers, only THREE had a driver’s license. But for many of them it was because young as they were, they already had three or more DUI convictions. Life IS hard when you drug or drink yourself – or when you are born crippled because your parents did that.
And life is even harder when you are living in a socialist paradise that has, in essence, been a satellite of a major power for 130 years, with socialism and despotism the rule of the day: think East Germany but for three times as long!
It’s 80% or higher. Government corruption, cronyism, and indifference destroy normal living opportunities.
(4) Unemployment. While certainly right about government, and about unemployment, the question that Lendman (and Means) don’t even ask is “how does government create this problem?” And once again, their stats don’t match, even if you find the US Census Bureau data suspect (as I do): Shannon County has 14,000 people, of which 1,800 are in private, non-farm employment. This apparently includes 385 “non-employer” establishments, which apparently means sole proprietors who have no official employees – just the owners. But this does NOT include public employees: according to city-data.com, 55% of all employment in Shannon County is GOVERNMENT – so if there are 1,800 (39%) private, then there are about 2,500 government employees, and that means 4,300 or so out of 14,000 – which is incredibly low (about 69%), but NOT 80%. (Of course, since government statistics are designed by current and past administrations to lie, virtually none of these unemployed COUNT against state or federal numbers, since they are not “in the workforce.”)
But, like for the Federal Executive Branch and Congress, the truth isn’t good enough for Lendman and Means: they have to lie about it. Of course, for those of us who think government is, in essence, (being polite here) a scam we are down to about 85% unemployment. And in some places, that is the case: Wounded Knee District with somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 residents, had exactly 41 private-sector jobs last year. Including ranchers.
And Lendman and Means are absolutely right that government corruption, crony-ism, and indifference are big factors, but what Lendman and Means propose is MORE government. They want to create a third-world country right here – not just LIKE a third-world but another one; where the corruption and crony-ism and indifference will be magnitudes greater.
In winter, elderly people die from hypothermia. They freeze to death for lack of heat. One-third of homes lack clean water and sewage. About 40% have no electricity. About 60% of families have no telephone.
Another 60% of homes are infected with potentially fatal black molds. On average, 17 people reside in each household. Many have two to three rooms. Some homes built for six to eight people have up to 30 in them.
(5) Housing. Yes, these things happen. Here and in Chicago and Baltimore. These statistics are, at best, out-dated. Though still poor – dirt, grinding poor – by American standards, there are vast government bureaucracies which work (however inefficiently) to prevent and fix these things – and thereby add to the corruption and the crony-ism. Again, suspect Census data says that there are 3,628 housing units (as of 2011); numbers more likely to be accurate than actual population data. And there are supposedly 14,000 people. Let us say that there are really twice as many: 28,000 (I’d argue for a number of about 25,000 myself). That is just under 8 people per household: still a LOT of people, but far from “17.” Especially when 39% are under age 18.
Billions of dollars are spent to provide these services – and wasted, or at least foolishly spent. Example: Red Shirt is a village of the Oglala on the northwest corner of Pine Ridge Reservation, on the banks of the Cheyenne River. The water in that river flows to the Missouri and downstream where some of it is captured by a multimillion dollar pumping and treatment plant which pushes that water back up about 200 miles of the Mni Wiconi (Water of Life) Project to – among many other places, the several dozen homes of Red Shirt village and its school. Huge waste water treatment plants and hundreds of septic systems are built and replaced each year. Tribal governments (with federal dollars) provide free firewood, free propane, and subsidize electrical bills every year. Free cell phones (“Commod” or commodity cell phones) are provided to many of them, as cell phone towers are constructed in more and more places. There are certainly many overcrowded and jam-packed houses (reminding you of the stories of post-Revolutionary Russia), but hundreds are built each year. And the kids keep filling them.
Even if they have to use ovens, even if they are overcrowded, go to Mexico and see what they live in. Go to Kenya or Somalia or even Pakistan or Syria. Honduras or Panama.
But all these statistics make Means and Lendman look good: if it bleeds, it leads. The question that they don’t answer, because they don’t even ask, is WHY? Once more, the answer is government. And THEIR answer is MORE GOVERNMENT? Please.
(6) Drugs and Alcohol
Over half of adults battle addiction and disease. Alcoholism affects 90% of families. Two known methamphetamine labs operate. Authorities haven’t closed them.
(6) Drugs and alcohol. Just two meth labs? Give me a break: I suspect that in the nine South Dakota reservations alone (of which five are officially “Lakota”) there are at least a dozen. Of course, authorities have not been able to close the several dozen which exist in the rest of South Dakota either: the war on some drugs pushes ever more out into the rural areas, while technology makes these obsolete. But the meth labs have little to do with the addictions that plague the people.
Every family, Lakota or outlander or Anglo, on the reservations is affected by alcoholism and drug use – if not by the actual sellers and users, then by the side-effects. But alcohol and drugs are something that we ALWAYS have with us: every culture, every society, throughout history has had drugs and alcohol or something very much like it. But it is only societies under enormous stress that have this kind of addiction problem, either hidden or (as here) on the surface. Rome, Azteca, Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, the Arab nations. While there are many causes of stress, the most common is tyranny – government is again the key problem here. For ten generations, starting in the 1850’s, the Lakota have been under direct pressure from the United States; for eight generations, from the 1880’s, the Lakota have been directly under the thumbs of worse than soldiers – government bureaucrats. The drinking and now the drugs are one of the methods of escape.
Indian children imprisonment exceed whites by 40%. Native People comprise 2% of South Dakota’s population. They account for 21% of those imprisoned.
Indians have the second highest state prison incarceration rate in America. Most live on federal reservations. Less than 2% are where states have jurisdiction.
(7) Incarceration. Yes, there are a lot of AmerInd, not just Lakota and Nakota and Dakota, who are imprisoned. As there are a lot of blacks and hispanics and immigrants in prison. As there are a LOT of Americans in prison. Too many, and for too many BAD reasons. Some of those reasons (drug-related crime, for example) are stupid. It is and should be a sore point.
But again, Lendman (and Means, or wherever these “statistics” come from) aren’t content with the truth. No, they have to lie about it. Keeping in mind that Lendman and Means may be playing with the definition of “Native People” (discussed in Part 2), according to census data and other sources, 12% – TWELVE PERCENT – of South Dakotans are AmerInd: the vast majority of them enrolled members in one of the nine Ahkota tribes which have some or all their reservation in South Dakota. Not 2% but 12%. And that is if the census figures are actually not too low – which many of us think they are. It could be close to 20%. So for tribal members to account for 21% of the imprisoned population is really NOT that high, given all the problems on the reservations and the dysfunctional situation of so many Lakota and others.
They aren’t content with just one lie, though: they proceed to use “statistics” to whinge even more. MOST AmerInd do NOT live on Federal Reservations – like most Americans, they are living in cities and traveling outside the reservations. This 2% number (unless we are talking the Means-Lendman definition of who is “Native People”) is not supported by anything that I can find. Large numbers of Lakota live outside their five traditional reservations: they are found in larger cities (by my definition, not federal definition) like Rapid City and Sioux Falls and Pierre and Aberdeen and Omaha and Lincoln; and they are found in smaller towns near the Rez, like Valentine (NE) and Chadron (NE) and Murdo (SD) and elsewhere. Many crimes committed by AmerInd are committed in those areas, where all too often they are part of an underclass. And even on the reservation, with tribal courts or federal jurisdiction, there are a lot of things that aren’t crimes elsewhere: like bootlegging on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where alcohol is illegal.
Lendman and Means want us to believe the incarceration rate is due to racism. The truth is, a combination of factors, just as with blacks and hispanics, accounts for this. It doesn’t make it right – NO one belongs in jail for smoking pot. And the underlying truth is that government for the last 130+ years is to blame for the conditions that lead to criminal activities, conviction, and incarceration.
It’s threatened with extinction. It’s federal policy to destroy it. Only 14% of Lakotans speak their language. It’s not shared inter-generationally.
The average fluent Lakotan speaker is 65 years old. In another generation or less, perhaps few or none will remain. Lakotan language skills aren’t allowed or taught in US government schools. Nor is much of anything about native history and culture. America wants it destroyed and forgotten.
(8) Culture. I agree that Lakota culture is threatened. I disagree that it is federal policy to destroy it. It WAS federal policy, once upon a time, but it hasn’t been for the last 30+ years: official OR unofficial. Indeed, tens of millions of dollars of money is spent by federal agencies to “preserve” the culture (although their idea of preservation is sometimes more akin to taxidermy than conservation). But the rest of the claims by Lendman (and I assume it is his claim, since we see that strange word “Lakotan” used again) are phony. The number of Lakota (that is, enrolled members of the five tribes) who speak Lakota has been growing for a generation or more, BECAUSE of efforts to preserve the language and to teach the young. It IS being “shared inter-generationally.” I’ve seen such classes and heard the results in young people from 5 to 25, in person. Fluency is, of course, a matter of opinion, but I know many Lakota who are in their 70s and 80s who do NOT speak more than a handful of words in “Injun” (a term used by one of those people – not MY word). But their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren DO.
It is absolutely FALSE that Lakota (NOT “Lakotan”) language skills and native culture and native history are NOT taught in “US government schools.” They are taught, DAILY, in schools (whether BIA Education or Tribal schools (supported mostly by US government dollars) or “Public” schools (supported by US government dollars AND local property taxes) on Pine Ridge, the Rosebud, Crow Creek Reservation, to my personal knowledge in the last ten years, and presumably in other schools on and near other reservations. I also know, personally, that both Navajo (Dineh) and Ute (Numu) language, culture, and history are taught in many schools (again, BIA, tribal, and public) in and around the Navajo, Ute Mountain, and Southern Ute Reservations. Yes, it was not the case decades ago, but this claim today is a bald-faced lie. Here are some pictures to show what I mean. These are at Rockyford School, where a major expansion of the school was dedicated by Shannon County School District (in August 2012), with guests including state and federal officials (one governor, one senator, and more bureaucrats than you can shake a fist at – I know, I was there because several close friends of mine were the engineers and architects that designed and built the place. The building was designed to encourage and promote Oglala Lakota culture in every way possible, and the teachers (regardless of race or cultural background) lay it one with a heavy trowel.
My own son is a graduate of Shannon County Virtual High School, in 2010. He (we) are NOT Lakota, and he was one of seven graduates. But the Lakota customs and traditions followed in the ceremony were so intensive and dominant that many of the non-Lakota present, including in-laws of families with graduates, felt very out-of-place. But this is a “US Government” school. I’m not saying Means didn’t grow up in much worse conditions (vis-a-vis Lakota language and culture in schools) but it is NOT true today.
In summary, although the problems are real, the lies that Lendman and Means tell about the problems discredit them, and make it harder for legitimate representatives of the communities to do what could be done. It shows Lendman and Means up for the fakes that they are.
In Part Four, I’ll look at the rest of the article by Lendman, and wrap this all up.