Plateau Indian Reservation Life

The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.

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Reservations in 1915

During the nineteenth century, the United States had attempted to settle all Indians on well-defined reservations on lands deemed unsuitable for non-Indian development. Here Indians were to remain until they became extinct or had fully assimilated into the Christian American lifestyle. By the end of the nineteenth century, the government began the process of dismantling Indian reservations and increasing the pressures to assimilate. By 1915, a majority of Indians still lived on reservations where they were considered wards of the government. Briefly described below are a few of the events of 1915 which are related to Indian reservations.

The Indian Peaks Reservation in Utah was established by executive order for the Indian Peaks Band of Paiute. The band was formed of the remnants of several other Paiute bands, including the Paragoo, Pahquit, and Tavarsock.

By executive order of President Woodrow Wilson 32 acres in Aitkiin County, Minnesota were set aside as a reservation for the Sandy Lake Band of Chippewa.

In Oregon, the first Siletz Indian Fair was held. Agency superintendent Edwin Chalcraft reports:  “We proposed to have an all Indian fair, both in exhibits and management, if possible, and that it should be [run] on the most progressive lines without games of chance of any kind on the grounds.”

The fair included a play adapted from Longfellow’s Hiawatha with an all-Indian cast. The Oregonian reports:  “The Siletz Indian Fair was unique because it combined the barbaric implements and manufactured articles of an uncivilized age with present productions of educated people, from which all trace of the uncivilized Indians has been erased.”

In Arizona, the Bureau of Indian Affairs hired a field matron for the Tohono O’odham whose primary job was to recruit Indian women to become servants in non-Indian households. The matron was to impart Anglo standards of behavior among Tohono O’odham women.  

 The Bureau of Indian Affairs reported that the Tohono O’odham in southern Arizona had a population of 5,000 living in 104 villages. According to the report:  “We cannot go into their country with the idea of teaching them farming or irrigation under conditions as we find them. Rather should we go to them to be taught.”

In Montana, only 24 families were farming 480 acres in the area served by the “Birney Ditch” irrigation project on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, pointing to the “success” of farming and cattle raising, reduced rations on the reservation as a part of their plan to promote economic self-reliance. The policy ensured that the Northern Cheyenne would remain malnourished.

In Montana, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (BTBC) was formed to replace the Tribal Business Committee. Robert Hamilton was elected president. Several tribal members protested Hamilton’s position on the BTBC.

In Montana, the superintendent for the Fort Belknap Reservation cabled the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:  “About entire flow Milk River being diverted by white appropriators above our diversion point.”

In other words, non-Indians continued to ignore the Supreme Court ruling – the Winters Doctrine – giving the Indians the water rights.

In Arizona, the City of Phoenix constructed a pipeline across the Fort McDowell Reservation and began diverting Yavapai water from the Verde River for use by Phoenix residents. Yavapai water rights were ignored, the pipeline built without their permission, and they received no compensation for the stolen water until 1922.

In Nebraska, the Omaha asked for a total of 48 acres on which to bury their dead. At a second tribal council meeting, the request was raised to 78 acres to be located in two different areas of the reservation. The Department of the Interior agreed that the present Omaha cemetery was inadequate and prepared a request to submit to Congress.

In Idaho, the Shoshone and Bannock of the Fort Hall reservation sent Alex Watson to Washington, D.C. to complain to government officials about the agency abuses of power on their reservation. He demanded that Indians have some say about their future. There was no immediate response to his demands.

In Mississippi, influenza and pneumonia killed many Choctaw. The impact of the diseases was greater because of poor housing and nutrition. Their desperate condition was called to the attention of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In Montana, Cheyenne war woman Epyophsta (Yellow-head Woman) died. George Bird Grinnell, in his book The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Lifeways, writes:  “She took a prominent part in an important battle between the Cheyennes and the Shoshonis in 1868, at which time she counted coup on one Shoshone and killed another.”

In Nebraska, Omaha physician Dr. Susan LaFlesche died at the age of 50. She was the first Indian woman to graduate from medical school and to practice medicine.

The Ozette Reservation

In 1855 the United States met with the Makah Nation in Washington to negotiate a treaty. At this time, the Makah were composed of five semiautonomous villages that shared language, kinship, and cultural traditions. As in other treaty councils, Governor Isaac Stevens told the Makah to select a single man to serve as their supreme chief. When they declined to do so, he simply appointed Tse-kow-wootl, from the village of Ozette, as supreme chief.

Under the terms of the treaty, dictated by Governor Isaac Stevens, the Makah reservation was to be centered at Neah Bay. Only one of the five main Makah villages was included within the new reservation. While the Makah had been successful fishing people for thousands of years, the United States wanted them to become farmers on land which was not suited for agriculture. All of the Makah land which was suitable for agriculture was outside of the new reservation.

With the formation of the Makah Reservation, the village of Ozette is six miles south of the reservation. While the United States government wanted all of the Makah to move to the Neah Bay area, the people of Ozette preferred to remain in their traditional village.

The United States Indian policy was based on the idea of civilizing Indian people through farming. Since the treaty excluded nearly all of the land which could be farmed, a Presidential Executive Order in 1873 expanded the Makah reservation to include some farmable land. However, the village of Ozette, which was still occupied by a number of Makah families, remained outside of the reservation. At this time there were about 200 families living in Ozette.

In the 1880s, the Indian agents on the Makah Reservation were encouraging the Makah families in Ozette to relocate to Neah Bay so that they could be near the schools for their children. With this, the population of Ozette began to decrease. By 1888 only 91 families remained in the village.

In 1893, the 719-acre Ozette Reservation was established by Presidential Executive Order. This action, however, would result in some confusion later on. While Ozette was one of the five traditional Makah villages, the creation of a distinct Ozette Reservation created for non-Indians the illusion that the Makah people on that reservation were somehow a distinct tribe (the Ozette).

The government continued to strongly encourage people to leave Ozette. The population dropped to 44 in 1901, to 35 by 1906, to 17 by 1914, and to only 8 by 1923. In 1911, Congress passed an act directing the Secretary of the Interior to allow members of the Ozette Tribe to receive allotments of land on the Quinault Reservation.

In 1937, only one person was officially living in the village. While the village was officially viewed by the U.S. government as “vacant” it continued to be an important Makah cultural and spiritual center. The people continued to visit the village regularly.

In 1952, with the passage of House Joint Resolution 698, the United States formally began the termination era in which the policy of the United States focused primarily on the termination of all federal responsibilities for Indian tribes and for the dissolution of Indian reservations.

In 1956, the Area Office of Indian Affairs notified the Makah that the Ozette Reservation was going to be terminated. Ozette was to be turned over to the National Park Service (it is adjacent to Olympic National Park), turned over to the General Services Administration, or declared open and unclaimed. The Makah Tribe was given 60 days to respond.

Noting that the Superintendent was opposed to Makah cultural expression and that he had discouraged people from returning to Ozette, and frustrated with the lack of help from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribe submitted a petition directly to the solicitor general in Washington, D.C. and made a personal plea to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Concluding that the Makah had no beneficial interest in Ozette, the Interior Deputy Solicitor recommended that Ozette be returned to public domain.

In 1970, PL-91-489 declared that the Ozette Reservation would be held in trust by the federal government for the Makah Tribe. At this time, Ozette was beginning to enter the national and international spotlight because it had become an important archaeological site.

Insecurity on Modern Reservations

Not sure if this is where I should post this, but I have a great belief in the power of forums as information generators…

If someone would be so kind as to answer my (probably naive) questions, I’d be very grateful to them.

It is no secret that poverty and need plague today’s NA communities. One study of South Dakota reservations showed an average income of less than 3,800$ a year per household- far below the acknowledged American line of 5,000$ (which would be difficult enough to live on! Trust me, I know!)

Poverty is the enemy of progress anywhere- it saps the strength of a people, disallows them the advantages of a full life, and has unfortunately been used as a dark method of social control in history. It still enslaves members of ‘developed’ countries, trapping the masses in a struggle for basic survival. I think that’s wrong, wherever it’s happening: India, Oklahoma, or inner Chicago. And apathy from those higher up on the chain only perpetuates inequality’s grip.

A child in need anywhere is a blemish on the face of anyone capable of providing help… And it’s something I’ve promised my life to rectifying.

In this vein, I’d like to pose a few questions to the NA community here about what they know of need on modern reservations.

(I ask both for an economics project I am heading for a class, and out of sincere respect for our brothers and sisters who have suffered too long from desperate want. Knowledge is power- and this may turn out to be very strong in determining my life direction.)

Please address any of these with your thoughts and recollections:

1. Do you know a child growing up on a reservation or in a predominately poor area? What are the biggest difficulties in growing up, receiving an education, and staying safe?

2. What services are provided where you live/lived to help people in the Native American community cope with poverty, need, and the like? How heavily does availablity of assistance vary from community to community?

3. In your experience of the last 5-10 years, please describe the education system available to children and teens from reservations and needy areas. What can be improved, both in regards to their culture and the quality of their education?    

4. How do programs that would provide social assistance form in your communities, and where do they get the funding? Do you know of any programs that have had success where you live?

5. What in your opinion is the greatest challenge to providing basic neccessities (decent food, clean water, health care, etc.) to reservation communities?

Thank you for reading~

Information sources:……


Renaming Indians

American government policies regarding American Indians, particularly during the nineteenth century, were primarily focused on “civilizing” the Indians.  This meant that Indians were to change their language (they were to speak only English), their religion (they were to become Christians, preferably Protestants), their houses, their clothes, their history (they were to embrace European history as their own), and, finally, they were to change their names. Changing Indian names into something which sounded more “American” would show that they had become truly assimilated into the American mainstream.  

Traditionally, American Indians had neither surnames nor Christian first names. In many Indian nations, such as those of the Great Plains, a person would be given several names during the course of their life. Shortly after birth they would often be given a baby name. As they grew older and their personality had begun to emerge, they would be given a child’s name. Finally, as a mark of becoming an adult, they would be given an adult name. Later an individual might acquire another new name reflecting some deed they had done or in honor of some new status. Europeans found Indian names confusing and, because they rarely spoke any Indian languages, difficult to pronounce.

American Indians have often noted that non-Indians have an obsession with private property. Government concerns with Indian surnames stems from this concern. The concern for private property goes beyond the individual accumulation of property and includes the ability to pass this property on to the property owner’s descendents, thus helping to create family fortunes.  Family lineages are an important part of private property.

In 1887, the Congress passed the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) with the intent of assimilating Indians by making them land-owning farmers. The idea of the Dawes Act is to break up the reservations by giving each Indian family an allotment of land, similar to the homesteads given to non-Indian settlers.

In breaking the reservations up into individually owned allotments, the first step was to put together a tribal roll. Regarding Indian names on these tribal rolls, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote:

“Originally, the Indians had no family names, and confusion has been worse confounded by the admission to the official rolls of vulgar nicknames, incorrect translations, and English cognomens injudiciously bestowed upon children in the various schools.”  

Government concern for Indian names, particularly surnames, was directly connected with allotments. The allotments came under territory and state inheritance laws. All of these laws were based on Euro-American family relationships and therefore the result was confusion if an allottee died intestate and local officials had to determine the heirs.

In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs ordered Indian names on the reservations to be changed so that each Indian would be given an English Christian name and retain the surname. Surnames were to be translated to English and shortened if they were too long. Care was to be taken to avoid translations of Indian names that might be offensive to non-Indians. The new names were to be explained to the Indians.

One of the ways of creating the new Indian surnames was to use the name of the father as the family name. This also meant that the Indian agents had to attempt to stop the traditional practice of assigning Indian names. This practice ignored the fact that many Indian nations were matrilineal, that is, a person belonged to the mother’s clan or family.

On some reservations, the Indian agent changed names such as Lone Bear to Lon Brown, Night Horse to Henry Lee Tyler, and Yellow Calf to George Caldwell. On some reservations, Indians were given names such as “Cornelius Vanderbilt” and “William Shakespeare.” Presidential names were also popular and so a number of Indians were named George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others.

On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, the Indian agent reported that:

“Now every family has a name. Every father, mother; every husband and wife and children bears the last names of these people; now property goes to his descendant.”

He also reported:

“During my administration I took a census of over two thousand names and had them all change, though it took over two years to accomplish the task.”

In noting that Indians often change names in response to events in their lives, Frank Terry, the Superintendent of the Crow Boarding School wrote in 1897:

“Hence it will be seen that the Indian names are nothing, a delusion, and a snare, and the practice of converting them into English appears eminently unwise.”

He also noted that the requirement to give Indians American-style names had not been uniformly carried out:

“While some have made earnest efforts to carry out the wishes of the Department in this particular, others have treated the matter as one of little or no concern. In many cases no attempt seems ever to have been made to systematize the names of the Indians, and in many others where such attempt was made the correct names for want of attention on the part of officers in charge, have been forgotten or permitted to fall into disuse.”

In addition to having the Indian agents give Indians more “civilized” names, the government also assigned new names to Indian students in both their boarding schools and in their day schools.

In 1890, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs published a detailed set of rules for Indian schools. Schools were to give Indian students surnames so that as they could become property owners it would be easier to fix lines of inheritance. Since most teachers could not pronounce or memorize names in native languages, and they did not understand these names when translated into English, it was not uncommon to give English surnames as well as English first names to the students.

In the school established for the Quileute on the Coast of Washington, the schoolmaster gave the students names from the Bible and from American history.

Many Indian families today have stories about how their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents got their surnames. While the government intent was to eradicate the traditional names and naming procedures, what has instead resulted in many cases is a naming duality: the formal names with surnames that the government requires, and traditional names still given in the traditional ways.


Flathead Sign

It is not possible to talk about Indians in the United States today without reference to reservations. Most Americans are aware that as the European population expanded across the continent Indians were confined to “reserved” areas which were set aside for exclusive Indian use for “as long as the grasses grow and the rivers flow” or until Congress changes its mind. While there are about 324 federal Indian reservations in the United States, these reservations are not all the same: each reservation is unique with regard to its tribal heritage, its relationship to the land, and its legal relationships with the United States.  

Before talking about the different kinds of Indian reservations, it is important to point out that not all Indians live on reservations: less than half of the Indians who are enrolled members of federally recognized Indian tribes live on their reservations.

It is also important to point out that not all Indian tribes have reservations. The federal government has officially recognized only 566 Indian tribes and there are several hundred tribes which do not have an official relationship with the federal government. These unrecognized tribes do not have reservations.

One of the stories which is often told by history books and the popular media is the removal of Indian tribes from east of the Mississippi River and their resettlement in what is now Oklahoma. While the stories of removal need to be told, and retold, they lead to the stereotype of Indian reservations as places far from the indigenous homelands. While many tribes were removed from their homelands, many tribes have reservations which include their traditional homes.

Following the Constitution of the United States, the federal government negotiated treaties (international agreements) with Indian nations. These treaties often established Indian reservations which were territories which the Indian nations reserved for themselves. The treaties indicated these reservations were to be for the exclusive use of the Indians.

Originally, reservations were often areas in which non-Indians were to have only limited access.  In the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie which established the Great Sioux Reservation, for example, article 2 states that the reservation:

“set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians.”

As with all treaties, the United States refused to enforce treaty obligations against non-Indians. Reservations were often invaded illegally by non-Indian miners, ranchers, and farmers who demanded that the United States government remove the Indians and give them title to the land.

By the 1880s, the federal government was offended by the communal ownership of reservation land and began a policy of dividing up the reservations into small, individually owned plots of land. It was felt that individual land ownership would help Indians to assimilate into American society by helping them value the accumulation of wealth. In addition, surplus land could be transferred to non-Indians. As a result, on many reservations today the Indians are a minority on their own land. While the reservation boundaries were unchanged by the infamous Dawes Act, the land within the reservation boundaries could now be privately owned by non-Indians.

The United States government also declared that it could unilaterally change reservation boundaries. Thus many large reservations, such as that reserved by the Sioux, were broken up into smaller reservations and large areas opened up for non-Indian settlement.

Like many people today, the nineteenth-century government treaty negotiators viewed Indians through a racial lens which simply saw Indian/White. They failed to understand that Indian as a racial construct fails to recognize that there are many very different tribal cultures. While the Anishinaabe, Lakota, Kootenai, and Tohono O’odham are all Indians, they are not the same. In establishing reservations through the treaty process, the federal government often assigned Indians from very different cultural traditions to the same reservations, assuming that all Indians were the same. As a result many shared reservations today are homes to tribes which have very different cultural traditions.

In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act which allowed tribes to reorganize their tribal governments. However, the federal government took the view that reservation and tribe were the same, ignoring the fact that many reservations contained dissimilar tribes. As a result, those reservations wishing to reorganize their tribal governments had to create confederated governments. As a result of this, some smaller tribes have lost their individual identity and have become a part of a new “confederated” tribe.

Since the United States stopped making treaties with Indian nations in 1871, reservations have been created by Presidential Executive Order, by Congressional Action, and by court actions.

Most reservations today are no longer areas reserved for the exclusive use of the Indians. Unfortunately, many of the non-Indians living on the reservations, or close to the reservations, have little understanding of the history of these areas, the cultures of the tribes, and the special body of law which governs them.

Reservation Poverty

Estimating the economic well-being of American Indians is a complex task. In general, American Indians tend to have higher poverty rates, higher unemployment rates, and lower educational achievements that other Americans. However, the picture is complicated by the fact that some Indians live on reservations and some don’t. The poverty rates on reservations are significantly higher than in the urban areas.

There are currently about 310 reservations in the United States. These reservations are lands which the Indians reserve for themselves: they were “gifts” from the United States government to the Indians. All Indian reservations, however, are not equal: some are very large, covering thousands of square miles while others are small, containing only a few acres; some have populations numbering in the many thousands, while other have only a few hundred (sometimes fewer) residents. Some reservations are pockets of extreme poverty, the kind of poverty geographers describe in the lesser developed countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Listed below are the ten largest Indian reservations in the United States along with estimates of the percentage of families living in poverty and the percentage in extreme poverty (defined as less than half of the poverty threshold). Because economic well-being is associated with educational attainment, also shown is the percentage of adults who have at least a high school education. In the United States as a whole, 80% of all adults have at least a high school education; among all Indians this is 76%. The large reservations listed below have education levels far below this.  


The Navajo Nation covers more than 62,400 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. It is not only the largest Indian nation in the United States with regard to size, but is also the largest with regard to population: about 181,000 Navajo live on the reservation.

Nearly half of the families on the reservation (47%) live in poverty with 15% in extreme poverty. While the official unemployment rate is about 11%, more than half of all adults on the reservation (56%) are actually out of the labor force. While education is often seen as the key to reducing poverty, only 25% of the Navajo adults have the equivalent of a high school education.

Uintah and Ouray:

The Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah is the home to the Northern Ute. The reservation covers 17,678 square miles and has a population of about 19,000.  

More than half of the families on the reservation (54%) live in poverty with 4% in extreme poverty. While the official unemployment rate is about 5.4%, 40% of all adults on the reservation are out of the labor force. With regard to education, 38% have at least a high school education.

Tohono O’odham:

The Tohono O’odham Nation covers 11,535 square miles in southern Arizona and has a reservation population of about 11,000.

The poverty rate is about 44% with 21% of all households living in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is 9.9% with 59% of all adults out of the labor force. With regard to education, 40% have at least a high school education.

Cheyenne River:

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota covers 11,447 square miles and has a population of about 8,500.

Two out of five of the reservation households (42%) live in poverty and 15% are in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is about 8.6% with 43% of the reservation adults out of the labor force. About one third of the reservation adults (33%) have at least a high school education.

Standing Rock:

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation covers 9,486 square miles in South Dakota and North Dakota. The reservation has a population of about 8,300.  

Of the families living on the reservation, 41% live in poverty with 17% living in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is 6.7% with about half of all adults (49%) out of the labor force. With regard to education, 37% have at least a high school education.


In Montana, the Crow Nation covers 9,341 square miles with a population of about 7,000.  

About one-third of the families on the reservation (32%) live in poverty with 10% living in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is 10.5% with 39% of all adults out of the labor force. With regard to education, 31% have at least a high school education.

Wind River:

Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, home to the Northern Shoshone and the Arapaho, covers 9,148 square miles. The reservation has a population of nearly 24,000.  

The poverty rate on the Wind River Reservation is low compared to many other reservations: 23% live in poverty with 13% in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is 7.5% with 35% of all adults out of the labor force. More than a third of the adults (35%) have at least a high school education.  

Pine Ridge:

The Oglala Sioux of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation have 8,994 square miles and a population of about 15,500.

More than half of the families on the reservation (53%) live in poverty with 21% living in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is about 16.9% with 49% of all adults out of the labor force. Slightly more than one-fourth of all adults (27%) have at least a high school education.

Fort Peck:

The Fort Peck Reservation in Montana is the home to the Sioux and Assiniboine. The reservation covers 8,553 square miles with a population of about 10,500.

About 39% of the Fort Peck residents live in poverty with 10% living in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is about 10.9% with 38% of all adults out of the labor force. One-third of the reservation residents (33%) have at least a high school education.

San Carlos:

The San Carlos Apaches in Arizona have a reservation of 7,582 square miles with a population of about 9,400.

More than half of the families on the reservation (53%) live in poverty, with 25% living in extreme poverty. The official unemployment rate is 16.4% with 54% of all adults out of the labor force. About one-third of the adults (32%) have completed at least a high school education.

(We help)

( – promoted by navajo)

I don’t know about you, but I had parents who would pull the “starving children in Africa” thing if I was going to leave food on my plate.

Then one day I came up with something that made them quit. I held out my plate full of leftovers and said,


“well, here, send it to them.”

That shut them both up.  Never again did I hear that stupid expression.

And that brings up Thanksgiving.

Many of us have a lot of leftovers in the fridge. We should be thankful for that.  But  like my parents, you can’t really send your extra food to hungry people.

But you can take out your credit card or checkbook and donate to a food pantry on the Cheyenne River Reservation, where, like on many Indian reservations, hunger is rampant during the winter.


The pantry is being run by an organization called Okiciyap (we help) the Isabel community, founded by Georgia Little Shield, the former director of Pretty Bird Woman House. She was the reason that shelter was so successful, but she couldn’t remain in that stressful position due to poor health.

However, just because she had to stop working full time didn’t mean she stopped trying to help her community. Now she and a group of women have formed a 501 c3 (official nonprofit) to run a food pantry and youth programs.


The winters on many Indian reservations are terrible, not just because of the cold, but because of 80-95% unemployment. Here’s what Georgia has said about the situation:

The families around our reservations are on fixed incomes of 260.00 to 460.00 per month. This is per month. The people on the reservation fight to survive each month and the winters are so brutal that this is when we would need the food pantry more then at any other time of the year.

The food pantry has already started working on an ad hoc basis. Right now they are working out of a trailer lent them by a board member, and have obtained some food donations.  

Recently, a 30×60 building was donated but it is currently 30 miles from Isabel, where the project is located.  They have to bring it back to Isabel, and hook it up to utility services.

Here’s the breakout of what that’s going to cost:

Moving the Building      

Transport 30 miles                            $7000.00

Building forms to set building down       $2500.00

Skirting of building and new ramp         $2500.00

Total                                             $12,000.00  

This will be done by a contractor that knows how to transport the building and is a professional and will set and put the building together when it gets to Isabel. The build of the forms will be done by a cement contractor, Jackson’s cement out of Timer Lake SD. The skirting and ramps will be done by volunteers with the SD specification of disability Ramps.


One year Electricity                           $3000.00

One year water and sewer                   $780.00

One year Propane and Tank set up        $1800.00

Hook up to the to Town sewer and

Water pipes                               $2000.00

Total                                               $7580.00

We are requesting a one year utility for the building and when this year is up we should be able to have funds raised and applied for grants to run the building.  We will need to get hooked into the city sewer and water so we will have this done by the city.

Total amount requested  $19,580.00

Notice how they left out a computer and internet service? I rounded the figure to $20,000.

Here’s the group at work already:



Here’s their website Okiciyap, where you can go to get more information.

To donate by credit card, just click on this ChipIn:


If you would prefer to send a check:

Georgia Little Shield, Board Chair


PO Box 172

225 W. Utah St

Isabel SD57633


You can also send clothing donations to that address.

They’re starting from scratch from the grassroots. Lets give them a hand.

No dough, but willingness to help? Write some diaries on this with us!

Also, don’t forget that propane fundraiser that Navajo started….if you can do a little of both that would be great, but we are thankful for any help you can give for either one.

Nobody in the richest country in the world should be hungry or cold. These are small projects yes, but the services they provide makes a big difference in the lives of the people receiving them…and that means that even $5 makes a difference.

Here’s information on donating money for propane and/or propane heaters. The easiest way is to pick up the phone and call the company Navajo is working with, but there are other ways too:


Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2


Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations to a minimum order. Credit Cards welcome and they are the only Native owned fuel company on Rosebud.  Rosebud is next to Pine Ridge Reservation and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you’d like to mail a check: [make check payable to: St. Francis Energy Co.]

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible


We’re grateful for any assistance you can provide this holiday season, whether writing diaries on this or donating. Thank you to Dr. Erich Bloodaxe for starting this up again at DKos on Thanksgiving.

This is a community of helpers, so let’s help (we help).


Starving in the Land of Plenty: Hunger in Native America. Feeding America Blogathon

My father knew what it was like to go hungry.  

Even before the onset of the Great Depression, his family was intimately familiar with hunger.  Mixed-blood Indians living off the rez, in an area where cowards on horseback stalked the countryside in sheets and white hoods, were not the most “employable.”  Gramps traveled miles every day, on foot, looking for work.  Sometimes he’d find something; just as often, he’d come trudging home, late at night, with nothing to show for it but sore feet and an empty stomach.  If he was lucky, someone might hire him for 16 hours of backbreaking labor in exchange for a sack of beans, or a little rice – or on a really good day, a whole chicken (that Grandma had to pluck and dress).  Most often, the beans or rice were served without salt, pepper, butter, or anything else.

To his dying day, my father hated rice.

But to hear him tell it, they were still lucky compared to some kids at his one-room schoolhouse.  There were a pair of brothers who we invariably described as “dirt poor.”  He used to tell the story of how, one day as the kids were dropped off by the school bus, one of the wealthier white kids tossed an unwanted hard-boiled egg out of his lunch sack onto the ground (presumably so that his mother wouldn’t know he’d wasted food).  It landed in the dirt; already peeled, it was instantly covered.  One of the “dirt poor” brothers pounced on it, blew a bit of the dirt off, and stuffed it in his mouth.  It was the only food he’d had all day – indeed, probably for several days.

And, predictably, just like Dad, those two ragged little boys were ostracized and tormented by the other kids and the teachers.  For the crime of being poor.

I don’t intend to go into the casual racism here that allowed Dad’s first-grade teacher to fail him twice without cause; or his third-grade teacher to refuse to call on him when he knew the answer to question, telling the other kids, “We won’t ask him; he’s too dumb to know anyway); or the systemic privation and malnutrition that destroyed his health and his ability to learn, and caused him to drop out of school at the end of eighth grade.  Nor will I go into detail about the pre-diabetic hypoglycemia that plagued him his entire life, nor the fact that all three of my siblings were diabetic.  

But I do know what it’s like to wonder where your next meal is coming from.

I know my father’s humiliation when we had to use food stamps and he drove 35 miles to another town so no one we knew would see.

I know what it’s like to be hungry during the school day, and to watch my grades plummet because I couldn’t concentrate.

HUNGER – the real, true, gnawing, tearing, murderous kind of constant hunger that destroys lives – only one generation removed from me, remains a part of my ancestral memory.

I’m not talking about the sanitized popular term “food insecurity.”  I’m not talking about not being able to afford steak instead of ground beef.  I’m talking about the physical, psychological, and spiritual starvation caused by real poverty and real malnutrition.  And it’s something our peoples battle every single day, all over this country – mostly unnoticed by a comparatively wealthy population that wouldn’t care anyway.


One of the most pernicious myths surrounding hunger in this country is the one that says that if you’re overweight, you can’t be going hungry.  to the contrary, one of the most obvious manifestations of malnutrition is obesity, and it’s rampant among our peoples.  It’s also killing us at a rate that rivals anything tried in previous centuries.

In 2003, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published A Quiet Crisis:  Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country.  Pages 99-112 deal with issues of food and nutrition.  The numbers – or, rather, the lack thereof in terms of funding allocations to help Native communities feed themselves – are staggering.  

But it’s part and parcel of a larger dynamic of poverty, racism, and marginalization.  As I wrote a few months ago in an edition of Sage and Sweetgrass in SheKos:

As many of you know, I’m part of the Native American Netroots team, founded and led by Kossack navajo. Many of you participated in our diaries on the long-term winter weather emergency that hit several South Dakota reservations, and donated generously of your money, supplies, time, and support. We need your help again. Some background information follows; at the end, what you can do to help.

Pine Ridge – Some Numbers

During the winter, we focused on three South Dakota reservations where the weather and its effects were most severe: Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud. For purposes of today’s edition, I’m going to focus on Pine Ridge, but all three reservations – and many more throughout the nation – are in similar straits.

At Pine Ridge (like many other reservations), it is not unusual to find women as heads of household. Moreover, they’re often housing and caring for multiple generations: children, grandchildren, sometimes great-grandchildren, as well as elderly parents or grandparents. Frequently, they take in uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and distant cousins who are in need. Large numbers of women are de facto guardians of and primary caregivers for their grandchildren. None of this is particularly surprising, given that the average household income is less than $3,800 a year.

Yes, you read that right: The average household income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is less than three thousand, eight hundred dollars annually.

Further complicating the situation are the inhumane living conditions on many reservations. I’ve seen statistics estimating the life expectancy of the average man at Pine Ridge between age 43 and age 48 – equivalent to that of the average Somali male. At a life expectancy of 52, Pine Ridge women don’t fare much better. The reservation’s unemployment rate exceeds 80%; its poverty rate is one of the worst in the nation; both chronic illness, such as diabetes, and acute illnesses, such as certain forms of cancer, appear at rates between 100% and 800% higher than in the nation as a whole; and the adolescent suicide rate is 150% higher than in the general U.S. population. Alcoholism and methamphetamine addiction long ago reached epidemic proportions.

The USDA operates the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).  It is via this program that most reservations receive what we call “commodities” – a word that the government no longer considers “politically correct” because of the bad reputation associated with it.  Think “government cheese”:  generic Velveeta.  Generic canned foods.  Processed, refined, bleached flour, sugar, rice, pasta, bread.  Ground beef and other cheap meats from huge factory farms, riddled with growth hormone, antibiotics, and Spirit knows what else.  Dietary crap, in other words.  You can find a list of the foods available for 2010 here.  Someday, I’m going to devote a diary to the damage these programs have done – and yet, for many of our communities, they’re all that stands between our people and literally starving to death.

Today, I’m also going to crib shamelessly from an earlier diary of mine, In Our Blood:  The Diabetes Epidemic in Native America.  Because another major manifestation of hunger and malnutrition in our communities is diabetes – and it is an epidemic.


Only in recent years has the federal government become interested in funding research into ethnic disparities in the incidence of diabetes.  Data are further limited by many of the same factors that skew research into any issue that affects underserved communities:  poverty, lack of access to medical, lack of access to studies and clinical trials, language and cultural barriers, distrust of governmental and/or dominant-culture endeavors, and lack of effective outreach to such communities.  However, the issue is now on the radar of the national Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, which publishes the following 2006 statistics:

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 2.7 times as likely as white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes.

   * American Indians/Alaska Natives were almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes in 2006.

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 1.6 times as likely as White adults to be obese.

   * American Indian/Alaska Native adults were 1.3 times as likely as White adults to have high blood pressure.

And an analysis of the 2005 patient population of the Indian Health Service produced the following statistics:

   *  Data from the 2005 IHS user population database indicate that 14.2 percent of the American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 20 years or older who received care from IHS had diagnosed diabetes. After adjusting for population age differences, 16.5 percent of the total adult population served by IHS had diagnosed diabetes, with rates varying by region from 6 percent among Alaska Native adults to 29.3 percent among American Indian adults in southern Arizona.

   * After adjusting for population age differences, 2004 to 2006 national survey data for people ages 20 years or older indicate that 6.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 7.5 percent of Asian Americans, 10.4 percent of Hispanics, and 11.8 percent of non-Hispanic blacks had diagnosed diabetes. Among Hispanics, rates were 8.2 percent for Cubans, 11.9 percent for Mexican Americans, and 12.6 percent for Puerto Ricans.

Got that?  American Indian/Alaska Native adults had a diabetes diagnosis rate of 16.5%. compared to 6.6% for non-Hispanic whites.  The Pima in southern Arizona led the rate of diagnosis, at a staggering 29.3%.  In practical terms, what these numbers mean is that Native Americans have the highest age-adjusted incidence of diabetes of any ethnic group.  And these are just those who have been diagnosed.  Thousands more go undiagnosed for years – often until they die from complications resulting from undiagnosed diabetes.  

In 2006, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.  However, Native Americans constitute a disproportionately high percentage of members of that particular demographic:  Diabetes-related mortality rates are substantially higher in Native populations:  39.6 per 100,000, compared to 1.9 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites.  Keep in mind, however, that these number are almost certainly much lower than the reality:  A study of 1986 data found that, on death certificates, Native American ancestry was underreported at a rate of 65%.  The same analysis concluded that diabetes was 4.3 times more likely to be the underlying cause of death for those listed on their death certificates as Native American than for whites.

And the rates are getting worse, not better.  Part of this may be attributable to higher rates of diagnosis, but the largest part is undoubtedly higher actual incidence.  


The American Diabetes Association reports that the decade between 1994 and 2004 saw a 68% increase in Type II diabetes among self-identified American Indians and Alaska Natives between the ages of 15 and 19.

Read that again for a moment:  nearly a 70% jump in diabetes among older teenagers – in one decade.

According to the Indian Health Service:

American Indian and Alaska Native children have obesity rates of 40%, four times the rate for the general population.

Obesity is one of the greatest risk factors for developing Type II diabetes – and obesity among children and teenagers is rampant among American society generally, as well as in Native communities particularly.


We are a mere 100 years removed from living as hunter/gatherers, our ancestral methods of sustaining our peoples.  Indeed, experts often describe us as coming from “hunter-gatherer societies”, and as having a “thrifty” genetic type, biologically engineered to store food as fat during times of plenty, to provide fuel and sustenance during extended periods when food was scarce, such as winter, drought, or migration.  In other words, our bodies had adapted perfectly to our physical environment.

But with contact came the reservation.

With the reservation came deprivation:  of our traditional hunting grounds, including the wanton destruction of the buffalo herds; of the environments where we harvested food, herbs, and medicine; of our ancestral lands when many of our tribes engaged in sophisticated farming and crop rotation practices; of access to many of our cultural and spiritual traditions and methods of healing.

And with the reservation came new dangers:  of previously-unknown infectious agents and disease; of tobacco (not the old asemaa of our medicine persons, consisting of herbs such as red willow bark, bearberry, and mullein, but the modern asemaa of tar and nicotine); of alcohol (not the fermented medicine and ceremonial drinks of our ancestors, but whiskey, rum, and moonshine); of a diet restricted to non-indigenous foods, that would eventually become a diet consisting almost entirely of refined, processed foods low in protein and complex carbohydrates but high in simple carbs and trans fats.

And residents of modern reservations, with median household incomes well below the federal poverty line (often well below $10,000 per year) and with staggering rates of unemployment (as much as 85%), often must rely almost wholly on government welfare programs, including refined and processed commodity foods.  Whole grains, fresh produce, and other healthy foods are far too expensive, and on many reservations, there are no grocery stores or markets that carry such items anyway.  And over the years, refined ingredients have infiltrated the recipes for our traditional foods, so that here in the Southwest, for example, people have for decades used bleached, refined white flour in their tortillas – because it is both available and affordable.  And thus is a staple of the traditional diet converted into an instrument of disease.


On the personal level:

* If you’re of Native ancestry, get tested.  It only takes a pinprick on the end of a finger.

* If you have loved ones of Native ancestry, encourage them to do the same.

* If you or a loved one gets a diagnosis of diabetes, enroll in a diabetes management program.

* Eat right.  Exercise.  Don’t smoke; don’t drink.  Monitor your glucose levels, and take charge of your own health.

On the local level:  

* If you live on or near a reservation, encourage the development of tribal diabetes education and management programs.

* Support related culturally-appropriate non-profit efforts and local businesses that serve such populations.

* Encourage cultural education and sensitivity.

On the national level:  

* Contact your members of Congress; demand that they fulfill the nation’s statutory obligation to fund the Indian Health Service (IHS) fully.

* Lobby for additional funding for culturally-appropriate diabetes research and prevention programs through IHS.

* Lobby for federal funding for tribal initiatives to maintain diabetes management and traditional treatment programs, including tobacco and alcohol cessation programs.

* Lobby for federal funding for investment and development dollars to bring healthy food initiatives and businesses to reservations.

* Demand that federal assistance programs distribute healthy foods, such as whole grains, and provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

* Lobby for funding for research and development, through the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the Association of American Indian Physicians, dedicated to prevention, treatment, and education programs in Native populations.

And give to Feeding America (FA).  I don’t know yet whether FA explicitly provides funding to food banks and other groups that serve reservations and Native communities, but in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter:  It serves Americans who are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, children and elders, whatever their ethnicity.  And that’s worth supporting.

Chi miigwech.

If you want to donate money, here is the Feeding America donation page.

If you have time to volunteer, here are some handy tools to find out what assistance is needed:

–Plug your zip code into this search engine to find opportunities in your area to assist hunger organizations.

–Typing in your zip code and state in this search engine will locate food banks in your area.

–Clicking onto to your state on this map will return results for homeless shelters and soup kitchens in your area.

Feeding America Blogathon Diary Schedule (all EDT):

Saturday, Sept 25:

10:00a — rb137

 1:00p — teacherken

 4:00p — Patriot Daily

 7:00p — srkp23

10:00p — boatsie

Owls — Jay in Portland


Sunday, Sept 26

10:00a — JanF

 1:00p — Aji

 4:00p — Timroff

 7:00p — Chacounne

10:00p — blue jersey mom

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

The Meriam Report

( – promoted by navajo)

The policies of the United States regarding American Indians have generally been based on two interlocked approaches: ideological and theological. During the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century, Indian affairs were guided by an ideology based on the concept of private property and a theology based on Christianity. Thus the formation of  Indian policies required no actual understanding of American Indians.  

Multimillionaire steel baron Andrew Carnegie cheerfully pronounced that “Individualism, Private Property, the Law of Accumulation of Wealth, and the Law of Competition” were the very height of human achievement. Politicians and Indian reformers simply sought to apply these to the Indian tribes with no real understanding of tribal cultures. Privatizing Indian land through the Allotment Act of 1887 was done through adherence to this ideology. It was felt that this would force Indians into the modern world and enable them and their children to have a future. The more practical realized that this would simply separate the Indians from their land and allow large corporate interests to prosper.

By the 1920s it was obvious to the most casual observer that there were major economic, social, and health problems on the reservations. America’s prosperity was not reaching Indian people. The poverty on the reservations was undeniable to any who had even a casual relationship with them. The Secretary of the Interior thus authorized an economic and social study of Indian conditions. Lewis Meriam led the study for the Institute for Government Research, a privately endowed foundation. To conduct the research, Meriam put together a team of social scientists, including some Native Americans.

In 1928, Meriam’s study entitled The Problem of Indian Administration (more commonly called the Meriam Report) was published. This was the most comprehensive study of Indian reservations ever done. The report strongly repudiated the philosophy of Indian policy which had prevailed since 1871.

While there were, and still are, many people who feel that poverty is a condition which Indian people have brought upon themselves, and that government policies can neither ameliorate nor create poverty, the report states:

“Several past policies adopted by the government in dealing with the Indians have been of a type which, if long continued, would tend to pauperize any race.”

Beginning in 1871, Indian policy in the United States had been guided by the ideology of private property, that only through private property could Indians (and all other people) prosper and that economic development should be based on small, privately owned family farms. According to the report:

“It almost seems as if the government assumed that some magic in individual ownership of property would in itself prove an educational civilizing factor, but unfortunately this policy has for the most part operated in the opposite direction”

The report also states:

“In justice to the Indians it should be said that many of them are living on lands from which a trained and experienced white man could scarcely wrest a reasonable living. In some instances the land originally set apart for the Indians was of little value for agricultural operations other than grazing”

The Meriam Report recognized the economic potential of Indian arts and crafts. The report recommended that the Indian Office coordinate the marketing of Indian arts and crafts so that genuineness, quality, and fair prices can be maintained. Indian arts and crafts were seen as a way of improving the social and economic conditions on the reservations.

The report also recommended that tribes be incorporated and that the tribal councils be given some decision-making powers.

The goals of Indian education during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were to convert Indian children to Christianity, to give them Christian names, particularly surnames, so that the inheritance of property could be easily traced, to provide them with the concept of greed, and to train them as laborers and household workers. Education was often carried out through boarding schools in which Indian children were forcibly removed from their homes and the influences of their cultures. With the Meriam Report the non-Indian public is made aware of kidnapping, child labor, emotional and physical abuse, and lack of health care in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. While the report draws attention to abuses, the assimilationist po¬licies of Indian education continues for another 40 years.

The report is particu¬larly critical of the boarding schools:

“The survey staff finds itself obligated to say frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of the Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate.”

While Indian education has often assumed that Indians are to be trained for manual labor, the report states:

“The Indian Service should encourage promising Indian youths to continue their education beyond the boarding schools and to fit themselves for professional, scientific, and technical callings. Not only should the educational facilities of the boarding schools provide definitely for fitting them for college entrance, but the Service should aid them in meeting the costs.”

With regard to religion, the report urges the continuation of cooperation with Christian missionaries, but cautions:

“The missionaries need to have a better understanding of the Indian point of view of the Indian’s religion and ethics, in order to start from what is good in them as a foundation. Too frequently, they have made the mistake of attempting to destroy the existing structure and to substitute something else without apparently realizing that much in the old has its place in the new.”

With regard to Indian health, the report simply stated:

“The health of the Indians compared with that of the general population is bad.”

According to the report, the general death rate and the infant mortality rate were high. Tuberculosis and trachoma (a disease that produces blindness) were very prevalent. With regard to the health care services provided to Indians by the government, the report states:

“The hospitals, sanatoria, and sanatorium schools maintained by the Service, despite a few exceptions, must generally be characterized as lacking in personnel, equipment, management, and design”

According to the report, the government run health care institutions do not provide adequate care for their patients.

Overall, the Meriam Report set the stage for a new era in Indian policy, an era in which policy could be based on actual data rather than ideological or theological fantasies.  

The National Broadband Plan and Indian Country

( – promoted by navajo)

The bird who has eaten cannot fly with the bird that is hungry. –attributed to the Omaha

It can be said, alternately, that the hungry bird cannot fly as far or hunt as successfully as the bird who has already been fed.


(Crossposted at Dailykos)

The larger picture

When it comes to internet broadband connectivity, much of the United States is still a hungry bird. The United States has fallen far behind globally in terms of the number of households who access the internet via broadband. At the start of the Bush administration, the US ranked fourth in broadband access and adoption in households and businesses across the country. As of 2009, US broadband connectivity is now ranked somewhere around 13th to 15th, according to a report published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Another source, Strategy Analytics, estimated broadband at the household level in the US as twentieth in 2008, well behind Scandinavian countries, several Asian nations, and the UK. The company projects that the US will fall to 23rd once figures for 2009 are reported.

There are a multitude of reasons why this country lags behind in broadband and fiber optics development; the reasons are the usual suspects – economic obstacles, policy conflicts, and existing infrastructure. There’s also the ongoing dialogue of whether broadband should be extended only through private industry development or with government funding as an open-access utility, like electricity or water, or a hybrid of financing through both public and private.

For the record, the US is one of the few “developed” countries in the world, and the only industrialized nation, that has yet to adopt a national broadband policy.

The United States is currently the only industrialized nation without a national policy for Internet access. Estonia, Greece, France and Finland have recognized Internet access as a basic human right in accordance with the United Nations recommendation. TechNewsDaily: U.S. Considers ‘Internet Access for All’

A potentially huge sea change in national broadband policy is being presented to Congress on Tuesday, March 16th. Courtesy of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the FCC will introduce a National Broadband Plan that charts a $25 billion course over the next ten years for greater rural broadband access and increased wireless for police and fire departments.

Additionally, the Plan includes improved initiatives for broadband access for Native American reservations in regions where there is currently little to no broadband or even DSL access via telecommunication landlines.

The micro picture

These new initiatives in the upcoming National Plan are intended to build upon the first FCC Indian Telecom Initiatives established in 2002. Seven years from that first Initiative, broadband adoption rate on Native American reservations is estimated somewhere between a lowly 5% to 10%.

Here are the starved birds.

There are more than 300 tribal reservations in the contiguous United States; in addition, there is one tribal reservation, along with several tribal townships and villages in Alaska.

Many of these reservations float like uncharted islands in the middle of a remote ocean when it comes to 20th and 21st century technologies. The services and the infrastructure, and more to the point, the profit margin for potential corporate and business investment, do not exist. Often, the available satellite and DSL/T1 services that are offered on some reservations are prohibitively expensive (in some areas twice to three times the average urban monthly cable bill). The download and capacity speeds are much slower and less efficient.

There is no tax base for any kind of local or state municipal bond development or levy proposal to establish underlying physical infrastructure, which can complicate seeking grants for matching federal funds. There is little political will on the part of most state level policy makers to work with tribes towards improving access to technology. Not enough voters? Not enough money.

The upper Midwest and Great Plains reservations provide examples where the topography and extensive distances from main broadband hubs and urban areas complicate affordable broadband adoption. Extending phone lines, basic cable lines, fiber-optic cable – even electric service in some areas – to a comparatively small population is rarely financially feasible for private industry providers, large or small. In addition, to bridge connectivity, many reservations must partner effectively with adjacent communities outside the reservations to obtain continuous access to broadband resources and to improve total cost of installation and maintenance.

Such isolation from access to technology impedes every element of an already difficult life on reservations rife with poverty, unemployment, and a tragically underserved and undereducated youth population.

In an address to the National Congress of American Indians in Washington D.C. on March 2,  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski discussed the need for this access far better than I can paraphrase.

High-speed Internet is not only the Web and

email; it’s a telephone; it’s television; it’s a library; it’s a town hall.

Broadband has the potential to help Tribal communities advance farther, faster, than any new technology in our lifetime.

Broadband is a platform for job creation and economic growth.

Studies from the Brookings Institute, MIT, the World Bank, and others all tell us the same thing — that even modest increases in broadband adoption nationally can yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and broadband can generate jobs in Indian Country.

Broadband is a platform for innovation. If you have a high-speed Internet connection, you can dream big, bring those dreams to life, and then bring them to the world.

Broadband also is a platform for solutions to so many of our major challenges: education, health care, energy, public safety, and democratic engagement.

Broadband’s ability to transcend the barriers of distance could be particularly potent for Tribal communities.

With broadband, entrepreneurs on Tribal lands don’t need to move to the cities. They can collaborate, innovate, and create new small businesses and high-value jobs because they have access to robust and open information networks.

With broadband, kids in Tribal schools can have access in their classrooms to the best teachers in the world, and access in their homes to up-to-date e-textbooks and high quality tutoring from energized college and grad students around America.

With broadband, a Native American with diabetes can get dietary counseling on her home computer, a remote diagnosis in a nearby facility, and, if necessary, even surgery aided remotely by specialists at teaching hospitals.

As Genachowski states, there are obstacles in broadening the reach of even basic technology on many remote reservations.

One of the main statistics I often cite when talking about the need for a National Broadband Plan is that ONLY 65 percent of Americans have broadband in the home.

In Indian Country, 65 percent is roughly the adoption rate for TELEPHONE service. That’s unacceptable.

The high unemployment, extreme poverty, and alarming mental and physical health conditions on many reservations, such as the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, are amplified not only by lack of access, but by the ability to pay for it.  The Chairman, to his credit, doesn’t avoid addressing this economic divide.

Where broadband is available, in general we’ve found that a major barrier to broadband adoption is affordability. With crippling poverty on Tribal lands, that’s going to be an even bigger obstacle in Indian Country.

Put simply, bringing faster, affordable broadband service to people in Monument Valley is a lot harder than bringing it to people in Silicon Valley. I get that.

Not surprisingly, there are echoes of the New Deal in the debate over increasing broadband access in both rural areas and on reservations through government funding as part of our nation’s crucial infrastructure improvement.

The dispute over municipal broadband bears a striking similarity to the development of the electric power industry a century ago. As James Baller-an attorney who represents local governments and public utilities-first warned in a 1994 paper written for the American Public Power Association: “The history of the electric power industry casts substantial doubt on the notion that our nation can depend on competition among cable and telephone companies alone… to ensure not only prompt and affordable, but also universal, access to the benefits of the information superhighway.”


In 1935, he (Roosevelt) created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which gave loans and other help to small towns and farmer cooperatives interested in setting up their own power systems. The REA turned out to be one of the New Deal’s most successful programs. Within two years, hundreds of new municipal power utilities were up and running across the country, and within 20 years, virtually all of rural America had electricity, provided either by rural co-ops or big utilities spurred to action by municipal competition. Baller  concluded: “The plain, hard truth is that universal electric service would never have developed on a timely basis in the absence of municipally owned electric utilities and rural electric cooperatives”-which still account for more than a quarter of the power in the country today.

Let There Be WiFi

It’s likely that the FCC has a major struggle ahead over the allocation and specific application of both licenses and federal monies, both with Congress and the many powerful special interests in the telecommunications and broadband industries.

One of the proposals in the upcoming National Broadband Plan outlines re-allocating at least a portion of the over $8 Billion Universal Service Fund towards broadband promotion and internet access as a necessary service, much like telephone access was formalized in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Genachowski hinted at the possibility of increasing broadband infrastructure and programs on tribal lands by using a portion of this Fund.

There will be fireworks in Congress over the contents of this Plan. It is essential that in the upcoming debate, residents of tribal reservations are not left starving for access and resources once again.

All dreams spin out from the same web. –Hopi

Reference Links

FCC webcasts

Abolishing Reservations??

I was living in Germany for the last 20 years and now am back in the USA. I am attending college in WA, State and recently heard from one of my professors that there are those who believe that the reservations should be abolished.  this will be the theme of my next essay, but I know little about it.

Is is a political movement, a law trying to be put into effect, a concept from the grassroots?

Can anyone help me understand this, and moreover, tell me, as Native Americans what you think about this?

Thanks a lot and have a great day!


Faith-Based Reservations

This is the first in a three-part series on the Dark Ages of American Indian Religious Freedom.

For the past five centuries, American Indians have had their religions suppressed (sometimes brutally and violently) and denied. With the formation of the United States and the adoption of the Bill of Rights which speaks of freedom of religion, this freedom has been denied to American Indians based on the notion that they were not citizens and therefore this freedom did not apply to them. The period of time from 1870 to 1934 can be considered the Dark Ages for American Indian Religious Freedom. During this time, the active suppression of American Indian religions reached its peak.

In this first part, we are going to look the faith-based administration of Indian reservations which sometimes resulted in theocracies.  

In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant faced a major problem: the Indian Service (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) was notoriously corrupt. The solution to this problem appeared obvious: to turn over the administration of the reservations to Christian (preferably Protestant) church groups. In his 1870 message to Congress, President Ulysses Grant explained that he had “determined to give all the agencies to such religious denominations as had heretofore established missionaries among the Indians, and perhaps to some other denominations who would undertake the work on the same terms – i.e. as missionary work.” This became the policy known as the Peace Policy.

Under the policy, a single Christian denomination would become responsible for administering all Indian programs on each reservation and would have a monopoly on proselytization. Under American policy at this time, the efforts to “civilize” the Indians required them to become Christian. Therefore conversion, by force if necessary, was an important part of American policy.  

There was no concern at this time for either the existence or validity of any Indian religions. In fact, Indian religious leaders were seen as barriers to progress and could be jailed for expressing their religious concerns.

In accordance with President Ulysses Grant’s Peace Policy, the Secretary of the Interior allocated 80 reservations among 13 Christian denominations. The anti-Catholic sentiment of the time is clearly evident in the allocation of the Indian agencies among the various Christian denominations. By the terms stated in Grant’s policy, namely that missions should be allocated among the missionaries already at work there, Catholic officials expected to receive thirty-eight missions; instead they were accorded only eight, all of them in either the Rio Grande valley or the Pacific Northwest. Subsequently, Catholic missionaries began to be ordered off certain reservations.

In response to the anti-Catholic actions of the government, the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions was created in 1874 to protect and advance the missionary work which was threatened by President Grant’s Peace Policy.  

One of the examples of this faith-based administration of an Indian reservation can be seen in Idaho where the Nez Perce Reservation became a model theocracy and helped contribute to the 1877 Nez Perce War.

While the Nez Perce Reservation was originally assigned to the Catholics, the Presbyterians protested and acquired the reservation. Under this administration, the traditional Nez Perce ways were not only frowned upon, but they were openly ridiculed and prohibited. In the schools, the teachers (who were often missionaries) deliberately made the Indians ashamed of their own traditions, history, culture, and lore. New regulations prohibited plural marriage, gambling, shamanism, and traditional drumming, singing, dancing, and ceremonial clothing. The new Indian agent also condemned long hair on men.

Under the new Peace Policy, each reservation was to be a monopoly. In the case of the Nez Perce Reservation, the new Indian agent ordered the Methodist missionary off the reservation and refused to allow the Catholics to build a mission.

Not only was the faith-based administration of the Indian reservations biased against the Catholics, it also actively opposed missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly called the Mormons). In 1875, for example, government officials not only barred Mormon missionaries from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho, they also sent out troops to break up Mormon gatherings and bring the Indians back to the reservation.

When the Mormons established an off-reservation farm for the Shoshone, there were demands that the Indians be returned, by force of arms if necessary, to the Fort Hall Reservation. While the Indian agent reported that the Indians at the farm had never resided on the reservation, it was still felt that they should be moved to the reservation and away from the influences of the Mormons.  

The FBI & Indian Reservations

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1881, a Brulé Sioux chief named Crow Dog shot and killed Spotted Tail, another Sioux chief. As a result of this incident the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in charge of criminal investigations on most Indian reservations today.  


In 1881, there was no question about what happened: Crow Dog had deliberately killed Spotted Tail. In Sioux culture the focus of law in this type of matter is not on punishment, but healing the social and cultural wounds which have resulted from the incident. Therefore, the council met and sent peacemakers to the families of Crow Dog and Spotted Tail. Following tribal law, they settled the matter for $600, 8 horses, and one blanket which Crow Dog’s family promptly paid to Spotted Tail’s family. Under Brulé law, the matter was now settled and tribal harmony was restored.

However, the Americans were deeply offended by this type of justice and demanded that Crow Dog be hung. Even though the matter had been settled so far as Sioux law was concerned, the Americans arrested Crow Dog and prepared to hang him (acknowledging that there would be the formality of a trial first, but the outcome was already predetermined.)

Unfortunately for the Americans who wanted to see Crow Dog hung for murder, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. To the amazement of most Americans who were unfamiliar with the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court, in Ex Parte Crow Dog, ruled that the United States did not have jurisdiction over crimes committed on Indian reservations. Indian tribes, according to the Constitution and previous Supreme Court rulings, were sovereign nations and traditional Indian law was seen as a part of that sovereignty. Crow Dog was subsequently released, returning to his people as a hero, but in the eyes of American authorities he was a troublemaker.

Once again, many Americans found themselves angry with the Supreme Court over a decision about Indian tribes. There were the usual mutterings of “there ought to be a law….” As usual, Congress listened to those who had muttered, and in 1885 passed the Seven Major Crimes Act which extended federal jurisdiction over reservations regarding the crimes of murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary, and larceny. Thus, the U.S. assumed jurisdiction of crimes by Indians against Indi¬ans and weakened the sovereignty of the Indian nations.

Since 1885, the Seven Major Crimes Act has been revised a number of times by Congress. In addition, in 1953 Congress passed Public Law 280 giving state governments the right to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska. The law was created in part because of Congress’s perception of the “lawlessness” of the reservations and a concern to protect non-Indians living near the reservations. It was also a part of a program to terminate all federal responsibility for the reservations.


As a result of Crow Dog and the Major Crimes Act, major crimes on most Indian reservations today are federal crimes which are to be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). From an Indian perspective the FBI is not particularly well-regarded for either its empathy nor its sympathy regarding either Indians or their cultural traditions. For most FBI agents, investigating crimes on Indian reservations is a low priority assignment and one which does not lead to career advancement.

There are several basic concerns about having the FBI investigate major crimes on reservations. First, the agents are only on the reservations for a limited time and have few real contacts in the community. This means that there is often a lack of trust on both sides: the community doesn’t trust the agents and the agents don’t trust community members.

The second concern is a lack of cultural awareness. While the FBI today invests a great deal of money and effort in training agents in foreign languages and foreign cultures, there is no training in American Indian languages and cultures even though the reservations are sovereign nations within the United States. Not only are agents often unaware of the differences in Indian cultures between the different reservations, they are also often unaware of Indian law and Indian history.

Crime rates on the reservations are very high, and very few crimes are solved. In order for the FBI to do a more effective job of providing criminal investigation on Indian reservations, they must be provided with cultural training and must be allowed to sustain greater contact with the communities.