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Old 01-27-2006, 07:41 PM   #1
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Angry The Projects on the Prairie; We can eliminate poverty on Indian reservations by elimi

The Wall Street Journal:

The Projects on the Prairie
We can eliminate poverty on Indian reservations by eliminating Indian
reservations.

BY JOHN J. MILLER
Friday, January 27, 2006 12:01 a.m.

The fallout from the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal has all of Washington
atwitter about congressional reform--everything from proposals to restrict
travel perks and lunches with lobbyists to a potential shakeup in the
Republican House leadership.

A subtheme of the controversy involves not a shakeup but a shakedown--of
Indian tribes by Mr. Abramoff, who used casino cash to throw money around
town as well as to line his own pockets richly. The common perception is
that once again the white man has cheated the red man.

Perhaps a few expressions of sympathy are in order. Yet Indians would
benefit much more from their own sweeping reforms. The Abramoff rip-off
should be the least of their worries. The time has come to abolish
reservations for the good of the people who live on them.

In the American imagination, grinding poverty is often a picture of urban
slums full of broken families, abandoned apartments and back-alley drug
deals. But an equally valid portrait might focus on the rural squalor of the
rez. Of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S., seven of them are contained
wholly or largely on reservations in Arizona, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Professional victimologists offer no shortage of explanations for this
miserable state of affairs, but most of their analysis boils down to a core
grievance: The federal government stole land from the Indians by conquest
and treaty. Although Indians once were able to obtain title to specific
parcels within reservations, this practice ended in 1934--an act that
essentially turned the reservations into not-so-little housing projects on
the prairie.

The main problem with Indian reservations isn't, as some argue, that they
were established on worthless tracts of grassland. Consider the case of
Buffalo County, S.D., which Census data reveal to be America's poorest
county. Some 2,000 people live there. More than 30% of the homes are headed
by women without husbands. The median household income is less than $13,000.
The unemployment rate is sky high.

Just to the east of Buffalo County lies Jerauld County, which is similar in
size and population. Yet only 6% of its homes are headed by women without
husbands, the median household income is more than $30,000, and the
unemployment rate hovers around 3%. The fundamental difference between these
two counties is that the Crow Creek Indian Reservation occupies much of
Buffalo County. The place is a pocket of poverty in a land of plenty.

Maybe we should give land back to the rez-dwellers, so that they may own
private property the way other Americans do. Currently, the inability to put
up land as collateral for personal mortgages and loans is a major obstacle
to economic development. This problem is complicated by the fact that not
all reservations have adopted uniform commercial codes or created court
systems that are independent branches of tribal government--the sorts of
devices and institutions that give confidence to investors who might have
the means to fund the small businesses that are the engines of rural
economies.

Tribal ownership of the land is defended as the sine qua non of Indian
sovereignty, which many activists regard as sacrosanct. It maintains the
semifictional notion that the reservations are separate nations within the
U.S. Although tribal members are American citizens, the reservations
themselves are exempt from many federal and state laws. This is why so many
Indian casinos have sprung up in areas that otherwise curb gambling.

Sovereignty also is understood as a form of cultural protectionism. Without
it, goes the thinking, Indians eventually will follow the course of
immigrant groups and assimilate into the great American melting pot.
Intermarriage between Indians and non-Indians is pervasive, especially off
the rez. More than half of all Indians already marry outside their race,
according the Census. For racial purists who believe that the men and women
of today's tribes should be preserved like frozen displays in
natural-history museums, this is a tragedy akin to ethnic cleansing (albeit
one based on love rather than hate).

Yet the real tragedy is that reservations, as collectivist enclaves within a
capitalist society, have beaten down their inhabitants with brute force
rather than lifting them up with opportunity. As their economies have
withered, other social pathologies have taken root: Indians are
distressingly prone to crime, alcoholism and suicide. Families have suffered
enormously. About 60% of Indian children are born out of wedlock. Although
accurate statistics are hard to come by because so many arrangements are
informal, Indian kids are perhaps five times as likely as white ones to live
in some form of foster care. Their schools are depressingly bad.

Even if casino revenues were able to address these soul-crushing problems--a
doubtful proposition--most reservations are too isolated geographically to
profit from big-dollar gambling. Yet the rise of the casinos may help point
the way forward: Their ability to flourish contradicts the tenured Marxists
in ethnic-studies departments who claim that communitarian Indian cultures
aren't compatible with market capitalism. After all, it takes
entrepreneurship to run some of the world's biggest casinos.

What's more, this modern-day entrepreneurship is part of a long tradition:
Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) described the Chinooks as "great
hagglers in trade." I once visited Poverty Point, a 3,000-year-old set of
earthen mounds in Louisiana; the museum there displayed ancient artifacts
found at the site, including copper from the Great Lakes and obsidian from
the Rockies. These prehistoric Americans were budding globalizers, and
there's no reason why their descendants should remain walled off from the
world economy.

When Indians enter our political conscience at all, it is usually in the
most trivial of contexts: Should Florida State University call its sports
teams the Seminoles? Does Leonard Peltier, a 1970s radical imprisoned for
the murder of two FBI agents, deserve clemency? Isn't it a shame how Jack
Abramoff bilked nave tribal councils?

Yes, it is a shame. But it will be an even greater shame if reservations
were to continue staggering along as they do now. The sleazy Abramoffs will
always be with us. Must the failing reservations stick around as well?
Mr. Miller is the author, most recently, of "A Gift of Freedom: How the John
M. Olin Foundation Changed America."

Copyright 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Old 01-27-2006, 07:43 PM   #2
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Please write to WSJ & John J Miller

I would like to encourage everyone to write to the Wall Street Journal and John J Miller
WSJ is:
[email protected]

John J. Miller is National Review magazine's National Political Reporter, based in Washington, D.C
[email protected]

Let them know that this kind of barbaric mentality and racism will not be tolerated. Our lands have already been stolen once and we sure as hell are not going to allow that to happen again. This guy is a racist and the WSJ publishing this type of racist garbage has to end.

Thank you,
Tamra
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