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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Giago: South Dakota Unemployment Figures Bunk

Tim Giago gets South Dakota some press in the Huffington Post. Giago notes that he has cast his early ballot for Senator Tim Johnson. Giago says some of the hateful, ignorant attacks against Johnson don't change the Senator's "impeccable integrity."

Giago doesn't see similar integrity in the unemployment numbers the State of South Dakota likes to tout. He criticizes the claim that South Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Only "14,000 people looking for a job in the state"? Giago claims there are 40,000 unemployed on our reservations alone. The government, says Giago, papers over this lack of jobs by saying the labor stats consider only the unemployed who are actively seeking work. "The fact of the matter," says Giago, "is that they are still unemployed and if there are no jobs available on the reservations where they reside it is not their fault."

South Dakota's overall unemployment rate is 3.2%. That's great. But unemployment on the Pine Ridge stands at 80%. In 2003, the Bureau of Indian Affairs found 84% unemployment among members of federally recognized tribes in South Dakota. The same BIA report found that even 49% of those who held jobs still lived in poverty (PDF alert).

We talk a lot about how South Dakota needs better jobs and more economic development. But if anyone needs help right now creating jobs, it's not us white folks. It's our neighbors, our fellow citizens, on the reservations.

I notice Russ Olson's full-color, full-page ad in Friday's MDL features Steve Erickson, bragging about how Olson helped him find all sorts of state and local loans to help him build the new Shipwreck on Lake Brant. Helping a guy who already owns a business (in Trent) get government money to build another bar in Lake County while 80% of South Dakota Indians are unemployed seems kind of like buying Pat Prostrollo a smoke alarm while ten houses south of the tracks burn down.

Giago's critique reminds us that there's a big chunk of South Dakota we haven't paid attention to since the Mickelson administration. With just a few days left in the campaign, let's hear the legislative candidates talk about helping folks who really need help.


  1. There are a lot of problems to be addressed before the job situation improved on reservations. First of all, laws that apply off reservations don't necessarily apply on reservations. Many people starting a business on reservations might be hesitant for that reason. Another is the work ethic of many on the reservations. Many Native Americans don't have a reponsible attitude toward job attendance, which leaves employers in a quandry when they are depending on these workers. And before you say it, no, I am not racist. I am stating facts that you can find out for yourself if you ask people who have started businesses on the reservations. Even Native Americans have said this.

    And most of all, if there are no jobs on the reservation, no one is holding these unemployed sd prisonerd on the reservations. Many people have to move to where their job is, not wait for a job to be developed for them where they are. What is the difference here?

    Dems have long promised more gov't handouts to imrpove the life of the Native American. It never works, no matter how many handouts they get. Handouts only destroy pride, but they do buy loyal votes even when the promises fail to appear or work.

    Get rid of reservations and the reservation mentality first. Give Native Americans the same opportunity and responsibilty of other citizens. Handouts do nothing to fix a situation, they just prolong it. Restoring pride and a sense of personal responsiblity would be much better.

  2. The reasons the unemployment numbers are high on the reservation result from a number of factors:

    1. Businesses are reluctant to locate on reservation areas because most of the tribes do not subscribe to the state system of commercial filings on personal property; therefore any one loaning money for a business on the reservation can not be assured of repayment or the ability of any court to obtain the property in the event of a default. Some Native Americans are good at working the system and the past history of business on the reservation has not been good for lending entities.

    2. Tribal courts are not necessarily easy to work with and they may follow whatever they think is necessary, not what would be considered established law and legal procedure. Therefore anyone trying to use them for redress may find justice is quite erratic.

    3. A business or an individual ( Native American or non native American ) cannot necessarily get clear deeded title to real property on the reservation in such a manner as to give a mortgage on that property and have it secured in the event of loan default. Buildings built on tribal land have no value as they cannot be secured even if BIA gives concurrence since there is little or no market for the those buildings and the tribe may interfere sufficiently to drive any interested party off.

    4. A business started by a Native American on a reservation may be harassed by entities of the tribal government with some groups being supportive and others placing road blocks every step of the way. A joint venture of the tribe and an outside party would be affected by tribal politics, and if it is successful the tribe may decide to cut out the other party. After the tribe takes over, the business may collapse and all jobs and income would be lost; an example is the pork plant at Wagner.

    5. There is political infighting by various groups and families within the reservation. This action would be to obtain power, money, control of tribal resources for the best interest of their group, not the entire tribe. This is always a factor for anyone considering doing business on the reservation.

    6. Lack of education and a view that education is neither important nor of value by many. Those who do get an education but stay on the reservation have little opportunity to use that education. Many are unwilling to go where jobs are, and the pull of family and area are more important to them than making money and getting ahead.

    7. Native Americans have a culture which says everything belongs to everyone, so if you have someone who is doing well, their family members may move in with them, spend their money, take all their possessions; and the end result is that rather than throwing them out, the party will just give up and quit trying to get ahead. This occurs whether on or off the reservation.

    8. Family is the most important thing. If a Native American is working somewhere and a fifth cousin is getting married or dies, or is sick or whatever, he will either leave or quit his job without notice to be with his cousin. This together with the feeling that time is not important and being somewhere is only marginally relevant make it hard for an employer to be able to operate. Like most things, this is something that some do more than others, but in aggregate it is part of the reason for high Native American unemployment.

    9. Lack of skills with little desire to acquire those skills, and if skills are obtained refusal to go to a place they can be used, together with other factors affect Native Americans’ ability to get and retain jobs. Another factor is the lack of good communications skills and a tendency to avoid difficult subjects experienced by Native Americans; again this can be a cultural thing.

    10. The reservations are home to many people. These people get medical care for free, they get food for free, they get housing for free, they get education for free, they can get by. By having no need to do better, many do nothing spending time drinking, doing drugs, having kids,( not taking care of kids, just having them), and just hanging around.

    11. Everything proposed by well-meaning liberals has failed. Gambling for all its flaws has given some members of the tribes a better life and gotten them into to the job market. It has given the tribes more money.

    12. In summary the reservation system doesn’t work. It is a system of socialism that destroys the individual in many cases. Only the Native Americans can decide what they want to do. We need to treat Native Americans like other citizens -- they should succeed or fail on their own merits. 116 years have passed since the Native Americans left the nomadic way of life. The more that has been done for the Native Americans, the worse the situation has become. Many opted to leave the reservation get jobs, raise families, make their own way, and get ahead in life, and these have succeeded.

    13. My solution would be to turn over all assets of the tribes to the tribes, terminate their status as sovereign governments, and cut off funding for any one under 45 years of age. We cannot carry them forever and I don’t think it helps them to make them second class citizens by pretending that they cannot do anything for themselves after all this time.

    14. What do the White, Hispanic, Oriental, Black, or other communities owe the Native Americans? Nothing more than we owe each other -- the chance to give everyone a chance to succeed, to freely compete, to equal treatment under the law.

    15. Times change, yes. By war and other means we took the Native Americans’ lands and changed their way of life much as the Native American tribes did to each other and all peoples everywhere have done. If the US were to lose a major war and be occupied, we would all get to experience this. The only part of our country to see this was the South. The South got nothing and was torn apart and wasted but it came back and has changed. Other countries and societies have also done this for better or worse, and so must the Native Americans.

  3. Just a comment about Russ Olson helping a small business owner expand his business and provide jobs and generate more income in a small town - this is what he is supposed to be doing! This is what Obama wants people to do BTW, built the economy from the bottom up; of course, just don't get too successful or he will tax you even more!

  4. Comrade:

    Laramie 1868...need we say any more?

    The federal government has never stopped waging war on the Native American tribes.

    We and our ancestors are to blame for the plight on the reservations.

  5. Does Russ have any similar endorsements from people not related to him?


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