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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rosebud Lakota Criticize Madison Editorial on Airport Stimulus Funding

The Internet is a big place—it takes a while to read everything. That's why it took me until this weekend to find this criticism of Madison's news mogul Jon Hunter.

Back up to May 19, when the Madison Daily Leader publisher wrote that he was "taken aback" by the allocation of $4.1M in stimulus money to build an airport on the Rosebud reservation:

While there is no question that airports can be considered infrastructure, we question the value of building a new airport on the Rosebud reservation. This is an area that is considered among the poorest parts of the country, where alcoholism and poverty are pervasive, education is substandard and healthcare quality is questioned.

So the best way to spend $4.1 million there is on a new airport? [Jon Hunter, "Does a New Airport at Rosebud Help with Economic Recovery?" Madison Daily Leader, 2009.05.19]

Hunter says the airport money is a waste and would have had more impact if diverted to other infrastructure projects, such as the "schools, detention centers, and roads" the stimulus bill is also building.

Hunter's argument doesn't go over well with a couple of Native American writers. Rosebud Tribal President Rodney M. Bordeaux labels Hunter's editorial "stereotypical, racist, and the kind of polemic that demonstrate the ignorant and uneducated attitudes and animosity against Native Americans that lives on in South Dakota." President Bordeaux hammers Hunter for citing no sources to back his assertions (hyperlinks can be your friend, Jon!).

Now we can go back and forth on whether saying there's poverty and alcoholism on the reservation is racist. Beyond that discussion, Bordeaux argues exactly how a new airport can help address some of the problems Hunter identifies:

Adequate health care for Tribal members is a priority of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. A new airport in Rosebud , South Dakota, would permit the transportation of emergency status patients directly from Rosebud to larger hospitals in either Rapid City, or Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where there are trauma centers, burn treatment centers, and emergency surgery bays. At the present time the only airport for transporting patients is about 15 miles away from Rosebud, and is not sufficient to meet our needs. There are more than two hundred seventy plus flights a year from our hospital alone!

A fully functioning airport not only provides emergency medical transportation, but can foster economic development in the areas of tourism, hunting and fishing, and other tribal economic development projects. Approximately 150 jobs will be created by this funding [Rodney M. Bordeaux, President, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, "Rosebud Sioux President: Stimulus Will Help Tribe," Indianz.com, 2009.05.27].

Kevin Abourezk, a Rosebud Lakota who reports for the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star and writes a column called Red Clout, says Hunter's editorial "borders on racism."

I would add that Hunter's statements are patronizing, yet further proof of the we-know-what's-best-for-those-poor-ignorant-Indians attitude that so many white leaders in South Dakota demonstrate.

While those leaders constantly fail to do anything to improve the lives of the Indians in their state, they can always be relied upon to criticize tribes for trying to improve their own conditions. When a tribe pursues gaming, those leaders indignantly attack tribal leaders for taking advantage of their own, while failing to offer any other solutions to severe unemployment.

Further, the notion that a tribe has no need for airport access is demeaning at best [Kevin Abourezk, "Criticism over Tribal Airport Borders on Racism," Red Clout, 2009.05.28].

Abourezk argues that improved access to emergency health care for 20,000 tribal residents is plenty of justification for a new airport. One would think that Madison's 6,500 residents, served by their very own municipal airport, would agree.


  1. Jon no doubt fails to understand some of their issues, but I don't see racism. He may correctly point out that "Serious barriers like jurisdictional authority, workforce training and contract enforcement are reasons why economic development doesn't work on reservations." I do wonder why Jon writes using we. Who else is he speaking for?

  2. These two writers are basically taking issue with Jon's opinion, which is fine. I can see where airport improvements could be vital, especially for health care.

    What I take issue with is the way they sling around the term "Racism". What? Because he points out some strong issues that are still on the reservations? Because they have nothing better to criticize him with, so they hang the "Racist" pejorative on him?

    "Racism" or calling someone "Racist" with no good evidence to support it is cheap criticism. It's the label for people who feel they can't win an argument any other way. It cheapens the term, when so much legitimate examples of racism still exist in the world... the attack in Washington D.C. this week is prime example of that.

    Bringing up legitimate concerns is not racism... these writers are being intellectually lazy at best... knee-jerk reactionaries at worst.

  3. This is an unthinking statement however: "Since many tribal members don't have enough money to buy a used car or the gasoline for it, we would guess that there are a limited number of private or corporate airplanes at Rosebud."

    Again why I wish Jon would not use the word we since those are his thoughts. He's not speaking for Madison or his readers.

  4. Ah, the "editorial we." Let's assume the editor is speaking for the newspaper as an organization... though it would be fascinating to poll his staff for agreement.

    The argument about racism can go either way. But the suggestion that an airport is a waste of money for 20,000 Indians while 6,500 mostly white Madisonians enjoy an airport of their own, even when the Sioux Falls airport is less than an hour away, seems problematic.

  5. Arguments about Native Americans not having money for gas to get to a hospital or doctor are humbug. Native Americans coming to hospitals off the reservation almost always request documentation of their visit so they can get free gasoline allowances for medical care.

    Helicopters can land on a pad the size of a house in any case, so air ambulance flights out of the reservation are possible even if the federal government may end up paying more.

    The economic question comes down then to how much more or less does it cost the federal government to have a good airport that can handle conventional planes versus a pad that has higher cost helicopter flights. The other part of this is that tax funds from airplane fuel may be in better shape than funds for medical facilities or helicopters.

    Somebody with more knowledge than I have of that might want to check on it however.

    Whatever they do if they do build a runway on the reservations, they should make sure there is adequate runway length to justify thicker runways to handle larger airplanes. If they don't have the runway length to justify thicker concrete, the project should be delayed until they do. The added concrete thickness is a small fraction of total costs if done initially.

  6. Please follow this link to read my response to this article and the following comments

  7. Steve Sibson12/20/2009 5:54 AM

    The emergency health care argument is a red herring. The feds Indian Health Services are suppose to provide health care and when they don't Medicaid has too. This airport is just a way for Indian Health Services to duck their responsiblity and pass it on to another. When the patient ends up in RC, Indian Health Services passes the costs on to Medicaid, which is going broke, under reimburses (causing provides to charge those with private insurance more), and is one of the main reasons private insurance companies premiums have been skyrocketing. The health care legislation that the Democrats will pass will benefit the providers by passing these costs onto taxpayers, or more correctly, add to the debt that future generations will have to deal with.

    So bottome line, we are adding $4 million to the debt in ordert to add millions more to it. Why is it so hard for the left and their welfare coveters to understand that adding debt is not wealth, but instead amove toward poverty. At the end of the day, the progressive agenda will make all of us just as impoverished as the Indians. Is that what it will take for the Indians to stop using the race card?

  8. Steve Sibson12/20/2009 5:57 AM

    And another point, this post is another example of how Cory fuels hatred toward those he disagrees with. This time the victim is Jon Hunter.

  9. How insincere, Steve. Do you characterize your passionate publications of disagreement in the same fashion? You so cavalierly throw around words like "hate" and "personal attack," but you use them to confuse and distract from the issues, trying to turn the argument from the topic itself to "Oh, that Cory, he's such a meanie." Give it up, stay on topic.

  10. Steve Sibson12/20/2009 1:53 PM

    Cory, my previous comment was right on topic. And using the race card is the use of hate "to confuse and distract from the issues".


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