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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pine Ridge: Scarier Than Taliban Ambush

Dr. Newquist is right: Aaron Huey's interview and photos of the Pine Ridge Reservation in the New York Times should be required reading for all South Dakotans. A large portion of our state is the Third World. Guns, gangs... and three-year-old girls destined for destruction:

I have been watching several children in a dozen families grow up over the past five years. This is one of the hardest parts for me. When I see their father or mother coming home drunk every day, I know what the future holds for them and it hurts me.

I remember calling home to my wife crying because I had just held a beautiful 3-year-old girl on my knee. She hugged me and called me uncle, and I love her so much. But I know that it is only a matter of time until she is broken. Soon she will be drinking, and pregnant, and abused, and dying. Right now she is still perfect, but no one can last in an environment like that [Aaron Huey, interviewed by James Estrin, "Behind the Scenes: Still Wounded," New York Times: Lens, 2009.10.19].

Aaron Huey has been all over the world. He's dodged the Taliban in Afghanistan. He's hitchhiked Siberia. And he says Pine Ridge is "the scariest place I've ever been."

That place is South Dakota. It is as much South Dakota as our cozy little Chamber of Commerce meetings and pancake feeds.

Candidates—Congress, governor, Legislature—read the interview, view the photos, and tell us what you would do to solve the seemingly unsolvable.


  1. If this situation is to be improved, it needs to be changed. Do away with reservations and the gov't dependency it fosters. Bring the Native Americans into complete citizenship with the rest of the US; no more separate laws that hamper business growth, no more handouts that destroy self-esteem. They should be able to keep their culture, but that doesn't mean a sovereign nation within the US with Uncle Sam providing everything free. That never works, and is proven here.

    However, the Native Americans need to take responsibility for themselves also. They need to be willing to work if jobs are provided. Even Native American employers admit this is a problem on the reservation.

    The system as it stands is horrendous, does not work, and fosters all the troubles seen here. Try something different; it surely cannot hurt.

    As it stands most Native Americans vote Democrat, and Dems are more than willing to continue the status quo to ensure getting this voting bloc. But it's not fair to the Native Americans. It's time for change they can believe in, both from the gov't and from themselves.

    The past is past. No more apologies for past wrongs. Look forward. Only then will this have a chance of improving.

    BTW, we took friends thru Pine Ridge a couple of years ago to show them the poverty there. They were not impressed as they were from California and said things were much worse there. Doesn't make this right, but I surely would not equate it with the Taliban. I don't think any heads have been lost or Sharia law applied on the reservations.

  2. South Dakota needs a vibrant and strong Sioux Nation. We can achieve that by returning land to the Sioux that is held by the federal government.

    Our military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Kosovo and Vietnam all center on one thing "winning the locals trust." Just look at over 100 years of federal control on the reservation. How much trust has the federal government won with the Natives?

  3. Thad, do you honestly believe that the Black Hills should be returned to the Native Americans?

  4. Yes, the reason no politician wants to address this is greed. If I cannot have it, noone else will either. Do we want to continue more generations of poverty, or fix the problem?

  5. With stands like this IMO your campaign is going nowhere, Thad. Sorry.

    Which Native Americans do you want to give the Hills back to? The Sioux? The other tribes who claimed it before they drove those tribes out?

    The past is past. If you want to improve the lot of the Native Americans, move on. Look to the future.

  6. After decimating their culture we are frustrated they haven't assimilated. Who would?

    Even now the conversation tends to be how can we get them to change, be like us and have our values.

    I wonder how often we have seriously asked where they want to go from here.

  7. OK,don't change, don't assimilate. Go back to teepees, hunting, etc. I don't think any Native Americans truly want that either. But keeping them as second class citizens via entitlements in a nation within a nation is not working so well either, is it? I would guess that most of them would prefer to live in a house close to their family and friends and be able to support their family. What's wrong with that? Why not make some changes so that is possible?

    Keep their culture. Keep their heritage. Keep their religion. Nothing I am proposing would change any of that. And it just might give them back their pride and self-esteem, the lack of which are at the root of many of their problems. I don't have any answers, but apparently the powers that be keeping the present system in place don't either.

  8. I agree with the article - enough with church groups painting over graffiti on houses each summer. Let's put our weight behind key native leaders we know on each rez - like my friend Pastor Gabe Medicine Eagle who sits on the tribal council on Rosebud. Let's listen to Tribal Chairman Mike Jandreau and learn why Crow Creek is succeeding where PineRidge isn't and why he keeps getting elected after two decades.

    We've worked for 5 years to get a apology through both houses and to the President's desk - it's just about a done deal - this will have spiritual implications that few realize. This isn't the place to paste Pastor Gabe and I's seminar notes when we travel together talking on the topic of 500 years of bad haircuts. But I'll sum it up... criticizing natives for the problems on the rez is like criticizing a pitcher for throwing bad pitches, not realizing he's pitching with a broken arm, and WE broke that arm.

    Thanks for pointing us to this article Cory.

  9. The solution here isn't just to hand out dollars. That just breeds dependency. Giving back land or anything else will not solve any problems Thad.

    Economic development is the key that is missing. Unfortunately, the current tribal laws that are in place make it essentially impossible. Those laws are not conducive to modern business. If the tribes do not want to join the modern age, they will not change their legal system. That is their choice as of now. Anyone who wants to play multiculturalism will respect that decision and must also accept the consequences of their legal system.

    Personally, I view the reservations as basically foreign countries. If we compare them to other foreign countries in terms of economic development, it is safe to assume they will not develop until the laws change. Similarly, if the laws do change economic development will occur and their culture will change to be more like ours. So in essence, if they want to continue a "pure culture" or what ever multicultural phrase applies, they will continue with their current laws. If they want to develop, the laws will change, the local economy will develop, and their culture will change.

  10. The solution is for Native Americans to be Americans, not subjects of communism. Unfortunately, Obama's communist revolution will make more of us poor, not bring quality of life to those already dependent on the government.

  11. People should travel more, and be in circumstances they are treated as the minority, and even the unwanted, in places being white doesn't mean dominance. The arrogance should pass. There's more than the Black Hills you know.

  12. JohnSD:

    I've been to most of eastern Europe, a half dozen countries in south east asia, and have been to both India and Egypt. I stand by my comments. Places that develop their economies become more like us. We just happen to develop before them. If they developed before us, we would become like them.

  13. Tony,

    You seem to define advancement mainly by law and economics. Some cultures may prioritize similarly, but (given time), it is egocentric to assume every culture will strive for this.


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