I am a white man writing to criticize the Reservation System and the Domestic Colonialism that has supported, and continues to support it. I have every right to do so, since my tax dollars support directly and indirectly the sustenance of the system. In addition, I have an obligation, as a citizen to protest actions taken by my government, that violates both the spirit and practice of civil rights law that makes discrimination unconstitutional and immoral.
A reservation is a de facto racist colony that keeps a targeted group of people sufficiently controlled and satiated, so as not to disturb the conscience of committed caretakers and benevolent overseers. It does nothing to advance the quality of life, the ability of its inhabitants to use their skills and their intellect to participate in the advancement of their lives, or, most appallingly, to diminish the impact of unhealthy, dysfunctional – even lethal and suicidal practices and behaviors. If any other group had the numbers of addicted, chronically ill, and socially dysfunctional relationships, as exist on the Reservation, there would be condemnation and outrage across our culture. If you have trouble seeing the Reservation as anything other than a punishing enclave, ask yourself how you would feel about a Bureau of Black Affairs, a Bureau of Asian Affairs, a Bureau of Catholic Affairs, or a Bureau of Jewish Affairs.
Unfortunately, the “Leadership” of many Indian tribes, has done a callous and reprehensible job of confronting their populations with the cardinal choice they need to make about their future. The leadership has failed their people, in the following ways:
To stop encouraging them to live in the past, and to continuing to credentialize their victimhood
To stop looking for someone, or some organization to apologize for their horrendous treatment – There Are No Re-Do’s Of Our History! – There is only grieving. Living in the past only produces poverty and misery
To stop elevating “suffering” to the pinnacle of their cultural identity
To stop confusing ritual with core values
You might ask, at this point – “What Are Your Suffering Credentials?”
My people endured slaughter, slavery, and attempts at annihilation before there was recorded history. My grandparents were treated like cargo in the hold of a ship for their six-week journey to America. Once here, they were spat upon, humiliated and denied a place to live, repeatedly. One of my aunts survived Auschwitz, and many others perished in Czarist pogroms. I grew up in the most segregated city in the North – Chicago, and learned how to recognize ethnicities by their last names, and to know who could hurt me. I decided at an early age, not to look the other way when people were being persecuted, and to ask who’s perpetuating it, and how it can be stopped; and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop now.
January 9, 2023