Monday, March 15, 2010

No More Tribes, Please

Here in Montana, it's hard not to notice the circumstances of Indians on reservations. In a way, their circumstances are similar to those of non-Indians who are stuck in the disappearing small communities all over this state. Family farms give way to corporate farming, and jobs get scarcer and scarcer. In the dictionary, next to the word "bleak" there should be a picture of rural Montana.

In another way, the Indians have it even worse. Everything they have is tied up in the reservation and the tribe, and they are stranded in and tied to their remote and unproductive locations by a desire to maintain their cultural heritage.

I don't think it makes any sense to maintain the idea of tribal sovereignty in the 21st century. Congress has the power to abrogate every treaty with the Indians and ought to do so if it is in the interests of the US to do so. Let the US deed the reservations to the Indians or buy the land from them and put it into the BLM system. Let the US buy out of its treaty obligations and pay off individual Indian citizens and have done with it. Then they can move where they like and get jobs and maintain their culture, or not, as they see fit.

Let's face facts. There was a war, and the Indians lost. Let's not rub it in by maintaining a system of homelands for them that keeps them impoverished and in a perpetual state of dependency. Rather, let's assuage our collective consciences by throwing a lot of money at the Indians once and for all and treating them just like every other category of citizen. The federal and state governments can apologize for their sins and even hold truth and reconciliation commissions to air the grievances of Indian people and educate Americans about what bastards their ancestors were (unless they're immigrants). Existing casinos can be grandfathered in but transferred to corporations with Indian shareholders.

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