Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Modern Reservations

American Indians live amongst the rest of America but are mostly confined to the reservation system. These reservations have some traits that everyone can see in their mind's eye: 99% Indian, poor living mostly off federal government programs, alcohol and drug abuse, gang violence, rape problem, high rate of child abandonment, and the US law officials do not go there and are not sovereign. Reservations are generally sovereign entities so businesses are cautious about engaging in contracts with them. Reservations are found out West due to the Indian Wars and initial contact conflicts in the East, South and Midwest. Socially, being part of the tribe is strictly enforced and while they dress in blue jeans and Western clothes, there is still an Indian flair to it. Family structure is set up more along Indian custom. Everyday non-Indians generally do not got here, but white social workers do. These places are segregated from American society. There is a spirit of hope and ethnic pride mixed with depression. Discussion of oppression and a history of conflict and contrast with European society is part of the modern ethos.

Check out the NY Times 2010 census maps with the racial/ethnic distribution filter on. Is there another group with all of those same characteristics that is found with greater frequency in one region but when found elsewhere are practically cordoned off into areas where the cops do not go, sovereignty is in the community and racial composition is nearly homogeneous? These areas have high rate of alcohol and drug abuse, high utilization rate for government welfare programs, child abandonment, gangs, and rape problems. That group also dresses in jeans and Western clothing but with an ethnic flair. Their families are structured along with old ethnic customs. Outsiders rarely enter except for the police, random social workers and/or government officials for photo opportunities with armed escort. There is always talk of hope and ethnic pride but a steady dose of depressing news and life. There is plenty of talk of oppression, discrimination and the history of conflict and contrast with European society.

Difference beteen these groups goes back to how the two groups interacted with European society on the North American continent. One seems to want to self segregate while the other seems to want to confiscate engage with the society of European descent and heritage off the reservation. It my boil down to an indifference to being considered equal in stature vs. desperately seeking approval and validation even when vociferously shouting that they don't care about white approval. The greatest difference here is the proximity of concentrated blocs of citizens next to euroedescended groups and negative crime externalities. We talk of government created and subsidized Indian reservations, but no one ever mentions if we have financially created and government subsidized de facto black reservations. 


Black Sea said...

I like your blog, but what you say about reservations contradicts most of what I've seen, except for your description of crime and substance abuse problems, both of which are all too common.

Anyway, I did some Googling.

As a result of the Dawes Act 1887), many Indians were given indlvidual allotments of reservation land, which they could then sell to anyone, including whites. I know from the reservations that I've been on that white residents aren't uncommon at all.

Furthermore, tribes decide what fraction of Indian ancestry is necessary for tribal membership. In the case of the Cherokee, it is 1/16th. Therefore, you also have a lot of tribal members living on the rez who are essentailly white people, with an Indian great grandfather or something.

According to The Navajo Times, 78% of Native Americans live off reservations, although for the Navajo themselves, this figure is only 13%.

Again from The Navajo Times, 44% of Indians have mixed blood (I suspect the real figure is quite a bit higher). In other words, most Indians don't live on reservations, and many people living on reservations aren't particularly Indian. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but just felt the need to point that out.

Otherwise, great blog.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Thanks for the facts. Interesting that you mentioned Navajo vs. Cherokee. Cherokees outnumber Navajor but Navajo have a much much higher % of members who speak the language. Once in contact with euros, Cherokee wrote their language down, owned slaves, dressed western and tried to ingratiate themselves to southern society. Didnt work. The Navajo didnt try that shit and fought the euros whether Spanish or American. I usually view thosr two tribes as the opposite ends of the spectrum for how contact and interaction is.

The Indian tribes have been getting tighter with membership when revenues are to be split up. The Cherokees just expelled the black Cherokees. There were the extremely few remaining Indians who were used by investment firms to start up Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. The post is a thought experiment to compare informal vs. formal versions of the same thing.

Thanks for the kind words.