This is what is really happening on American Indian reservations today.
By: Irwin Ozborne
“The love of possessions is a disease with them [Americans]. They take tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich who rule. They claim this mother of ours, the Earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away. If America had been twice the size it is, there still would not have been enough.” – Sitting Bull
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Open the door and see the armed Gestapo at your doorstep demanding you turn over the rights of your children and toddlers. They no longer belong to you as mandated by federal law.
You see the fear in your toddler’s eyes as you are no longer capable of protecting them and are forced by law to give up your children to the police. They sit them on a bus to be shipped away to a school hundreds of miles away in which they will be trained to forget every value, tradition, and characteristic you have tried to teach. They will be disciplined with abuse, torture, starvation, and rape. If you ever see them again, they will not be the innocent child you once knew.
This did not happen in a far away land, this did not happen a long-long time ago. This happened in the “greatest country on Earth” in fairly recent history. This was the policy of the United States government in an effort to assimilate American Indian children in a boarding school system that peaked in the 1970’s.
“And Indians should get over this, it happened so long ago,” states an American Indian Education Specialist with a highly sarcastic tone, “And it really wasn’t that long ago and we’re talking about everyone in Indian country is a product or their parent, or grandparent, was a product of boarding schools. Which was institutionalized by the United States Government. And our families were destroyed, our mothers did not have legal rights to their children, at any given time foreigners, strangers, could come in and take your children without any recourse. And this was the policy of the United States Government.”
The boarding schools were designed with the slogan, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” in an attempt to Christianize or Americanize the Indian population. They targeted children as they believed the adults were too set in their ways. In 1879, the schools were brought off the reservations to avoid children from attempting to run away and to ensure that if they went back home they would not return to their traditional lifestyle.
Forcibly taken from their homes, forbidden to speak Native languages or practice traditions, the children were overcrowded, starved, and victims of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The rationale for the cultural genocide was because it was cheaper to “educate” the Indians into mainstream culture than to try to wage war.
This is never taught in American school systems. History books are censored from speaking the truth of how this nation was formed on genocide of the American Indians. Now, representing less than one-percent of the population they are the last race that it is socially acceptable to discriminate against.
“The racism is rampant but nobody wants to look at it,” stated our interviewee, “I guess because we’re America’s dirty laundry.”
Pine Ridge Reservation
Although not written until 1948, it almost appears as if the United States took the United Nations definition for Genocide and used it as a checklist in their treatment of the indigenous people of the land. It reads:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
While the boarding school system described above was just one piece of the strategy, those who did “survive” were left on reservations in third-world conditions despite being between borders in one of the richest countries on the globe.
Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is the poorest area in the United States with a per capita income of less than $4,000 per year and 97-percent of residents living below the Federal poverty lines. The dilapidated houses are overcrowded as they try to take in family members and friends without a roof over the head. The average home will host 17 people (two to three bedrooms); whereas some homes that are built for six to eight people have 30 people living in them currently.
More than a third of these homes have no water, sewage, insulation, heating or electricity. Families have to carry contaminated water to the home for personal use. More than 60-percent of these homes are infested with the Stachbotrys (a potentially fatal black mold). With no technology, industrial, or commercial infrastructure on the reservation more than 85-percent of the residents are unemployed. The high school dropout rate is more than 70-percent with the teacher turnover at 800-percent higher than the national average.
On Pine Ridge Reservation, the life expectancy is around 45 years – which is the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere (behind only Haiti). This has to do with alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, suicide, and malnutrition. Some of the healthcare facts include:
Alcoholism rates are estimated at 80-percrent
Alcohol related deaths are 300-percrent higher than the national average
Nearly 95-percent of all crimes are alcohol related
One in four infants are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
The rate of diabetes is eight times the national average
Estimated 50-percent of adults over 40 have diabetes
37-percent of the entire reservation has diabetes
The rate of Tuberculosis is eight times the national average
The suicide rates is more than twice the national average
Teenage suicide rates is four times the national average
Infant mortality is the highest on the continent and about three times the national average
The rate of Cervical Cancer is five times the national average
The rate of Heart Disease is twice the national average
This is due to many of the residents being without adequate healthcare. In most treaties between Indian nations and the United States, the government agreed to provide medical care for Indians in return for vast quantities of land. The Indian Health Services was established in 1787, based on Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. However, what is administered is very small compared to the need and the IHS is understaffed and ill-equipped to handle the crisis in these Indian communities.
“The administration is responsible for providing and delivering health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country. Their federal obligation mandates that they promote health and safe Indian communities while honoring tribal governance. This is not happening,” said Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso, who chairs the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – in a February 2016 article with NBC News.
“You may have heard the phrase ‘Do not get sick after June,’ because if you do, you will not be able to get care. This, to me, is a rationing of health care — care that is guaranteed by treaty. If we start funding IHS at levels commensurate with need, I believe we will solve a lot of the issues revealed in the 2010 report and the ones occurring elsewhere in this country,” said former Senator Byron Dorgan, chairman of The Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute – in the same NBC News article.
Not living up to the agreements of the IHS is pretty standard for the course in United States policy. In all, 370 treaties were signed between the United States Government and Indian Nations.
And all 370 were broken by the United States.
“Yeah, none of them have been lived up to. But everybody is living on our land and nobody knows that,” continued the American Indian Education specialist, “Part of that is the socialization so whenever you up treaty rights, the reason there is so much backlash in this country like, ‘Why do those Indians have special rights? Why do they have stuff we don’t have?’ It’s because nobody is teaching these kids what a god damn treaty is! A treaty is an agreement between nations. Some nations choose to live up to them, some nations violate them.”
They are still doing it today with the controversy of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline which would cut through the heart of tribal lands.
“But when we DO end up winning in the court of the conqueror – mind you the enemies court – when we do end up having small gains, and I’ll say for every twenty cases we maybe have one that goes our way. Every time that happens, when we win, ‘why do these Indians get these special rights?”’ he continued, “Because these folks do not understand what a damn treaty is. Nobody in St. Paul knows what treaty their land is on. It’s the treaty of 1805. First treaty ever signed with the nation of Sioux Indians was the treaty of 1805. So, nobody in the Twin Cities is learning that they are living on Treaty of 1805. Nobody knows that, and because they don’t know that, when a treaty case comes Indian people are met with bigotry and hate. ‘Why do you all get to do this? Why do we get to do that?’ Well, it’s not our fault that America didn’t educate their children about article six of the constitution is that treaties are the law of the land.”
The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty clearly defined boundaries owned by the Lakota people which covered a large part of the upper Midwest between Minnesota and Montana. However, it was the Great Emancipator, President Abraham Lincoln, who allowed white settlers onto this land by signing the Homestead Act in 1862. Treaty rights were violated and the Indian people were forced to move once again to the most inhospitable lands. In retaliation, some Sioux attacked white settlers which is referred to as the “Sioux Uprising.”
Uprising is defined as an act of resistance, rebellion, or revolt. They were not resisting, they were retaliating. But the terminology is done intentionally to spread propaganda of the Sioux that are rebelling, although it was Lincoln who violated the treaty.
This led to the largest mass execution in United States History when President Lincoln ordered to hang 38 Santee Sioux in Mankato, Minnesota – a week later he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Minnesota has a shitty-ugly history, but we can’t talk about it because in Minnesota everything nice happened,” our interviewee continues, “Even if you deal with Minnesota Historical Society, they don’t even want to tell the god damn truth. They call it ‘controversial history.’ Any history that is uncomfortable is controversial. Anytime Minnesota gets a little bit of mud on its face, that’s called controversial history and they won’t tell that story. But the problem with that is that pathology of denial that this state has means that it can happen again. To somebody else. Who’s next?”
The Second Fort Laramie Treaty was signed in 1868 which designated the sovereignty of the Lakota people and prohibited outside settlers to ever occupy their lands. All this changed, though, in 1874 when gold was found in the Black Hills and in other areas held sovereign by the Lakota and non-Indian miners swarmed the Black Hills. Consequently, the federal government reneged on the Fort Laramie Treaties and took total control of the Black Hills again, only a decade after signing the second treaty.
This led to more wars, breaking up of the reservations, and once again tribes being forced off any land that the United States found valuable. Then in this same area, the Black Hills, in which the Lakota people found sacred which was stolen from them after a broken treaty, the Federal Government added a slap in the face by imprinting a message on their land with Mount Rushmore. A memorial of United States Presidents serves as a constant reminder of the people who stole their land and killed their people.
Understanding the Reservation System
The reservation system in America is widely misunderstood and completely fabricated in the educational system.
Originally, the settlers agreed to give the Indians all land West of the Appalachian Mountains. But after the American Revolution, the whites continued to break treaties and push the Indians off their land. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson – nicknamed “Indian Killer” – signed the Indian Removal Act which was designed to forcibly remove Indians and march them to the newly designed “Indian Country” in Oklahoma.
This was somewhat documented in the notorious “Trail of Tears” in which Indians marched for hundreds of miles at gunpoint. If they could not continue to walk, they were left for dead. If anyone refused, they were brutally murdered in front of the group. Pregnant woman had their stomachs sliced open or they would drown infants or club toddlers against trees in a means of intimidation of anyone who would not comply. Again, policy of the United States.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Indian Reservation System emerged. The government would move tribes onto specifically reserved land for the tribes.
“Reservations are not land that they gave us, by the way.” Our interviewee pointed out, “Reservations mean they were reserved. A lot of folks say, ‘well we gave you some land.’ No, bullshit we were here first. You are the invader! You may have taken a lot of things but reservation, in the English language if you look it up, it means “reserved”. So that’s land the nations reserved for themselves. And it has been whittled down through lies, policy, and deceit all at the hands of the United States Government and companies that wanted to make money. Timber companies, mining companies, etc., etc, Ranchers, but those are reserved. Those weren’t given to us, we reserved those. That’s another common mythology in America.”
This all served as a precursor to the Holocaust of World War II. Many parallels exist between the mistreatment of American Indians and the Nazi treatment of the Jewish people. This include death marches, concentration camps, mass graves, destroying old cultures, blaming one group of people for the problems, etc. In fact, in a couple biographies of Adolf Hitler, he credits the United States for his ideas of genocide.
On page 202 of John Toland’s book titled Adolf Hitler:
Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity.
He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government’s forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations is hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large ‘reservation’ in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.
Pine Ridge Reservation is a dry reservation, meaning it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol. However, across the border in Nebraska, there lies a town with a population of 12 people. Yet, within that town of 12, there are four liquor stores. These stores sell millions of cans of beer per year and profit millions of dollars – mostly to the Oglala Sioux.
Unlike other Nebraska communities, Whiteclay exists only to sell liquor and make money. It has no schools, no churches, no civic organizations, no parks, no benches, no public bathrooms, no fire service and no law enforcement. Tribal officials have repeatedly pleaded with the State of Nebraska to close these liquor stores or enforce the State laws regulating liquor stores but have been consistently refused.
Coincidentally, the town of Whiteclay is located in Sheridan County. A county named after a war criminal in Philip Sheridan who slaughtered men, women, and children like game. Sheridan was once quoted stating “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
So the county is living up to the man it is named after by continuing to knowingly sell an illegal drug to people which is causing the majority of problems on their land. The state of Nebraska has refused to close these liquor stores and has no problem with the destruction done to their neighbors.
However, the state of Nebraska does not like when bordering states allow people to purchase, possess, and transport illegal drugs into their state. Once Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, there was in influx in people possessing marijuana – illegal in Nebraska. They have went as far as attempting to sue the states of Colorado because of the increased traffic, possession, and use of marijuana.
America’s Dirty Laundry
Most of mainstream America is unaware of this history and current state with the Indian people in this country. Or they do know, but they just sweep it under the rug and try not to think about it. People are living in third-world conditions because of broken promises and lack of follow through. Yet, when other countries break treaties, we become the world police.
I believe in the power of the people. Once they know what is going on in the world, they stand up for justice. This is what ended the Vietnam War. Last week, social media exploded over the death of a gorilla. Imagine the good we could do and the justice that is deserved for the people that we have killed, destroyed, lied to, put into poverty, and lacking resources that they were promised.
We are talking about generational trauma. Trauma that has been handed down from generation-to-generation at the hands of our ancestors and the policies of the United States Government. Recovery has to start somewhere and the first step is for mainstream America to realize the problem they created.
About the Author
An avid historian, Irwin Ozborne (a pen-name) is a survivor of childhood abuse and torture over a period of 13 years, and a recovered alcoholic. As a mental health practitioner, today Irwin practices holistic care and incorporates eastern philosophy into his work with clients. He is available for speaking engagements as well, and can be contacted via email: [email protected]. Please visit www.takingthemaskoff.com.
This article (“Americas Dirty Laundry”: The Ongoing Genocide of the American Indian) was originally created and published by Taking the Mask Off.
Via Waking Times