UN official says US should return land to the Indians
It's no use telling the busybodies to mind their own business. They'd be out of a job if they did that.
But the UN's "special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples" says that the United States government should "return" some land it took from the Indians over the last 200 years.
It's a racial discrimination that they feel is both systemic and also specific instances of ongoing discrimination that is felt at the individual level," he said.
Anaya said racism extended from the broad relationship between federal or state governments and tribes down to local issues such as education.
"For example, with the treatment of children in schools both by their peers and by teachers as well as the educational system itself; the way native Americans and indigenous peoples are reflected in the school curriculum and teaching," he said.
"And discrimination in the sense of the invisibility of Native Americans in the country overall that often is reflected in the popular media. The idea that is often projected through the mainstream media and among public figures that indigenous peoples are either gone or as a group are insignificant or that they're out to get benefits in terms of handouts, or their communities and cultures are reduced to casinos, which are just flatly wrong."
Close to a million people live on the US's 310 Native American reservations. Some tribes have done well from a boom in casinos on reservations but most have not.
Anaya visited an Oglala Sioux reservation where the per capita income is around $7,000 a year, less than one-sixth of the national average, and life expectancy is about 50 years.
The two Sioux reservations in South Dakota - Rosebud and Pine Ridge - have some of the country's poorest living conditions, including mass unemployment and the highest suicide rate in the western hemisphere with an epidemic of teenagers killing themselves.
I don't know what textbooks or movies this guy is watching or reading because the view of Native Americans he is describing went out of fashion in the 1960's. The real - and perceived - sins of the government in their relations with Indians are taught to every school kid in America, and as far as popular culture, there are a dozen or more films made in the last 2 decades that highlight the plight of Indians in a sensitive and historically accurate way - not to mention several extraordinary documentaries that have received wide distribution that tells the story of Native Americans with special emphasis on how white people have treated them.
Relations between the governments and tribes living on reservations are very complex. The reservations are treated in many ways as separate countries with very specific circumstances where the US government can intervene. There is also little doubt that in addition to deliberately stealing land and starting wars, there was great misunderstanding between the two cultures that led to inadvertent tragedy.
The Sioux (Lakota) tribes are a case in point. Never more than 20,000 members, the Lakotans claimed a vast territory made up of several million acres in the Black Hills and points westward. But the Lakotans were originally from further east, having been dispossed of their homeland by other tribes - the result of pressure brought on by white encroachment. Just what land do we give back to them? Their original homestead in Minnesota and the Great Lakes or the Black Hills?
The Lakotans filed a land claim for the Black Hills and won in the Supreme Court. But they only got a monetary settlement - not the land. The tribe has refused to accept the judgment until they receive what they believe is rightfully theirs.
This is only one of the problems with satisfying land claims of "indigenous" people. The tribes with which we are familiar with today may have arrived relatively recently in the New World (3-5,000 years), according to some linguistic studies. Before their arrival, a group of Native Americans known as the Clovis people occupied much of the US and Canada. What happened to them? No one knows, but it's a pretty good bet that the newcomers either killed them off or interbreeding gradually eliminated the Clovis culture.
What part of a Native American land repatriation would go to the ancestors of the Clovis people - assuming any could be found?
For that matter, there isn't a European culture that didn't displace another one somewhere along the line. Do we give England back to the Celts? Or the Anglo Saxons? The Normans conquered England and oppressed the indigenous people as much or more as we oppressed the Indians. Where do you draw the line? How far back can one go to satisfy "indigenous" rights?
In his Pulitzer Prize winning book "Guns, Germs, and Steel," Jared Diamond addressed this culture clash between Europeans and tribes in Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and North America. Some of the conflict was inevitable. Some was accidental. For example, within 100 years of the arrival of Europeans in the New World, upwards of 80% - and perhaps more - of the native populations were destroyed by small pox, measels, and other white man's diseases. Long before any physcial contact with most of the tribes occurred, highly sophisticated and intricate trade routes spread these diseases far and wide.
We can't hide from our history, nor are there any excuses for much of the deliberate destruction of Native American peoples and culture. It will always be a blot on our national conscience. And racism continues today, although the poverty and hopelessness found on many reservations and among most Native Americans has many explanations beyond white hate.
But the simple minded notion that giving land back to the Indians will even begin to address their problems is indicative of ignorant posturing and not a serious attempt to help. What more appropriate vessel for such nonsense than the United Nations - an unserious place made up of strutting, posturing diplomats and ignorant do-gooders.