2015-02-05 / Voices

The Rez of the Story

"Economic Racism"
Ihanktowan Dakota Oyate

Hau Mitakuepi

(Greetings My Relatives),

In the January 17th issue of The Economist" an article appears on page 32 entitled: "Of Slots and Sloth" (Gambling and poverty). The article purports to draw one’s attention to the “curse of easy money” in Indian Country. The piece ostensibly tries to suggest that there is a direct cause and effect between Native Nations developing gaming operations and how this state of affairs not only doesn’t relieve poverty in Indian Country but actually “increases” it. The piece sites “a new study in the American Indian Law Journal [which] suggests that growing tribal gaming revenues can make poverty worse.”

The article goes on to say, “Experts offer several explanations. Drug and alcohol abuse are rampant on reservations, so many tribal members find it hard to hold down a steady job. Poor health care is another problem: Native Americans have high rates of obesity and diabetes, which are often aggravated by a lack of good medical care . . . But the biggest problem may be the way casino profits are sometimes disbursed.” The article suggests that where there are direct dividends paid to tribal members, their poverty rate increases as opposed to when casino profits are reinvested the poverty rates decrease.”

Is this what happened when the federal government provided stimulus dollars to some failing auto industry companies or major banking/savings and loan companies? Did the unemployment rate increase because folks were able to go back to work? Did the banking industry suddenly become more insolvent because of the stimulus programs that assisted their recovery? When agricultural producers receive cash payments for more reasonable conservation practices do they suddenly become more impoversished?

Are there problems with alcohol and other drug abuse issues in Indian Country? Are there substance abuse issues in non- Indian Country? Of course there are on both counts. Is poor health a growing problem throughout the country? Unless the media is misrepresenting the truth about the state of health and the spiraling costs associated with a fledgling health care system in America, the reports are in the affirmative on this one.

Where is the part of the story that points to the effects of colonialism and structural racism that has not only created the conditions that enables poverty in Indian to exist in Indian Country but indeed serve to perpetuate it. From the effects of Papal Bulls issued by Catholic Church officials in the 14th century (which reduced the status of Native people to non-human as a means to justify exploitation) to modern federal Indian law. In his book Deadliest Enemies the author, Thomas Biolsi points out and pens: “History teaches Indian peoples that in a federal system of government, the white racial power organized through state governments represents the gravest and most persistent threat to Indian rights and cultural survival on the continent.”

The publishers of The Economist,

I think, should be a bit more careful in their choice of words and story telling only because we do not need more vitriol and fuel for conflict between our communities. We need more understanding and to listen more to each other’s truth telling. We need the rez of the story.

Food for thought: “In the long run men inevitably become the victims of their wealth. They adapt their lives and habits to their money, not their money to their lives. It preoccupies their thoughts, creates artificial needs, and draws a curtain between them and the world.” Herbert Croly - US political philosopher.

Doksha (later). . .

Vince Two Eagles is a columnist for the times, his columns were born of an effort to help people in rural areas learn more about the beliefs and lives of Lakota and Dakota people. He has created a compilation of his columns in a book called “Rez of the Story-Volume One.” To order the compilation go to his website at: or call 605-660-0378. Vince can also be reached at

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