DARE TO ASK: Money for American Indians?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
To American Indians: Do you feel it's right that you still receive
compensation or benefits for things that didn't happen to you directly?
Acat, white female, West Monroe, N.Y.
The compensations derived from the near extinction of American Indians by
"settlers" of various invading nations were agreed to by the government of the
United States to set things right. . . . Should anyone be entitled to
reparations when they did not experience it directly? Well, there is what is
"legal" and what is "right." In this case, the legal rights of American Indian
tribes don't seem to be questioned, but the "moralities" of those rights are.
Charles, 43, American Indian/white, Kentucky
Yes, I believe it is right. Our sovereignty and any rights were negotiated
with the U.S. government. It wasn't pity money.
N.N., 26, Comanche male, Cache, Okla.
If you are talking about casinos, that is a sound business decision.
Reservations for federally recognized tribes are pretty much the land of a
sovereign nation within the United States Also, the only way for people to
receive money is to have enough blood quantum to even belong to a federally
recognized tribe. Something only American Indians have to do: prove how much
Indian they are.
Terrence, 22, American Indian, Albuquerque, N.M.
White people are still benefiting from slavery and "divide and conquer"
tactics today. So you are standing on the shoulders of your ancestors' actions
and benefiting from them. So why shouldn't American Indians?
D. Rich, 28, black male, Memphis, Tenn.
It happens from time to time, says Ray Ramirez, editor for the Colorado-based
Native American Rights Fund:
"Someone says, 'My neighbor is Indian and gets a check from the government.'
Well, that doesn't happen."
What does happen is that some American Indians have trust land parcels,
Ramirez said. "The federal government has fiduciary duties over that land, so
let's say the family leases land out for grazing, timber, oil or gas. The
government negotiates contracts on behalf of that family, then collects money
for those leases . . . then the money goes back to the individuals, because
that's their money."
(Two current lawsuits challenge just how well the government has handled that
Then there's the casino issue, but in those cases, the gaming facilities are
on sovereign lands, he said, and for many tribes, a casino makes a modest amount
of money, which is often put back into the tribe.
Overall, the main reason people think American Indians receive checks "for
being Indian" is poor education, he said.
"We don't really teach anything in school systems about tribes, indigenous
people, sovereign governments. . . . the thing is, non-Indian people will never
know what it feels like to have everything known to them taken away from them."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
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