Friday, May 06, 2005

A Little Myth Busting from Billings

Roger Clawson's doing a little myth busting over on the Billings Outpost. It's spot on and well written, so I thought I'd just share it.

from: Myth Persists About Payments to Indians

"[...]In Western pool halls and post offices, anywhere whites gather, the myth persists. In brief, bigots claim that Indians receive a check from the government once a month.

"Other handouts claimed include free food, housing and education.

"Some people have even seen those checks. Here’s why:

"Most Indian tribes are like corporations, like General Motors or Microsoft. They have sources of income, expenses, assets and liabilities. When they make a profit, they pay dividends to their shareholders.

"In the case of the Indian tribes, the shareholders are the tribal members. Tribes sell timber, grass, oil or coal found on or under tribal lands. After paying the tribal government’s expenses, the cash is divided between tribal members.

"Make a profit. Pay a dividend. In this respect General Motors and the Crow Tribe operate alike. But there is one critical difference. The BIA serves as the tribe’s banker. Revenues collected by the BIA are deposited in the U.S. Treasury before being transferred to the tribal government or individual tribal members via government check.

"Uncle Sam writes the checks but it’s Indian money, not tax dollars.

"These irregular checks (called per-capita payments) usually arrive twice a year, around mid summer and just before Christmas. Some tribes make per capita payments of $500 or so. Poorer tribes may struggle to pay members $30. Sometimes the tribes end the year in the red and there are no per capita payments. Some tribes have struck it rich with oil or casino developments. Their members, like rich white folks, may live high on the hog.

"Pretend that your great-grandfather owned a huge ranch. When the calves are sold in the fall, you and other heirs get a check. When Acme Wildcatters strike oil on this land, you and the cousins drive new cars and winter in Arizona. Are these handouts? Most wouldn’t think so.

"Imagine your great aunt leaving you a block of Das Widgewerks stock. Would you be ashamed to clip coupons?

"Yes, Indians sometimes get coal and oil money, if the coal or oil is found beneath tribal lands.

"Just like great-grandpa’s heirs, tribal members get paid for what is theirs.

"No, Indians do not get an automatic free ride to college. A few wealthy tribes may invest in their young people, providing scholarships for those who qualify. In that case, it’s Indian money, not federal tax money, that pays for books and tuition.

"Finally, the federal government does spend a bundle on the nation’s Indian reservations. Indians receive assistance through education and food and housing programs. Come to think of it, so do whites who live off the reservations."

Read the rest of the article here.

Clawson doesn't cover every scenario. After all there are treaty agreements with varying terms and over 500 Indian nations in Indian Country. But he gets a good start and sheds a little light on one of the uglier stereotypes we have to deal with.


Blogger Sylvana said...

It was often said that the NA in our area got government money too. It really didn't seem to matter much what you said to some of these people either, they would still insist that it was their tax dollars. Some people just don't want to listen to the truth.

11:52 PM  

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