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Deja Vu in the US: 1927 and 2005

by DrKate Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 04:26:27 PM EST

Written to the European audience, a dark piece of US histroy, from the diaries ~ whataboutbob

Well, I break my rule tonight because you can't write about Indians all the time....our disaster here in America is just unfolding.

Please join me below the fold, and this article is crossposted at dailykos.

Read more... (7 comments, 817 words in story)

Meanwhile, "back on the ranch", or how the west was lost

by DrKate Sat Aug 27th, 2005 at 12:01:04 AM EST

...and not the US Preznit's ranch, either.

When I first posted here I talked about Native American issues as my focus, and the desire to share with our European friends some of the untold stuff going on in America that has to do with the "first people".....

This entry--which will be brief--has to to with one facet of the "settlement" of the western U.S. starting in the mid-late 1800's and through about 1940.  The western US is dry, with low and high deserts, and mountainous.  Water development was the key to the colonization of western North America by the United States.

Short Background

The land west of the Mississippi River was (and still is in many respects), "Indian Country"....millions of natives of course at the time of Columbus, reduced to several hundred thousand, occupied vast areas entire western part of North America.

There is much literature on the killing, forcible removal, conscious spread of disease (through blankets, by concentrated living quarters, etc) that killed millions of natives which deserve mention, but cannot in this post.  Instead I direct you to the standard books, Darcy McNickle, "They Came Here First"; Dee Brown, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee", Helen Hunt , "A Century of Dishonor", and more recent texts such as David Stannard, "American Holocaust".  They are excellent, but difficult reads. And I am sure there are many other selections that could be listed.

The Beginning of the Story

After the civil war, the US treasury was broke, and land in the west was offered as compensation to soldiers, both from the north and south.  The land and it's resources were owned by the Indians, so after the Indian wars when native people had been forced onto reservations, the land, timber, forage, water, minerals, oil, & gas was supposed to be purchased from the Indians by the US government and given to the Tribes for their development--an assumed "trust responsibility" the US was obligated to at the time of the Treaties, and to which it is still obligated.

But the US treasury was broke, right?  And the newly-arrived settlers needed water to make a go of it in an arid land. (Yes, they refused to even acknowledge the sophisticated resource use, economic and governing structures already established by natives there, but that is another diary).

Well, to make an incredibly long story shorter, the US "borrowed" the money from the Tribes to develop the water resources and other facilities (huge projects across the west) for the non-Indian settlers, opened Indian land for settlement and sale, and used those proceeds not for the development of the Tribe, but instead to "pay back" the US Treasury for the original money they "borrowed" from the Indians.

Individual Indians, some 300,000 filed a class action lawsuit in 1996 against the US Departments of Interior (and agencies therein) and the Treasury, claiming some $137 billion has not been paid to the Tribes since 1890.  The US blamed the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), but the Tribal lawyers found at least 60 (sixty) different treasury accounts into which money derived from the sale of Indian natural resources was deposited.  This was a huge scandal and the Tribal plaintiffs have won nearly every round.  But the US administration--democratic and republican--are loathe to deal honestly with the Tribes, so the case goes on.  Please read more at http//www.indiantrust.com a.k.a., Cobell v. Norton

This litigation, the Cobell case, is really about the timber, oil, minerals, gas, and forage resource revenues owed to individual Indians.  It goes to the heart of US mismanagement of Indian affairs, and is the reason why so many tribes are in abject poverty, with unemployment hovering near 70% and sometimes higher.

The Water Story

The piece I will present in two, maybe three diaries, is about water--the most fundamental resource in the west and clearly more valuable than oil--or at least eventually.  Guess who sits on the headwaters of most major rivers in the west, have fishing treaty rights on and federal reserved water rights to much of the water in the west?  Of course, the native people of America.  (By the way, 60% of the coal; nearly 50%oil and gas, and nearly 70% of uranium is derived from Indian lands in the US.)

The west was developed by harnessing Indian money to build non-Indian facilities that captured the water for economic gain.  Then, the Indian money that was used to build the project was repaid to the US from the proceeds of the sales from Indian land and water, and where I work, probably from oil, gas and grazing.  Those proceeds were supposed to go the the Tribal government (as opposed to individual indians) for their development.

There are at least a dozen places in the western U.S....all involving Indian Tribes, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, rivers, hydropower, and agriculture, where this happened.

We have the smoking gun, which is the next chapter in this series.  Thanks for reading!

ps wish I was better at using html tags!

Comments >> (7 comments)

Hello from Indian Country

by DrKate Mon Jun 13th, 2005 at 09:11:36 AM EST

Greetings to you all, and thank you so much for establishing this site.  I bring you greetings from Native America, where I work with Native Americans on water and natural resource issues in the western U.S.

I'm sure you've all heard of the broken treaties and the continued shabby, contemptuous treatment of the indigenous people of America.  But I'm here to say that a lot of cultures are alive and well, and there are continued struggles that are really crucial:  water rights, gaming, nuclear waste storage and mining, past theft of Indian funds (from resources) worth hundreds of billions...and the U.S. caught with its hand in the "cookie jar".  

This is a time of resurgence of Tribal people with economic and voting power.  In the small "red states", the Tribal vote could make a difference in key elections (New Mexico, South Dakota, Montana, Washington/Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota.....)

There should be a natural affinity between US tribes and the environmental movement.  That is not necessarily the case....let that be a tickler to explore the nuances of "alliances" in the US progressive community!

Let me be the first to welcome your interest and insight to these issues, and offer up a couple of websites for your perusal:


Comments >> (30 comments)

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