In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, we took a look at the horrible situations that happened in the Spokane Indian Reservation, but this got me thinking, is it like this an all Indian reservations? So I looked at three reservations to see the contrasts and similarities of reservations over America. I looked at Spokane, the poor reservation the book focuses on, the Seminole tribe of Florida, the richest reservation in America, and the Crow Indian Reservation, one of the poorest reservations. I’ll also take a look at the proposed ways to help reservations get out of poverty.
The Spokane Indian Reservation in Spokane, Washington has suffered some tough times. There are more than 1,200 homeless people in Spokane. This includes about 170 families. A primary reason that this poverty rate is so high is because of government programs. The people cannot buy land because the land belongs to everybody. The problem with this system is that people can’t build up credit and they don’t have anything to use for collateral. Also the reservations are considered their own nations with their own courts. This is not good because the courts are unpredictable, and not trustworthy. This has driven away business because there is no way to know if the company contract will be enforced or not. In result, this makes jobs scarce and runs the community into a huge poverty loop.
On the other hand, the Seminole tribe of Florida flourishes. They operate seven casinos pulling in an estimated $500 a day. They own everything from a pair of Elton John’s high heel boots to a Jimmy Hendrix Gibson Flying V guitar. They even purchased the Hard Rock Cafe franchise in 2006 for an estimated $965 million. What is the secret to this tribe’s success? People speculate it’s impart of their location, by Orlando and Miami, and impart that they are able to fuse the Indian way with the “white way of making decisions and business choices’. With this steady incline of success, the Seminoles of Florida will continue to grow.
Lastly we look at the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. One of the poorest reservations in the country. No surprise, most of the land is held communally. Most people live in mobile homes or on the streets because they can’t get land. Many people blame the Dawes act of 1887. The Dawes Act gave Indians land to farm and get out of poverty. The flaw of this act was that is the Indians weren’t self-sufficient, then the land would revert into federal property to sell. Usually they would sell to white settlers. This decreased the total reservation land from 138 million acres to 78 acres in just 23 years, when it was abolished by President Franklin Roosevelt. Unfortunately, the Crow reservation is isolated in Montana and doesn’t have the traffic that made the Seminoles of Florida successful.
The government has contrived many acts that have hurt Indians more than they could have ever helped. An estimated 85,000 homes are immediately needed in reservations across the country even though only 2,200 will be built. And many of the poor reservations have natural resources that could make them rich, but they can never optimize the resources. For example, the Crow tribe sits on 9 billion tons of high-quality-coal but nobody will mine it because the unsteady legal issues and the property rights problem. Why should the successful reservation have to act white and rely off of gambling to be prosperous? Some Indians have conceived and idea. They are willing to give up being sovereign nations so they can integrate with America and build up their economies and use the American legal system. Unfortunately, the government pays 2.5 billion a year on programs that deter Indians from getting change. Even though reservations have varying levels of success, they all have the potential to do more if we let them.