All in all, a bad week for Indians

By Tom Joyce -

Tom Joyce

In an era of Black Lives Matter and loud support for Mexican illegals and refugees from Syria and Cuba, concerns of Native Americans get drowned out — rarely drawing as much attention as they have in the past week.

That includes the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline protest, along with issues in the baseball world surrounding the Cleveland Indians.

Native Americans mostly live an overshadowed existence, a forgotten people sequestered to reservations rampant with such problems as high unemployment and alcoholism — an “out of sight, out of mind” situation few others care about.

As the U.S. government and much of society strangely goes out of their way to cater to undocumented immigrants or make sure thousands of Syrian refugees get comfortably assimilated into our society with housing and jobs, people with a lawful right to be here are ignored.

That pretty much goes for rank-and-file Americans in need of jobs and other resources to escape poverty, which seems to be stifled in every way with bad trade deals and the like.

And any problems faced by the population at large are only magnified among Native Americans, with some tribes/reservations experiencing jobless rates of 50 percent or higher, for example, compared to around 5 percent for society overall.

Every fifth-grader knows how Europeans came to the New World and essentially robbed Native Americans of their lands and tried to destroy their culture through military actions, displacements and the intentional spread of disease.

Oh, and by the way, the government violated every treaty it had with the Cherokee, Sioux, etc. whenever some “greater” interest emerged, such as a discovery of gold in Indian territories or other economic reasons.

Yet if you think this was just a 19th-century phenomenon, think again, as the Dakota Access Pipeline protest provides a reminder that government and Big Money are just as disrespectful of Native Americans as ever — if not more.

In recent days, police in riot gear have shot rubber bullets and used pepper spray on demonstrators near the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota. There also have been reports of protesters being bitten by dogs.

Thousands rightfully have gathered there to oppose the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, with activists setting up dozens of teepees and more than 100 tents on private property — directly in the path of the planned 1,172-mile, $3.78-billion oil pipeline.

In doing this, Native American protesters declared “eminent domain,” explaining that they were reclaiming land granted to the Great Sioux Nation in an 1851 treaty, but later taken away.

The Native American contingent established what it called the “Treaty Stronghold Camp” to keep the pipeline project from moving toward the Missouri River, where a spill could jeopardize its water supply and that of 17 million other Americans.

It’s interesting how police have handled racial protesters in U.S. cities with kid gloves, but basically mounted full-scale military operations against the Indians.

The truth is, the occasions are few and far between when some corporation wanting to build a pipeline or similar facility is kept from doing so ANYWHERE. Governmental policy and regulatory agencies always seem to favor these companies, such as allowing surveyors to invade private property without permission.

And if opponents file lawsuits, you can bet the courts will side with the corporations. If all else fails, there’s eminent domain, the seizing of property for some alleged greater public good.

Being a native Virginian, I’m monitoring protests over pipeline projects in that state. And despite all the public hearings and other dog-and-pony shows involved, there’s no doubt in my mind the companies behind them will end up getting what they want.

Here again, such problems are playing out on a larger scale among Native Americans in North Dakota, but thankfully people who usually are ignored now are getting the national attention they deserve.

And if things weren’t bad enough with Native American-related issues, the Cleveland Indians lost the World Series four games to three Wednesday night, after having enjoyed a 3-1 series lead over the Cubs.

To make matters worse, the team also has come under fire lately for its “Chief Wahoo” logo some consider demeaning to Native Americans.

Well, at least no one in Cleveland is being pepper-sprayed, and the North Dakota crisis shows there are clearly bigger fish to fry regarding Indian affairs than a logo.

Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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