Posts tagged native americans
The Color of Wealth: Land Rich, Dirt Poor: Challenges to Asset Building in Native America - intro
American Indian tribes are the single largest private landholders in the United States today. But their relationships to this wealth is different than any other group of Americans.
Imagine for a moment that you have inherited a large amount of wealth and property from a rich uncle in Texas. After celebrating your good fortune, you would probably seek to manage and protect this wealth in the best way possible. You may visit with an attorney to set up a trust fund to provide for you and your children. You would receive quarterly statements communicating the particulars of this trust fund-how much wealth it generated in a year, how your money has been invested, how much you are being charged in fees and service costs. More importantly, you would receive regular payments from this trust. If you were dissatisfied with the way your trust fund was being manages, you would have the freedom to hire a new attorney or trust manager, and would see the most qualified person to manage your valuable assets.
And what about the land in Texas, rich with oil? You would seek to secure the best possible lease for the oil, and would closely monitor the revenues generated from this valuable natural resource. If you felt that you were receiving lower than market rate for your product, you would work to find a new contract that would generate the highest possible return for your goods. If you suspected that your business manager was not finding he best contracts for your oil, you would fire him or her.
These basic principles of asset management are followed by most people who own wealth in America. Yet these basic principles are not available to Native Americans, whose wealth is managed for them by the federal government. The wealth of Native Americans, including the land, natural resources, and income generated from such resources, is “held in trust” for hem, meaning that the federal government controls when and how the land is leased, how much money the oil and gas and other resources sell for, and how the money earned is distributed. U.S. courts have ruled that there is a trustee-beneficiary relationship between tribes and the U.S. government, similar to a guardian and a ward, and from this legal opinion emerges the modern paternalistic relationship toward Indian tribes.
Stemming from the doctrine of trust responsibility, the federal government (through the Bureau of Indian Affairs) controls the management of Indian resources “for their best interest.” While in writing it may have appeared that the United States government was interested in “protecting” tribal resources, in reality the federal government has mismanaged them, depriving the tribes of untold revenue.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the treaties entered into with the federal government create a legal relationship between the Indian tribes and the federal government. The government must respect the sovereignty of the tribes and provide “food, services and clothing to the tribes.” In exchange for taking Indian lands and restricting tribes to reservation lands set aside for their use, the federal government would be held under the “moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust” to the tribes. The Seminole Nation v. United States decision in 1942 defined the government duty to keep its promises and act in the best interests of the tribes “as doctrine of trust responsibility.”
While under the doctrine of trust responsibility the Unites States government may claim to manage tribal affairs for he best interests of tribes, this doctrine has in fact been applied in a paternalistic fashion over he past two hundred years. IN 1977, the American Indian Policy Review Commission reported to the U.S. Senate that “the Bureau of Indian Affairs… has used the trust doctrine as a means to develop a paternalistic control over the day-to-day affairs of Indian tribes and individuals.”
This doctrine of trust responsibility has affected American Indian tribes in two important ways: First, the trust responsibility promoted federal control of Indian assets, throughout U.S. history. Even in the last twenty years, as Native people have found new ways to create wealth, Congress has legislated new methods of exerting control that undermine Native sovereignty and take money out of the Native wealth pot. Although the original intention of the trust responsibility was to manage tribal resources for the best interests of the tribes, federal appropriation of Native wealth and federal mismanagement has led to lost resources and stolen funds. The facts are the basis for $137 billion lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Second, the trust responsibility has led to decades of federal policies intended to help Native Americans assimilate into mainstream white society. These policies included: forcing Indians to sell their tribal land to acquire cash; forcing Indians to sell their tribal land to acquire cash; forcing Indians to adopt Western farming techniques; and removing Indian children from their families to attend schools designed to assimilate them into mainstream society. Such policies have been used for nearly two centuries to coerce Native Americans to accept Western models of property ownership, promoting private property ownership instead of collective tribal property ownership, and have attempted to erode the cultural traditions that formed tribal communities and societies. Beyond the physical genocide practiced in the 1700s and 1800s, these policies resulted in cultural destruction as well.Note: the Cobell case (Cobell v. the United States Government) discovered that the income generated from the previously discussed resources which the government “held in trust” is gone. Billions of dollars, which belong to the Native American communities, have been stolen by the Untied States government