Bulldoze the Memorial: Typical Treatment for Native Americans

A couple of years ago, construction workers dug up a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound in Oxford, Alabama, to make way for a Sam’s Club. What was once a site like the majestic mounds in Cahokia, Illinois, where ancient Native Americans may have performed funeral rites, is now a barren dirt hill with a few trees atop it — a forgotten and damaged monument whose fate parallels that of many Native Americans as a result of sequestration.

The $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that went into effect March 1 under sequestration (which resulted from Congress being unable to reach a budget deal all the way back in 2011) have cut funding for firefighting and for the military, taken a huge toll on national parks, shortchanged students and made things worse for victims of domestic violence. But the pain is arguably being felt the most on American Indian reservations.

While many programs that benefit low-income Americans including Medicaid, tax credits for working families and food stamps were exempted from the sequester’s cuts, “virtually none” that aid American Indians — programs in the departments of interior, education, health and human services and agriculture — were spared, says the New York Times.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs once directly provided services to tribes; they now operate farther removed, contracting with tribal governments who then provide the actual services. Some tribes, such as those who operate casinos in well-traveled areas, have felt far less pain from the cuts.

However, a disproportionately high number of people in Native American communities work for the government and sequestration’s budget cuts have fallen especially hard on them. One such place is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where average per capita income is less than $8,000 and unemployment is 85 percent. The vast majority of the reservation’s $80 million budget for its 40,000 members comes from the government. Sequestration has meant cuts to police forces in a place where many young people have joined gangs and where alcohol and methamphetamine abuse is widespread.

Many tribal leaders have been lobbying the federal government to protect their tribes from sequestration. Their reasoning stems from legal grounds as well as moral ones. As the New York Times says:

The tribes contend that the federal government does not just disburse money to them through federal programs. It meets its nation-to-nation treaty obligation to provide certain services to American Indians. Viewed in that light, a cut is not just a cut but a broken legal promise, and one in a long line of them.

Robert Brave Heart Sr., the executive vice president of the Red Cloud Indian School on the reservation, explains how sequestration had made long-standing problems worse beyond what was thought possible:

Imagine how people feel who can’t help themselves. It’s a condition that a lot of people believe is the result of the federal government putting them in that position, a lot of people are set up for failure. People have no hope and no ability whatsoever to change their fate in life. You take resources that they have, that are taken away, it just adds to the misery.

That misery is causing deep suffering right now with families struggling to live in leaking trailers and mental health programs disappearing from communities where the suicide rate is nearly four times the national average. But the results of the budget cuts could last long into the future. Sequestration has meant $12 million in funding has disappeared for American Indian Head Start programs, depriving the next generation of invaluable early childhood education and also nutrition in the form of subsidized meal programs.

The destruction of the ceremonial mound in Oxford, Alabama, is another sign of the U.S.’s disregard for its indigenous people, also apparent in the cuts to vital programs. The pain of sequestration is only adding to the U.S.’s troubled legacy of broken promises and injustice  towards Native Americans.


Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani4 years ago

I just got this in and thought it might be interesting for the Australians in the Care2 community ... and for others too. Have a look at another one of those "sins from the White Man":

http://www.cultureislife.org/?utm_source=Full Our Generation list Aug 2013&utm_campaign=be4dc4bd38-Culture_Is_Life_Launch8_2_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_589e5ede1b-be4dc4bd38-24134973

The Aborigines might not live in reservations like in the US but are their lives truly that much better? We take their lands, their livelihood, destroy their culture and ... dump them! Is that really all we can do? Don't we have something more going for us?

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago

D I S G R A C E F U L ! ! !

Eleonora Oldani
Eleonora Oldani4 years ago

To Robert H - you say: "... we don't seem able to do anything about ..."

That was the common saying in Egypt for some 40 years. Once the nooze became too tight for the people to breath and they didn't know anymore how to feed they're kids in the evening (not even the next day!) the people took to the streets - and again - and again - and again.

We're far from a perfect situation but we're hopefully on the right path and stick with it. It's not easy but it's do-able.

Good luck!

If you're interested - this was last night at 9pm: http://s1281.photobucket.com/user/Rebell14/media/EtihadeyaPalace9pm260713_zpse20c093f.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0#/user/Rebell14/media/EtihadeyaPalace9pm260713_zpse20c093f.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0&_suid=1374923699981022757349017546968

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy4 years ago

I am sorry for Native Americans but come on.... those fools in Washington are hurting us all and we don't seem able to do anything about. Give us real suggestions for an answer to this terrible problem.

C. W.
Coleen W4 years ago

HOW can Congress have the gall and lack of shame to force this sequestration.......furlough people, cut moneys to those who need it the most AND THEN not cut their own salaries one penny......THOUGH they are the reason we are in this mess.

C. W.
Coleen W4 years ago


Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak4 years ago

Sequestration was just a smoke screen to cut the deficit on the backs of those that can least be able to fight back.

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F4 years ago


Frances Darcy
Frances D4 years ago

Thanks for the article