There was some more propaganda going around not long ago. I wish I had saved it, as I so often do, but unfortunately I was so annoyed with it, I didn’t bother. Like so many things within indigenous circles, it usually takes extensive sleuthing within the online communities to find our memes and infographs such as this one, rather than the simple google search of the more mainstream.
It was a photo of an indigenous woman (a lawyer, I think? and also Republican) was quoting Russel Means’s address to Senate. She elaborates on how the poverty and council corruption is proof that socialism is a failure and why we cannot be fooled by seeing representatives like Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids and especially Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Look. I know everyone likes using AOC to refer to her, but I think there’s a huge missed opportunity and from me to you, Alexandria, if you ever see this, I will always call you Alee-O.)
Pan out. Though. The Russel Means quote used is this: “If you want to see an example of failed socialism, go to an Indian reservation.”
Russel Means did not say this; he did not say this alone, anyway. Quote mining is a propagandists’ tool which has sadly proliferated among mainstream news sources. It has always been a deception among conspiracy theorists, Christian apologists, and pseudo-scientists, but has grained a more mainstream standing as these voices are endorsed and encouraged by the recent reactionary movement of the Republican Party and current POTUS.
The quote from transcription: “I have paraphrased the former Secretary of the Department of the Interior, James Watt: If you want to see an example of failed socialism, go to an Indian reservation.”
The misquote used in the inform is another example of a more powerful body misappropriating the plight and struggles of Native Americans in order to falsify compassion, further their agenda, and expand that narrative.
I do not believe this was Russel’s intentions either, when examining the speech in full. But it still stands that I should explain and have a full argument outside the appeal to authority fallacy being employed here.
In Unbreakable Strength: Healing from Intergenerational Trauma as an Indigenous Woman, Agnes Woodward explicates, “The governments created reservations as a means to remove Indigenous People from the land and its resources. It was assimilation by isolation. Removing us from our lands ensured a state of poverty and all the accompanying social problems. Our communities are still ravaged by these policies. Suicide, addictions, and violence plague us. Then we get blamed for it.”
To suggest that looking at a Native American reservation as anything but what it is – attempting to suggest that the social, government, or economic structures imposed and developed on the Rez is akin to anything else is inherently incorrect. We are not talking about concentration/internment camps, though the parallels there are potentially the most arguably accurate, nor are we talking about any Bolshevik Revolution, or a nation of immigrants, no civil majority moved by an ideology. None of this.
Quite literally, the preceding statement of the misquote is: “In September of — of 1987, I moved from the poorest county in America, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, to the richest area in the country, the Navajo Indian reservation.” Several things demand to be examined between this comparison.
- Russel goes on to explain, “the poorest and richest reservations in our nation suffer from identical problems: mismanagement, a bloated patronage system, no checks and balances, and tribal governments’ waiver of sovereignty in order to initiate debt.” A waiver of sovereignty is not Socialism. Mismanagement is not Socialism. Clearly, there are more significant issues at work.
- Has there ever been an encompassing study which really examines the factors posed on reservations. For instance, the Navajo Indian Reservation left the Navajo on their native homelands, where they knew how to live for thousands of years. While Pine Ridge is within the area of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people, many of their most sacred lands were appropriated from them. One of the few scraps of Native History thrown to the US public school system is the Trail of Tears, which relocated (shocker) not ONLY the Cherokee off of their homelands and lead hem on a death march to a new home, far away and significantly different from the lands of their ancestors. The choice in the level of sovereignty, debt, origin of the people on the land, access to resources and jobs, how much interference is occurring on those resources, are all massive factors that remain unexamined when looking at how to solve the poverty of reservation natives. One is not enough: they all have pull.
- In all reservations, resources are restricted and freely taken by external governments and companies. Standing Rock is the most recent example of how easily ignored and brushed aside the claim of “sovereignty for native people” actually is. The recent reinstatement of the Powhatan-Renape people of NJ after a nine year hiatus of federal recognition was admitted to be done due to fear that an inquest by the tribe for a casino on their land would draw revenue away from Ocean City and other NJ gambling tourism. (Despite this inquest never having even been suggested, merely that Chris Christie thought that ‘hey…. maybe they might do that someday?’)
We struggle to send funds and water to our relations from which Néstle syphons away their water with no payment at all to the nation living on the land. Those relations struggle to live. Meanwhile, the CEO of that foreign company impeding on and hiding behind the sovereignty of tribal nations from California to Canada states that the belief that human beings have a right to water is “extreme.” He has a right to water, but the people which he sells it to do not.
Is this Socialism?
*I’ve been writing these blogs under the impression they had a minimum of 800 words as opposed to a 500-700 word range. Well fuck. 🙂