5 Ways The Government Keeps Native Americans In Poverty

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5 Ways The Government Keeps Native Americans In Poverty
Capital Flows, Contributor
Mar 13, 20146:07 AM330,165
By Shawn Regan

Imagine if the government were responsible for looking after your best interests. All of your assets must be managed by bureaucrats on your behalf. A special bureau is even set up to oversee your affairs. Every important decision you make requires approval, and every approval comes with a mountain of regulations.

How well would this work? Just ask Native Americans.

The federal government is responsible for managing Indian affairs for the benefit of all Indians. But by all accounts the government has failed to live up to this responsibility. As a result, Native American reservations are among the poorest communities in the United States. Here’s how the government keeps Native Americans in poverty.

Indian lands are owned and managed by the federal government.


Chief Justice John Marshall set Native Americans on the path to poverty in 1831 when he characterized the relationship between Indians and the government as “resembling that of a ward to his guardian.” With these words, Marshall established the federal trust doctrine, which assigns the government as the trustee of Indian affairs. That trusteeship continues today, but it has not served Indians well.

Underlying this doctrine is the notion that tribes are not capable of owning or managing their lands. The government is the legal owner of all land and assets in Indian Country and is required to manage them for the benefit of Indians.

But because Indians do not generally own their land or homes on reservations, they cannot mortgage their assets for loans like other Americans. This makes it incredibly difficult to start a business in Indian Country. Even tribes with valuable natural resources remain locked in poverty. Their resources amount to “dead capital”—unable to generate growth for tribal communities.

Nearly every aspect of economic development is controlled by federal agencies.

All development projects on Indian land must be reviewed and authorized by the government, a process that is notoriously slow and burdensome. On Indian lands, companies must go through at least four federal agencies and 49 steps to acquire a permit for energy development. Off reservation, it takes only four steps. This bureaucracy prevents tribes from capitalizing on their resources.

It’s not uncommon for years to pass before the necessary approvals are acquired to begin energy development on Indian lands—a process that takes only a few months on private lands. At any time, an agency may demand more information or shut down development. Simply completing a title search can cause delays. Indians have waited six years to receive title search reports that other Americans can get in just a few days.

The result is that many investors avoid Indian lands altogether. When development does occur, federal agencies are involved in every detail, even collecting payments on behalf of tribes. The royalties are then distributed back to Indians—that is, if the government doesn’t lose the money in the process.

Reservations have a complex legal framework that hinders economic growth.


Thanks to the legacy of federal control, reservations have complicated legal and property systems that are detrimental to economic growth. Jurisdiction and land ownership can vary widely on reservations as a result of the government’s allotment policies of the nineteenth century. Navigating this complex system makes development and growth difficult on Indian lands.

One such difficulty is fractionated land ownership. Federal inheritance laws required many Indian lands to be passed in equal shares to multiple heirs. After several generations, these lands have become so fractionated that there are often hundreds of owners per parcel. Managing these fractionated lands is nearly impossible, and much of the land remains idle.

Energy regulations make it difficult for tribes to develop their resources.

Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow Tribe in Montana, puts it plainly: “The war on coal is a war on our families and our children.” Coal provides the greatest economic opportunity for the impoverished tribe, but regulations are making it hard for the tribe to capitalize on their natural resources. Some are even trying to prevent the tribe from exporting coal to Asia.

The federal government has repeatedly mismanaged Indian assets.


Tribes historically had little or no control over their energy resources. Royalties were set by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the agency consistently undervalued Indian resources. A federal commission concluded in 1977 that leases negotiated on behalf of Indians were “among the poorest agreements ever made.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten much better. A recent class action suit alleged that the government mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian assets. The case settled in 2009 for $3.4 billion—far less than what was lost by the feds.

Reservations contain valuable natural resources worth nearly $1.5 trillion, according to a recent estimate. But the vast majority of these resources remain undeveloped because the federal government gets in the way. Ron Crossguns of the Blackfeet Tribe recently put it this way: “It’s our right. We say yes or no. I don’t think the outside world should come out here and dictate to us what we should do with our properties.”

As long as tribes are denied the right to control their own resources, they will remain locked in poverty and dependence. But if tribes are given the dignity they deserve, they will have the opportunity to unleash the tremendous wealth of Indian nations.

Shawn Regan is a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and the author of the new report “Unlocking the Wealth of Indian Nations: Overcoming Obstacles to Tribal Energy Development.”
I watched an awesome movie on an airplane about how bad things are on Indian Reservations. If it ran in theaters I totally missed it. It’s called Wind River. I liked it for many reasons - it’s a “modern day western” and murder mystery. And it was filmed in Utah, and it's about the Wind River Indian Reservation and talks about and is set in names of towns and places where I know. I watched it 3 times on a trip to Japan, it's one of those kind of shows where there are subtle clues dropped through out that are easy to miss then get wrapped together at the conclusion so I watched it several times to catch all those clues. And heck, I figured for a $1700 ticket to the theater I should get my money's worth :)

Plane movies are edited for language and content so please be aware - there was a very graphic rape scene that may be even worse in an unedited version.

But overall a great movie that depicts very well the realities mentioned in Waterbaby’s article.
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I'm having a hard time understanding how this is relevant to Lake Powell. While I am very much disturbed by this mistreatment of our Native Americans by the inept government management of their lives, how is this an issue for Lake Powell? While Lake Powell is the northern boundry of a reservation, it is not part of the reservation. So, how is this relevant? I'm not throwing stones; I'm just curious to know if there is a connection not made clear in the article you posted.

I'm having a hard time understanding how this is relevant to Lake Powell. While I am very much disturbed by this mistreatment of our Native Americans by the inept government management of their lives, how is this an issue for Lake Powell? While Lake Powell is the northern boundry of a reservation, it is not part of the reservation. So, how is this relevant? I'm not throwing stones; I'm just curious to know if there is a connection not made clear in the article you posted.

I like to think that the discussion board here is things we might talk about if we were all sitting around a campfire at Lake Powell. :)
I like to think that the discussion board here is things we might talk about if we were all sitting around a campfire at Lake Powell. :)
I would guess you are not alone and I can respect that. But for me, I only come here for information on Lake Powell specific issues and knowledge. Campfire discussions are a whole different venue. Tight lines to you and yours and I hope we can share a campfire someday. :D
The Rez is close enough for me to see interest in Waterbabie's discussion. It is unfortunate what taking pride away from a people does to their culture. History is full of such cases. No disrespect to you dubob.
Dubob, If you are only interested in fishing & recreation, don't read the issues page.
Dubob, If you are only interested in fishing & recreation, don't read the issues page.
First off, I took that as a very sarcastic remark. Second, I have not stated anywhere in this post what my interests are with regard to Lake Powell. And for the record, my interest here DOES include the issues directly associated with Lake Powell.

There was nothing in the OP's post with a direct link to Lake Powell. The article did specifically mention a reservation in Montana, but nothing about any specific reservations in Utah/Arizona. And while the deplorable actions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs should be of concern to all of us, I found little, if any, application specific to Lake Powell in the article - and I still don't since Lake Powell does not reside within any Indian reservation in whole or in part. I thought I was being civil in my reply to Waterbaby and indicated I meant no disrespect to him or anybody else on this forum. It would seem I missed the mark on that with you.

Since I do visit Lake Powell a couple of times each year, I AM interested in the issues that directly impact the facility. Therefore, I will continue to read the 'Lake Powell Issues' forum and comment when I see fit to do so. And I'll do so with civility and respect in most cases.
Thank you Waterbaby for the post, while not "directly" related to Lake Powell, it certainly relates to many of Lake Powell's neighbors. I'm glad that Dubob still has an effective sarcasm meter. They seem to be in short supply today, just like patience and common sense.
I recommend that we publish a list of Lake Powell related issues and publicly admonish anyone that deviates from those topics!

I believe someone should monitor all posts for content and to publish a weekly report. I'm not sure where to post it because a report about items unrelated to Lake Powell could not legitimately be considered to be related to Lake Powell and so it must be kept off of this site lest we violate our own rules.

I have reached out to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, et al. to gain the assistance of their censors but, they are swamped banning people and trashing free speach on their own sites.

I for one, nominate duboob dubob to be hall monitor 'Admonisher in Chief' and keeper of the reports which cannot be published here but must always be available to anyone that actually thinks it matters.

One more problem solved,
Sarcasm Detector upload_2018-3-19_12-17-24.pngLest there be any doubt.
"There, now we can be friends again.":)
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Now as to the relevance of WB's post.
To wit:
  1. "thence upstream in Arizona and Utah along the north boundary of the reservation to a point where said north boundary intersects a contour line the elevation of which is 3,720 mean sea level" section from PUBLIC LAW 86-868-SEPT. 2, 1958 established from the Exchange Act of Sept 2, 1958 (72 Stat. 1686). determines all land on the southern shore of Lake Powell including the San Juan arm to be Navajo Land above 3,720' MSL.
  2. upload_2018-3-19_13-13-42.png
  3. Antelope Point Marina, Rainbow Bridge and everything else on the southern shore of Lake Powell twenty feet above the high water mark is part of the Navajo Nation.
  4. So dubob when you are working on the list of permissible topics to be discussed in the "Lake Powell Issues" section, WB's post was wholly appropriate and should be included.
My daughter is married to a native. He went to college, is a captain in the Marine Corp, got his masters degree, and moved off of the rez. No one put a fence around their tribal land and kept him in. However, if you choose to stay on the rez and let the government "manage" you, I suppose that is one choice.

Well silly me; here, all along, I’ve been thinking Waynes Words forums were for civil discussions. I can see from this thread that this is definitely not the case. The anal openings are alive and well on this site as well as the other Utah fishing websites.

But then, I did start it on this thread by daring to accuse someone of being sarcastic. What was I thinking? I guess I should have just thanked him and moved on. It’s comical how so many of you have gotten your panties in a knot over a simple request for relevancy that was in no way mean spirited or disrespectful. If the anal openings in the Bureau of Indian Affairs were taking some immediate action on the Navaho reservation adjacent to Lake Powell that will impact John Q Public on a regular basis, then that would be relevant.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least nobody has come forward with information that would suggest that is the case. So, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is treating all Native Americans, including the ones that live adjacent to Lake Powell, with callous disregard and disrespecting them at every opportunity. I’m saddened by the knowledge. But it isn’t anything new as its been going on for decades. And it will have absolutely no impact on my future fishing trips to Lake Powell.

So, to me – and me alone – the article has absolutely NO relevance to Lake Powell. Those that believe it is relevant, carry on and enjoy whatever it is that makes you happy. And for the anal openings that are all bent out of shape because I dared to even question the relevancy, have fun tearing all my posts apart on this thread and attacking me personally. I’ll be missing all of it because dealing with anal openings on this thread isn’t going to continue for me past this post.

Would have thought your skin would get thicker with age but you let someone (or two) get under yours mighty easy. I have enjoyed your posts in the past and am surprised to see you so effected. Your reactions do nothing more than encourage those you get fun out of seeing someone shook up. My mother always told those around me "ignore him or you will only encourage him" I am a horrible tease but mean no malice but do get a little kick from over reaction. By the was what is meant by an anal opening?
Issues is a free-for-all. And has been discussed in great length in the past. You'll just have to get over it....Dubob :cool:
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dubob, I'm not sure exactly what you are saying.Cat Sharpening Claws.gif

OK you got me.
Here is a booking photo of my humble self.
You can keep it.
I carry several in wallet size and find it comes in quite handy.
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