In April 2018 US president Donald J. Trump announced his plan that Native Americans be reclassified as a race instead of sovereign nations. Native Health Care would thus be disbanded and Native Americans thrust to use Medicaid and it’s faulty system of providing health care.
This is the first shot in Trump’s efforts to continue racist policies of the past to eradicate Native American rights and assimilate them into mainstream American society where Anglo-Saxon culture reigns supreme. In the US this means assimilation into a society increasingly dominated by the ruling elite, where the middle class is fast disappearing and the class system becoming ever more rigid.
Trump’s admiration of the genocidal president Andrew Jackson and his bloody legacy of mistreatment of Native Americans, speaks volumes about his mindset. An important part of his support base is among declared racist groups, paranoid gun-toters and militia groups. Most of them share his racist views of Native Americans. Sharing this little-man ideology of hating everything that makes life beautiful and vibrant; to these people Native Americans give colour to their black-and-white world view. And they hate them for it.
For Trump however, the mission that tromps every other in his mind is gaining more money. Follow the money stupid! is a line that describes most of Trump’s actions. Impulsive and rarely thinking about long term consequences, his actions, illegal as they probably are, will however damage Native Americans in their struggle for fair rights as sovereign nations.
Native Americans suffered from the very first day Europeans set foot on American soil. Greed, prejudice, genocide, disease epidemics, murder, rape, land-theft, cultural and physical extermination. In North America the policy was to exterminate Native Americans. Those who survived were locked up on unproductive land that looked more like refugee camps than any human settlement. Since that time Native Americans have had to struggle for their very existence, culturally, mentally and physically. Their rights were taken away, their children taken away to forced-conversion gulags, known as ‘residential schools’ across the US and Canada, their culture was banned and their identity as well. They were people under siege.
Modern day suffering includes among other things powerlessness, mental scarring from decades of mental, sexual and physical abuse in a school system often run officially by religious congregations but in reality by child-molesters. Laws or lack thereof makes it easy for sexual offenders to commit a crime on local women on Indian reservations. Tribal police cannot prosecute white offenders for crimes committed on reservation land and county law enforcement is also unable to take on cases on Indian reservations. Unemployment is very high on many reservations and with that alcoholism and substance abuse. In a few cases reservations have managed to become economically powerful, like in Quebec City and Connecticut. In those instances wealth has been distributed more evenly to tribal members than in is usual in the surrounding white society.
Today the US federal government deals with federally recognized tribes as sovereign nations. In reality the tribal governments have limited powers to control their own affairs and determine their future. The paternalistic attitude within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and other US governmental agencies dealing with Native American affairs, hinders most meaningful independent actions that tribal governments can take. Local development and future planning on economic matters is thus nearly impossible to achieve without a lengthy, costly and complicated struggle.
What however is needed is a total reorganization of US territories and governmental structure to correct past wrongs and give Native Americans the legal basis to secure them from misguided actions of people like Trump and his associates. Whether that will ever happen only the future can tell.