This has probably not even shown up on anyone’s radar with all that has been going on (you know…Tiger shacking up, the recession, the new Harry Potter movie).
But almost 225 years after the US Government screwed the American Indians they may actually be slightly unscrewing them.
That said … I am imagining that simply giving them their land back isn’t really an option. Therefore … giving them money seems the way the US Government has elected to address the issue. After maybe 13 years or so in the US Government legal system, it seems earlier this week some judge took the proverbial buffalo by the horns and made a decision.
Here is an overview of the restitution case: (just telling you so I can get to what I want to say):
In the Cobell v. Salazar case, funds are awarded based on the legal principle of restitution in contract law, which attempts to restore a rightful owner to his or her previous state by compensating him or her for loss, damage, or injury. All based on trusts as a legacy of an 1887 law/treaty that put Indian lands into individual trusts (wow. Even now that looks like a beautiful scam to screw them from money AND land). The restitution is set for $3.4 billion (an admitted fraction of the real value). And it only goes to living descendants (many American Indians without descendants passed on before the courts could make a decision).
I think we can all admit we screwed them over pretty good.
To be clear. I am not a “give money to pay off bad deeds” sort of guy.
Too many things can happen to that money as it weaves its way through government dispensation groups and “restitution stewards” and things like that (Ok. So maybe I am not the most trusting guy. But we are talking about 3.4 billion so give me a break).
I imagine I may not be thinking of restitution simply in terms of limited dollars and cents. In fact, I am sure through some PhD-actuarial-voodoo-accounting people figured out exactly the value of “what we screwed them out of in today’s value” and came up with a number (and then decreased it by 90% to accommodate government administrative expenses).
I guess that is one way of doing it.
How about we attempt to take steps to right the wrong?
How about make sure every American Indian kid has an Apple, or PC, computer and internet access in their home?
How about making sure each American Indian child has a school with great teachers to attend?
How about making sure every American Indian child has a roof to live under, clothes to wear and food to eat?
Looking backwards with restitution is tough. Do we give money to bitter adults (ok, that was a sweeping generalization to make a point) or try to fix the problem?
The American Indian elderly. This group has toiled through maximum ‘screwedness’ as well as they are the keepers of American Indian heritage.
They should be treated as the sage keepers of heritage and given the reward for waiting.
Does this mean send them all to Hawaii on a cruise ship? Nope. It means building appropriate housing and care for them. The elderly (not just American Indian) represent a knowledge base of learning and lore and experience that should be cherished and nurtured (and even more so within the American Indian culture).
Is what I am suggesting a practical restitution?
Heck. I doubt it.
But as a quasi-business guy I tend to look at solutions from the bottom up…what do we think is the right thing to do tactically and how much will it cost (instead of saying “hey, what is the value of this nebulous thing we have been debating for almost 2 decades?)
Smarter minds than I are slaving over this. All I can say is in the end I am fairly sure the American Indian is still going to get screwed. Just not as screwed as they were before.
Maybe we should remember the wise words of… well…an American Indian.
Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota leader who led his people against the U.S. Army and later as his people transitioned from life on the plains to the reservation, stressed that when Indian people made a decision, it should be done with the welfare of the next seven generations in mind.
Maybe we should admit this guy was smart enough to offer a solution even 225 years ago or so.
Maybe we should honor Red Cloud’s vision, and impact ‘seven generations’ with whatever monies have been deemed “restitution”.
We can make the American dream of a prosperous future for the American Indian descendants a reality.
Maybe we can unscrew a pretty screwed up situation. And maybe we can take solace in the fact that it is never too late to right a wrong.