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Native American Rights

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hiawatha_M._L._Kirk_-_1910.jpgThe people of standing rock North Dakota won a victory this week. The Army Corps of Engineers denied access to the Dakota pipeline. The pipeline, which is already 90% built, will be rerouted. Although exactly where it will be rerouted is still open to question. The pipeline route now being protested does not go through the current boundaries of the reservation, but the old reservation boundaries. And of course that change of boundary has also been contested, and rightfully so.

What is it like to have the land that was declared to be yours seized out from under you? People who have been affected by eminent domain could give you some answer to that. Although they could not speak to the cultural destruction that has been experienced by Native Americans.

Native Americans experience 80% unemployment. Native American women are the most likely demographic to be raped, with one in three reporting being raped in her lifetime. Over 30% of native children under the age of 6 will experience an emergency room visit in any given year.

Contrary to common belief, reservations do not protect Native Americans. Reservations are owned by the government and the citizens who live there are subject to any whim of any politician or bureaucrat. They have almost no say in what they can or cannot do with it.

If you're Native American living on the reservation, your business might close down because you are not legally allowed to hang out the sign announcing the presence of your business. You may not be allowed to sell property that you legally own to your neighbor because the government says that the price that the two of you have agreed-upon is not fair.

Without the basic legal rights afforded to all American citizens, native Americans are doomed to poverty and want. I submit that all native Americans should fully and completely own the land on which they live. All tribes were pushed onto land that was considered useless and valueless at the time the reservations were created. Those lands should immediately be turned over to the people who live there, and all government interest and control of that property withdrawn. It is worth noting that such lands were often offered for homesteading by the government because they wanted people to live there and be productive. Which is something for which native people have to fight, as if they weren’t human citizens.

American citizens have the right to pursue happiness. Native Americans are citizens, and have that right in equal measure. Let them pursue it.



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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


  • Rianna Stone
    Rianna Stone Tuesday, 06 December 2016

    Please tell me where you got your information from because I would love to know. You said, and I quote, "Reservations are owned by the government and the citizens who live there are subject to any whim of any politician or bureaucrat. They have almost no say in what they can or cannot do with it. If you're Native American living on the reservation, your business might close down because you are not legally allowed to hang out the sign announcing the presence of your business." I certainly hope you have a reference for this because this is one of the grossest misstatements I have seen in a long time. Are you basing this article off of your opinions because it certainly does not seem to be based in fact.

    I did a little search on the Indian Affairs website and I found this:
    "Furthermore, federally recognized tribes possess both the right and the authority to regulate activities on their lands independently from state government control. They can enact and enforce stricter or more lenient laws and regulations than those of the surrounding or neighboring state(s) wherein they are located. Yet, tribes frequently collaborate and cooperate with states through compacts or other agreements on matters of mutual concern such as environmental protection and law enforcement."

    Now, is it just me or does this seem to contradict what you are putting out there as fact? Don't get me wrong. Native people's have been grossly mistreated in the past and they have to be ever vigilant to stop those who would try to take advantage of them today. I live in central Oklahoma. I cannot drive across almost any county without crossing into a Tribal Nation. The tribes receive many benefits, that although they are not perfect, provide many services. Native peoples are not these sad groups of rag tag people that are being unjustly treated on a daily basis as you tried to make out. The Choctaws and Chickasaws in particular are doing very well in our state.

    Also, have you even bothered to do some research into what is going on at Standing Rock? The pipeline was never going to go through tribal land, just beside it. There is only one intake valve in that river that is downstream from where the pipeline would have went through and it's being closed later this month. Their water is coming from an entirely different source that is not impacted by the pipeline. Also, the tribe was given many opportunities over that time to voice any concerns and they didn't come to any of the meetings or contact the oil company. The oil company tried many times during the planning phase to meet with the tribal elders but they got no response. There are archeologists, historians, and all sorts of qualified people involved in this project to make sure that things were respected and changes were made when necessary. This whole thing has been a social media feeding frenzy. This is what happens when social warriors jump on the meme bandwagon and don't do any research into what it is they are feeling all indignant about today. When I first saw this story I felt the same way...and then I got some facts. I will stand up for any group that is being taken advantage of but I don't believe Standing Rock falls into that category at the moment. So please, do a little research. And if I'm wrong, I'll be more than happy to admit it but show me some hard core proof first. Oh, and by the way, they've known since 2014 that this pipeline was being built so it's not like this was suddenly sprung on them. Here are some links for anyone who cares to take a look. This is the Indian Affairs website This is a really good article with several links to additional documents regarding this case

  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin Wednesday, 07 December 2016

    My source is Naomi Schaefer Riley who wrote The New Trail of Tears She spent years visiting reservations and speaking with actual Native Americans. However well some tribes are doing, they still deserve to have complete control over the land where they live. Due to government ownership, no one who lives on such land can use it as leverage to start a business. You can't mortgage land you don't own. Nor can you benefits from any resources that happen to be there without serious negotiation. It is a matter of record that the government has mismanaged mineral leases to the tune of billions of dollars. Obama's attempt to push through a few of the pending lawsuits is barely a drop in the bucket.

    It is also the case that the policing on tribal land is utterly inadequate, as evidenced by the level of violence endured by the tribes weakest members. Some of the reservations in the US might as well be third world countries. Health issues are rampant.
    According to Pew, and the US census, a quarter are in poverty.

    It's good that your local tribes seem to be doing well. That being said, would it not be better for them to be able to be self-directed and responsible, and able to fully decide what to do with their property rather than dependent on government assistance?

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