Guest Post — Ray Martin on the AEI Panel with Rep. Bishop and Naomi Riley

On January 30th, 2017 the American Enterprise Institute hosted a panel discussion entitled,  How federal policy affects Native Americans: Naomi Schafer Riley on her book, ‘The New Trail of Tears: How Washington is Destroying American Indians.’ A video of the panel can be found here. On the panel with Naomi Schafer Riley (NSR) were Congressman Rob Bishop R-Utah, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee which oversees Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives, Chris Edwards from the Cato Institute, and Keith Moore a former director of the Bureau of Indian Education.

The panel began with a talk from NSR regarding her book The New Trail of Tears (TNToT). The book has already been discussed at length here on Turtle Talk, Professor Fletcher’s commentary can be found here. The discussion at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was disheartening and alarming. NSR began by attacking the community at Pine Ridge for its poor retention of teachers, and went onto blast a former principal of a school for firing all of the Teach for America (TFA) teachers at that school because they “were too white.” While this may have once been true it is simply not the case anymore. What NSR fails to mention is that several of the Tribes in South Dakota have partnered with TFA to bring TFA to Indian reservations in South Dakota. For example in 2015, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe formed a partnership with TFA to recruit tribal members to become teachers in reservation schools. In 2013, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe passed a resolution supporting TFA and its efforts on their reservation; this followed a similar resolution passed by the Ogalala Sioux Tribal Council as well, supporting TFA’s efforts on Pine Ridge. Just over a year ago, the Rapid City Journal documented the ongoing relationship between TFA on Rosebud and Standing Rock, as well as at the Red Cloud Indian School on Pine Ridge.  Rather than giving her audience all of the information regarding the decisions that Tribal leaders are making to support the development of their youth, NSR retreats to portraying reservations as bleak and hopeless places where no child has a chance at receiving a decent education. Her claim that Tribes in South Dakota are unable or unwilling to partner with organizations like TFA does not stand on its merits, and is likely confined to the one incident in her talk, in which she cites an unnamed source. Continue reading

AEI Panel with Naomi Schaefer Riley & Rep. Bishop Live on YouTube at Noon Eastern

Here.

If you’re going to watch this, try skimming this first: “George Orwell and the Power of a Well-Placed Lie.”

UPDATE: And, no, I won’t watch it live because they have a live chat and that gives voice to people who are advocating for violent civil war and the mass murder of all “liberals.”

For Rep. Bishop: Repost of Fletcher Commentaries on “The New Trail of Tears”

Here:

  • The first commentary, “Framed by a Friend,” is here.
  • The second commentary, “Turning Indian History against Indians,” is here.
  • The third commentary, “Indians are Saudi Arabia, Not Israel (Oh, and Crying Toddlers)” is here.
  • The fourth commentary, “”Indians as Unmotivated, Dependent Victims” is here.
  • Monte Mills’ guest commentary is here.
  • The fifth commentary: “Tearing Down American Indian Educators and Parents” is here.
  • Commentary on NSR’s DAPL column is here.
  • The final commentary: “Repeating the Mistakes of the Past in ‘The New Trail of Tears,’” published in the LA Review of Books, is here.

Don’t forget Kelli Mosteller’s response to NSR in the Atlantic.

 

Final Commentary on TNToT: “Repeating the Mistakes of the Past in “The New Trail of Tears””

The final commentary on TNToT was published in the LA Review of Books

An excerpt:

Riley’s real interest is to bring unfettered free markets and “property rights” to Indian country. She suggests the disestablishment of tribal land holdings as the solution to imaginary corruption, as well as to all the other problems in Indian country. In other words, corruption and mismanagement starts with sovereignty and collective property, so if we get rid of both Indians will be better off. Unsurprisingly, Riley hearkens back to the allotment policies enshrined under the Dawes Act, a federal program in the 19th century that mandated the confiscation of Indian reservations by the federal government, followed by the liquidation of those assets at pennies on the dollar of their market value and their public sale to non-Indians on the cheap. It was a state-sponsored land grab of unprecedented proportions with negative effects on Indians still felt to this day. What an odd model for a property rights advocate! Allotment meant the dispossession of 100 million acres of Indian lands from 1887–1934 and economic devastation from which most tribes have not, and maybe cannot, recover. The depredations of the Dawes Act are a major reason why federal law and policy was reoriented to protect tribal lands and sovereignty, yet Riley’s ahistorical analysis ignores all of this.

Sixth Commentary on TNToT — Chapter 5: “Taking Indian Kids Away from Their Homes and Families”

This is the sixth full commentary on “The New Trail of Tears” (TNToT), a book written by Naomi Schaefer Riley (NSR or the author). The announcement post is here.

  • The first commentary, “Framed by a Friend,” is here.
  • The second commentary, “Turning Indian History against Indians,” is here.
  • The third commentary, “Indians are Saudi Arabia, Not Israel (Oh, and Crying Toddlers)” is here.
  • The fourth commentary, “”Indians as Unmotivated, Dependent Victims” is here.
  • Monte Mills’ guest commentary is here.
  • The fifth commentary: “Tearing Down American Indian Educators and Parents” is here.
  • Commentary on NSR’s DAPL column is here.

Chapter 5 is an outrage, with NSR implicitly advocating for the complete eradication of tribal communities because Indian tribes and the federal government have made them unlivable. This chapter deals with the Indian Child Welfare Act and Indian country justice. NSR continues to condemn Indian people for the same dog whistles — they’re lazy, ignorant, and dependent.

ICWA (or, Indian Country is Hell)

TNToT tees up a series of anti-ICWA advocates here, but never really makes the argument for why ICWA is bad. NSR’s goal here is to try to show that Indian country is an unlivable hellhole. NSR believes that “for too many children the best option is be raised elsewhere” [at 146]. TNToT quotes Elizabeth Morris (a vociferous anti-ICWA voicebox for the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare), who hopes that her own children won’t grow up in Minnesota Indian country [at 145]. Morris blames the federal government’s “subsidies” for her perception that Indian families are disintegrating. [at 150] For Morris, the government has “replace[d] the father in the home. . . .” [at 150] Further, “A man does need to feel needed. But the government took care of all that.” [at 150]

Morris is an evangelical Christian who firmly preaches the “drunken Indian” stereotype as fact. She also believes that Indian children should be raised by white families: “If they seriously wanted to protect children, they would have to send them off the rez and give them to white foster homes.” Morris is affiliated with the “Citizens Equal Rights Alliance,” a white nationalist group. These are NSR’s people, leading her down the primrose path to conclude: “[T]he reservation [is] no place for . . . children.” [at 167]

NSR also relies upon Mark Fiddler (the man who wants as many Indian children in foster care as possible: “If anything, there should be more Indian children put into foster care.”). Like Morris, Fiddler condemns Indian parents and reservation homes, referring to a “cycle of dysfunctional parenting.” [at 152] Fiddler also alleges: “And a disproportionately high number of Indian children are in danger every day.” [at 149-50] Foster care in off-reservation homes as a solution to the real problems in Indian child welfare is a really bad idea. I addressed these claims here:

Studies show what should be inherently understood—plucking children out of a community they know and putting them in stranger foster care is actively harmful to kids (there’s a reason Casey Family Programs is putting a billion dollars into reducing the number of kids in foster care). Eighty percent of child welfare removals are due to neglect. Our children do deserve better: better services, better wrap around care, a better understanding of the mental health issues and chemical dependency that plagues their parents. They don’t deserve to be taken from everything familiar—their neighborhood, schools, and extended family—because of system failures in our society.

Opposition to ICWA often comes from the private adoption market, as I wrote here:

Who benefits if ICWA tumbles? As usual, the answer can be found by following the money. Start with the beneficiaries of the $14 billion private adoption market. The adoption industry long has been a foe of ICWA. Conversely, Indian tribes do not profit from the termination of parents’ rights.

ICWA requires the state to seek an Indian family to adopt where possible, but private adoption agencies don’t get paid unless an adoption with a paying family goes through. In both direct placement adoptions and adoptions following failed reunifications with parents, money works against reunification with families and ICWA compliance. Some foster parents are encouraged by private agencies to become foster-to-adopt parents, altering the goal of foster care from reunification to termination for adoption. And being told they will be able to adopt their Indian foster children just as soon as the parents’ rights are terminated creates an adversarial relationship – not one that encourages the stated goal of reunification. In addition, fees charged by private and religious adoption agencies taint direct placement adoption petitions.

Continue reading

Commentary on Schaefer Riley’s Column on the DAPL Case

Naomi Schaefer Riley offered commentary on the Dakota Access Pipeline matter in her regular column in the New York Post, “How the Standing Rock Sioux should have been able to stop that pipeline.” This column continues NSR’s mockery of Indian peoples’ economic and cultural interests expressed in The New Trail of Tears.

The lede says it all:

Quick quiz: What’s the best way to stop a company from building an oil pipeline on a piece of land you find valuable? Answer: Buy the land.

Assuming that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other affected tribes had the resources to do so, it probably wouldn’t have mattered — energy companies usually just confiscate the land under their delegated power of eminent domain, as Dakota Access has. Sure, property ownership helps, but in the end, the law is tipped in the pipeline companies’ favor.

NSR cites to the Mormons (huh?) in a strange fictional scenario, and the friends of Langston Hughes in a more realistic scenario, who could purchase cultural property that might otherwise be destroyed through development:

But the results haven’t been satisfactory to the tribe. So let’s imagine a different scenario — in which any group of people in the United States wanted to block development on a certain site. Perhaps it’s the Mormons who hear a skyscraper will be going up in the place where Joseph Smith saw the golden tablets.

Or take a real-life example: The home where the poet Langston Hughes once lived is up for sale. A group of people want to turn it into a museum. In order to do so they’re raising money to buy the building from its current owner.

A pipeline developer’s power of eminent domain would wipe all that out. Really, the only thing that could stop the exercise of that power by an energy or utility company is tribal trust property, the very thing NSR criticizes as “dead capital,” to borrow Hernando de Soto’s phrase. Inspired by de Soto, NSR recommends (in a massive non sequitur) confiscating tribal trust property (never mind the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause) and awarding that property to individual Indians (much like she does in TNToT). The US tried that when it was called allotment and then again when it was called termination — both failed miserably. Peru tried it, too, following de Soto’s recommendations. Was it successful? Not so much. Other countries too (quoting from a Slate article that described the failures):

Reports from Turkey, Mexico, South Africa, and Colombia suggest similar trends. “In Bogota’s self-help settlements,” writes Alan Gilbert, a London professor of geography who has done extensive research on land issues in Colombia and other parts of Latin America, “property titles seem to have brought neither a healthy housing market nor a regular supply of formal credit.”

Indian country is the subject of a lot of predatory lending and redlining — NSR’s ideas very likely would mean massive windfalls for businesses exploiting poor people (kinda like Donald Trump’s claim that profiting from poor people in the housing crisis is “good business” in last night’s debate). Something tells me NSR doesn’t have the best interests of Indian people in mind.

 

 

Fifth Commentary on TNToT — Chapter 4: “Tearing Down American Indian Educators and Parents”

This is the fifth full commentary on “The New Trail of Tears” (TNToT), a book written by Naomi Schaefer Riley (NSR or the author). The announcement post is here.

  • The first commentary, “Framed by a Friend,” is here.
  • The second commentary, “Turning Indian History against Indians,” is here.
  • The third commentary, “Indians are Saudi Arabia, Not Israel (Oh, and Crying Toddlers)” is here.
  • The fourth commentary, “”Indians as Unmotivated, Dependent Victims” is here.
  • Monte Mills’ guest commentary is here.

Chapter 4 of TNToT is about Indian education. NSR praises certain schools (St. Labre, Red Cloud, for example) because they are private or charter schools, and condemns public schools (Crazy Horse and Wounded Knee schools) and their teachers and administrators, especially Cecilia Fire Thunder.

Ben Chavis

NSR opens chapter 5 with Ben Chavis, a free market advocate, who formerly was the lead administrator of the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, California. He was a conservative darling, written up in the National Review in 2009. He was often praised in those circles for these actions:

During his tenure at the chain from 2000 to 2012, he was criticized for lodging punishments designed for what he called in his book “extra embarrassment.” He once shaved the head of a misbehaving student caught repeatedly stealing; some unruly students were forced to wear humiliating signs. And Chavis often referred to black students as “darkies.”

Ultimately he was caught misappropriating $3.8 million in school funds and forced out. It wasn’t his physical and emotional abuse, or his overt bigotry, it was his money management (and some serious self-dealing). Sadly, this continues NSR’s trend of quoting critics of Indian people and tribal governments that have a history of significantly unethical behavior (see Keith Moore and Stacy Phelps in chapter 3 — NSR does mention Moore’s trouble with the feds on page 141-42, but not Phelps — must be rough to find out your sources are apparently crooks].

NSR points out that Chavis has relocated to North Carolina and started a new school in Robeson County, Lumbee Country. His new math camp was based on similar principles as the Oakland school. In a previous article praising this school, NSR asserted that “most” of students there were Lumbee [in the same article, NSR describes Chavis’ practice of putting campers in “detention” — I thought this was a camp!!!!]

NSR also continues a trend of quoting people who really do not like Indians. NSR reports Chavis “has been called racist by members of his own community.” [at 111] TNToT includes a quote from Chavis condemning “lazy ass Indians.” [at 111] NSR joins in by alleging that Lumbee parents “don’t care” about their children. [at 111] Chavis promised to start a new charter school like the one in Oakland, but that school was  blocked, according to recent news reports.

St. Labre Indian School

Ivan Small, who NSR introduced in Chapter 1 as angry at not being allowed to buy Indian lands as below-market value, is now introduced as the director of the St. Labre Indian School. [at 118] St. Labre is funded by private donations and not tied to the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. A few years back, the school paid out $11 million to the Northern Cheyennes for “exploitation” of the poverty on the reservation (which created its own controversies).

TNToT lauds schools like St. Labre. Like probably way too many schools in and near Indian country and elsewhere, it kicks out the children with the most needs and problems, dumping those children on overtaxed and under-resourced public schools, then takes credit for the successes of the remaining students. NSR acknowledges the school’s “paternalistic policies” are what makes it successful. [at 117] No wonder Northern Cheyenne families don’t like Saint Labre. [at 118]

Continue reading

Guest Commentary on TNToT — Monte Mills

This is a guest commentary on “The New Trail of Tears” (TNToT), a book written by Naomi Schaefer Riley (NSR or the author). The announcement post is here.

  • The first commentary, “Framed by a Friend,” is here.
  • The second commentary, “Turning Indian History against Indians,” is here.
  • The third commentary, “Indians are Saudi Arabia, Not Israel (Oh, and Crying Toddlers)” is here.
  • The fourth commentary, “”Indians as Unmotivated, Dependent Victims” is here.

Monte Mills, law prof at Montana Law, was kind enough to respond to my request for comments on TNToT. Here is Professor Mills’ commentary on chapter 1:

Though I’m new to MT and certainly don’t have the context on Crow and Northern Cheyenne that others here do, my sense is that, contrary to TNToT’s depiction, folks at Crow in particular have been active leaders in figuring out economic development solutions. For example, last year, the state legislature passed SB 307, introduced by a Crow member legislator, that allows for registration and recognition of tribal business entities in the state system. Crow also has a fairly detailed commercial and consumer transactions code including a Crow UCC (see p. 7). And, by the way, it would appear there is a way to foreclose on certain property interests at Crow (see Section 2). 

In addition, all of the MT tribes, including Crow and N. Cheyenne, have been active in the State-Tribal Economic Development (STED Commission). As a result of the work of the Commission’s work last year, the State set aside $500,000 for an Indian Collateral Support Program to secure loans for tribal entrepreneurs. The Program is described pages 15 and 16 of the Governor’s annual state-tribal relations report.

On energy development at Crow and Northern Cheyenne, this recent work, Sovereignty for Survival: American Energy Development and Indian Self-Determination, provides a pretty good overview of how the tribes themselves worked through the complicated and challenging social, cultural, environmental, political, and economic decisions regarding coal development and, ultimately, secured passage of the IMDA in 1982 to enhance tribal decision-making and control over such transactions. Again, not victims, not “overly influenced by people concerned about the environmental impact”, but actually governing.

Lastly, we did a field trip course across Indian Country in Montana last spring and I think it’s fair to say that our most powerful and striking visit was to Northern Cheyenne. In the months leading up to our visit, there had been a number of public safety issues there and it was clear to us that the Tribal leaders with whom we met were not lazy, unmotivated, ignorant or passive in trying to figure out solutions to those challenging issues, many of which, by the way, were the result of factors beyond their control. For example, they told us that they have THREE BIA cops to patrol the entire reservation. Rather than simply wringing their hands and shaking their heads about it, they were actively engaged in reviewing and revising their public safety and criminal codes to try and fill the gaps and more effectively enforce their own laws. (BTW, they have a draft UCC too).

Fourth Commentary on TNToT: Chapter 3 — “Indians as Unmotivated, Dependent Victims”

This is the fourth full commentary on “The New Trail of Tears” (TNToT), written by Naomi Schaefer Riley (NSR or the author). The announcement post is here.

  • The first commentary, “Framed by a Friend,” is here.
  • The second commentary, “Turning Indian History against Indians,” is here.
  • The third commentary, “Indians are Saudi Arabia, Not Israel (Oh, and Crying Toddlers)” is here.

In line with the earlier chapters, NSR sets sights on specific reservations and tribes, in this chapter targeting Pine Ridge and the Rosebud, and yet more attacks directed at Seneca (a repeat player from Chapter 2).

Attacks on Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian People and Nations

This chapter delivers the lowest blows on Indian people in TNToT. This is classic blaming the victim, but with undertones of race-baiting. In the TNToT narrative, Indian people struggle and poor because of their own character flaws. TNToT, as usual, offers no tribal or reservation history whatsoever on either the Oglala Sioux Tribe or the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. That naturally would complicate NSR’s harshly judgmental conclusions.  

Here’s a bit of history, mostly from my reading of United States v. Sioux Tribe. The history is way, way more complicated. But I am trying more than NSR, who is actively ignoring or hiding the history.

The two reservations now known as Pine Ridge and the Rosebud are far smaller than the original Great Sioux Reservation, which covered all of the Dakotas and parts of other states. My sense is that the Black Hills were the keystone of the entire original reservation. It’s where there were resources in the winter and a gathering place for lots of tribes. The Rosebud and Pine Ridge cannot be considered in isolation without reference to the Black Hills. My guess would be that most of the federally recognized “Sioux”
tribes would rather live in and near the Black Hills than where they are in South Dakota, for example, if they had to choose. The US initially obliged itself in treaty language to protect that territory for the benefit of Indian people, but stupidly placed people like George Custer in charge of that mission, who promptly betrayed the tribes (and later died for it, one could say — remember that victory NSR called “Pyrrhic” on page 3?).

Of course, once the US started on the path toward greatly diminishing Indian land holdings, the Black Hills was the main target.  As far as I understand, there is no treaty consenting to the taking of the Black Hills by the US. There are statutes that confiscate the territory, ostensibly negotiated with tribal interests, but these are truly confiscation acts. Ultimately, the Supreme Court (and even Congress, which authorized the suit — it didn’t have to do so) held in 1980 that the taking of the Black Hills was compensable (over the objections of the Executive branch). The United States’ argued that the rancid meat the government provided on occasion to starving Indians in the winter was “just compensation.” [It’s maddening and tiresome that NSR advocates for property rights in Indian country — recall the “magic force” quote on page 15 — but simply will not acknowledge the property rights of Indians and tribes.] Still, the tribes refused the money in order to keep alive the claim to the actual land. Five years ago, the trust fund was at $1.3 Billion and likely far more now. This is far greater context, though ultimately just a snippet, of the history of the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations. TNToT wants nothing of that. Continue reading