David Wilkins: Pondering the Great Depression
"No economist am I – my fields of study are politics, law and history – but the present state of profound economic disrepair across Native nations, the United States and the global community, calls for each of us to put on our thinking caps and ponder what we have experienced and what the next steps might be.

The current depression has erupted at a particularly inauspicious moment in world history. It is a time when frightening environmental conditions – global warming, desertification, rising seas, species decimation, pollution of every kind – are simultaneously wreaking havoc across the planet.

By the time the Great Depression was seared into the minds, bodies and souls of millions with the catastrophic collapse of the stock market in October 1929, the vast majority of Native peoples had already been economically dependent for several decades. In fact, the 1928 Meriam Report, a comprehensive two-year federal study of Indian communities, had stated that “an overwhelming majority of the Indians are poor, even extremely poor.”

Ironically, over the next decade, as the depression deepened, exacerbated by the Dust Bowl that enveloped great swaths of the country, Native experiences in the United States ran the gamut from sheer depression to relative calm security.

Interestingly, while most federal Indian policy eras have received the attention of numerous scholars, the status of Native nations during the Great Depression has, to my knowledge, not been systematically chronicled. That silence, in itself, is pregnant with meaning, and needs to be explored through critical case studies of the impact of that transformative economic event on Native peoples."

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David E. Wilkins: Ask those who lived through Great Depression (Indian Country Today 3/25)