Harold Monteau: Surviving and prospering together
"This last year brought hard lessons in economics. I was one of those homeowners who believed my house had doubled in value in five years. I drew on this “paper value” to make home improvements and finance a business. Unfortunately, the business was dependent upon availability of credit for reservation economic development projects. Not only did I borrow money on the false value of my home, but I put the money into a business that never had a chance as the economic crisis unfolded.

On a positive note, I know again the joy of finding a loose $5 bill in the dryer and have learned to live on cash. I do not have a single credit card for the first time since I was 17. I have also greatly curtailed “helping” family members though various stages of educational endeavors or though rough patches or lengthy joblessness. (I’m in my own prolonged term of unemployment. Employment for an Old Indian Lawyer is about as scarce as a Cree dog at the pound.) Will I go back to “helping” once I’m over my own rough patch? Probably, because it’s just what Indian families do. I’m not afraid of being poor. My grandfather and my father both finished their lives on Social Security and USDA commodities (love that cheese!). I would not be ashamed if that is my destiny.

Remembering who we are and where we came from will help us put our lives back into proper perspective. Those experiences will help us fall back on Indian ways of thinking and living that have sustained our people through times of plenty and times of deprivation. I’m not talking about living in teepees and hunting buffalo. I’m talking about cultural teachings and tribal values that emphasize the survival of the group rather than the material wealth of the individual. Indian nations will stay afloat or sink together if individual tribes don’t look out for the group. The reality of our modern tribal existence is that our ability to survive and prosper as individual tribes is inextricably tied to our relationship to all of Indian country and not just to our own tribe, community, village or rancheria.

This too shall pass."

Get the Story:
Harold Monteau: Stay afloat or sink together (Indian Country Today 4/2)