Albert Bender: Bring back Indian worker programs
"With the deepening of the recession, Native Americans – in particular reservation populations – need to find a ready alternative source of income, especially since reservation gaming is on the decline due to the crisis. Looking back into the pages of Indian history (although laden for the most part with appalling tragedy) there are some interesting surprises from which can spring rays of hope.

One encounter with the unexpected had to do with the Great Depression. This involved the Civilian Conservation Corps, which enabled many Native Americans to survive the Depression more comfortably than in pre-Depression days. Ironically, for many Indian populations the Great Depression was a time of comparative plenty due to the CCC.

To begin with, the vast majority of American Indians lived in crushing and chronic poverty in the so-called prosperous “Roaring Twenties.” An independent study of 1928 reported that 46.8 percent of Native Americans lived on a per capita income of only $100 to $200 per year, with only 2.2 percent receiving incomes of $500 per year. With the onset of the Depression in 1929, Native Americans’ economic situation became even more severe as normal income from wage work, land leases, the sale of oil and timber and arts and crafts dramatically decreased. By the latter part of 1931, Indian per capita income was only $81 per year.

The CCC was established as an agency to provide employment and training to young men and war veterans and, to a limited extent, young Native American men who could not find work otherwise during the Great Depression. The program included public works projects and initiatives to conserve and develop natural resources where reservation populations were involved. Participants received food, clothing and a base monthly wage."

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Albert Bender: Bring back federal work programs (Indian Country Today 12/4)