Lloyd Miller: Obama's new deal for Native America
"In only two months President Obama has already begun to make his mark in forging a new era in Native American affairs. After eight years marked mostly by neglect, this is welcome news, for Tribal leaders have been yearning for the profound change that can only come from a committed White House — change that calls upon the Nation not only to remember its forgotten First Americans, but to craft a new deal that embraces tribal governments as true partners in the Nation’s family of governments. Under President Obama, all indications are that this new deal will include promoting genuine tribal self-determination, honoring the unique place Indian Tribes occupy under the Constitution, and honoring fully the trust responsibility born of treaties and the Nation’s tragic early history with Indian Tribes.

Most Americans are only dimly aware of today’s tribal governments, and for many that knowledge is limited to casinos. Few know that less than one-half of America’s 562 Tribes actually operate gaming facilities of any kind (nearly half of them in California). Few know that, of those that do, the well-known top 10% account for over 50% of total tribal gambling revenues, while roughly half the Tribes account for less than 10%. The fact is, across Native America gambling is commonly little more than a breakeven proposition, providing local employment and moderately enhanced health, educational and public services.

Still, popular interest in Indian gambling has eclipsed the real picture of Native America, which remains largely out of the public eye: communities living in third world conditions without basic running water or sanitation and suffering disproportionately high rates of communicable diseases; reservations and villages with little physical infrastructure; child suicide rates 2.5 times the national average (and for teens in some regions, 17 times the national average); overwhelmed law enforcement and justice systems funded at 40% the national average, with half of all offenders on the street due to dangerously overcrowded facilities; and crumbling schools with over $800 million in deferred maintenance, producing children who score lower in reading, math and history than every other ethnic group in America."

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Lloyd Miller: A New Deal for Native America (Turtle Talk 3/12)