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Ivan Star Comes Out: Indian Country still waiting on that New Deal

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: economic development, employment, ira, ivan star comes out, native sun news, oglala sioux, poverty, south dakota

Ivan F. Star Comes Out.l Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Was the Indian Reorganization Act unconstitutional?
By Ivan F. Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

The stock market crashed in October 1929 and the Great Depression began. It escalated quickly to a level where it wiped out millions of investors, industrial output dropped, and unemployment rose to unprecedented heights. As much as 15 million (20-plus percent) became unemployed. People were forced to sell apples and pencils on the streets for their meals.

On March 4, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took his post. Immediately, against his belief that government should not intervene in the economy, he established some economic relief and reform measures to help ease the worst effects of the economic depression throughout the 1930s. His belief was that government is not responsible for creating jobs or to provide relief in times of economic strife.

Roosevelt’s New Deal programs also attempted to provide flood control, electric power, and economic development, especially in the Tennessee Valley. His “fireside chats” on public radio helped to restore public confidence while his administration pushed legislation to create jobs, help stabilize industrial production, and to generally stimulate recovery.

Through several recessions, the U. S. economy gradually recovered. Although the New Deal programs brought unemployment percentages down to single digits, Roosevelt’s economic recovery plan doubled the national debt via deficit spending, meaning they spent money they didn’t have. Then World War II (1939) boosted the American industry into high gear.

On June 18, 1934, from the worst economic crash in the history of the American industrialized world, among other New Deal programs, the federal Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was enacted. The IRA or the Wheeler-Howard Act was aimed at decreasing federal control of “Indian” affairs by increasing local responsibility for self-government.

The so-called “New Indian Deal” (IRA) emphasized tribal self-government, economic recovery, and revitalization of cultural identity. However, for a variety of reasons, economic recovery did not happen for the 20,000-plus Natives residing here and “tribal” government is questionable.

Instead, the reservation is fraught with stark social problems, like poverty or the lack of an economy, an 85-90 percent unemployment rate, homelessness, a debilitating dependency on government, alcohol and drug abuse and their detriments like rape, teen pregnancy, a shortened life span, and strong anti-government sentiment.

I believe our current poverty and unemployment rates were present during the Great Depression. Sadly, they prevail in these modern times. It’s as if the so-called IRA reservations within the current state of South Dakota “fell through the cracks” in the floor regarding the nation-wide economic recovery plan.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Was the Indian Reorganization Act unconstitutional?

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at PO Box 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448 or via email at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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