Dancers at a powwow on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Hamner Fotos
Opinion

Dean Parisian: The answers to problems at Pine Ridge must come from Pine Ridge




Call it red privilege, or American privilege

By Dean Parisian
deanparisian.com

I lived on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when I was in high school. Didn't have a choice. My father was Chief of Police for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Department in Pine Ridge. If you want, call it red privilege!

It is a rather poor place. Not much has changed in the 40 years since I was in high school except the names. The truancy, the lack of motivation, lack of parental involvement, lack of desire to make oneself better is still there. The crabs are still trying to claw their friends back into the bucket when they try to escape. If you go to school in Indian Country you know what I mean.

Lots of blame to go around. Lack of two parent households are the biggest culprit but nobody wants to talk about that because the financial incentives are all wrong there.

Once again this year I will be in Pine Ridge before Christmas. Once again I look forward to the visit. It was the roughest high school out of the four I attended without a doubt. I was failing algebra. I bought my first beer in Whiteclay, Nebraska, for the high school prom. Walked in with cash, no questions asked. Age: 15.

To say that I am grateful for the life I have been given is an understatement. There is absolutely no way my life has turned out the way I thought it would. We all face great challenges in life. All of us. It is the privilege we all have for waking up.

I thank my Creator daily for the will and motivation that my parents fostered towards education. The privilege of education. We all have it. It is what prompted me to start my scholarship at the University of Minnesota. My scholarship helps leverage resources to produce long-term meaningful impact for students who need them the most and to help break the cycle of poverty, addiction, moral courage and the suffocating absence of opportunity.

Call it American privilege, I get it, you should too. Gratitude is an awful powerful human emotion and I am elated to have plenty of it. Every. Single. Day.

In Pine Ridge it is hard to swallow the poverty and carnage of the federal government handing out scraps of freebies. The drug scene is out of control. I would like to help the enormous loss of human capital. Bringing coats in the winter isn't doing it. Painting churches in the summer isn't doing it.

Pine Ridge has the problem. Pine Ridge and only Pine Ridge has the answers. Pine Ridge has the privilege.

It starts in the mirror. The power of one. Go ahead Pine Ridge.

Change! You can do it. Reach deep Ridge. Get after it.

Dean Parisian is the CEO of Native American Advisors, Inc., the oldest Native American investment management firm in the United States. The Registered Investment Advisory firm was founded in 1993 to help Native American entities after Parisian began his career on Wall Street in 1982. Parisian is a member at the White Earth Reservation of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, a former NYSE arbitrator and trader who began his career with Kidder, Peabody and later worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert in LaJolla, California. His philanthropic interest is in Native American education and he's endowed a significant scholarship for Native American students at the University of Minnesota. His greatest accomplishment includes raising two sons and 26 years of marriage.