Modern Genocide: The Federal Government’s Use Of Poverty Against Native Americans

The federal government is largely responsible for a the growing norm of poverty on Native American reservations

  • The federal government is responsible for ensuring that Indian affairs are for the benefit of all Indians

  • Reservations make up some of the poorest areas in America with a few compared to third world conditions

  • The median income for those living on the Crow Creek Reservation is $13,750

People are finally beginning to understand and accept that America’s seed was sown in the genocide of Native Americans. However, many have yet to see that genocide is still occurring, just through a less subtle approach from the United States government.

The federal government is responsible for ensuring that Indian affairs are for the “benefit of all Indians.” Either purposely or accidentally, the federal government’s lust for control created extremely complicated legal and property systems forcing those on Native land to live well-below the national poverty level.

Chief Justice John Marshall

In 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall characterized the relationship between Natives and the government as “resembling that of a ward to his guardian.” Following those words, Marshall gave life to the federal trust doctrine which assigned the government as trustee of Indian affairs.

Currently, in America, several reservations are living in third world conditions. For many others, living below the national poverty level is normal. While Native lands are known for natural resources that could potentially break the cycle of poverty, the federal government makes it extremely difficult for tribes to capitalize on their resources.

Reservation land is managed in trust by the federal government, which also controls almost every facet of Native energy development. Some tribes have managed to move forward with energy development, but still have a multitude of challenges to endure.

Pine Ridge Reservation

The mismanagement of Indian affairs by the federal government has aided in creating some of the worst areas in the world. For example, Pine Ridge Reservation has the shortest life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti.

Pine Ridge is located in Shannon County, South Dakota. It was the poorest county in the nation for twenty years. Buffalo County, South Dakota inevitably stole the title of poorest country in America, not because things got better in Shannon, but because things got worse in Buffalo.

Crow Creek Indian Reservation

Crow Creek Indian Reservation is located in Buffalo County. In South Dakota, the median family income is $43,327 in 2015. The median family income for the country $50,046. The median income for those living on the Crow Creek Reservation is $13,750. The Business Research Bureau of the University of South Dakota declared Crow Creek one of the highest risk environments for children in the nation.

One of the highest risk environments in the nation for children. The high-risk status results from multiple factors such as: poverty, lack of proper schooling, generational child abuse and neglect, unemployment, high suicide rate and other negative environmental conditions. Currently, the children of the Crow Creek Reservation endure inordinately high rates of physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol-related neglect, teen pregnancy, child and adult alcohol and drug abuse, school absences and drop-out, and seven times the national rate of suicide and delinquency.


According to Indian Country Today, in 2013, the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge had 43,146 tribal people enrolled. Out of those enrolled, there were 29,539 available to work, but 26,408 were unemployed. While the rest of South Dakota had a 3.9% unemployment rate in 2013, Pine Ridge had a crippling 89%.

Pine Ridge unemployment is somewhat well-known, but it is not the worst. The Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake, Wisconsin held a devastating unemployment rate of 93%, even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics claimed Wisconsin’s unemployment rate tobe 6.8%. Not far behind with 91% is the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians reservation territory located in Temecula, California.

Any development projects on Native land is reviewed and then either authorized or denied by the federal government. This process is known for being problematically slow, and a terrible burden. Companies interested in energy development must go through four different federal agencies and a seemingly never-ending number of steps that can sometimes take years.

Modern Genocide

A census in 2010 shows 308 million people in America. That same census showed that 5.2 million claimed to be Native American. Technically, Natives are close to, if not already, fitting the qualifications for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to declare them an endangered species.

Habitat loss, pollution, illegal hunting and the integration of new species into the same area are the four main reasons to determine if a species is considered endangered.

Natives are still losing their land to this day as the federal government continues to initiate “land grabs” across the country. The act of mining natural resources from the land have polluted reservations across the country. An estimated 80% to 90% of the Native population perished after the arrival of the Europeans. Last but not least, obviously the Natives have experienced new species in their area as America has “advanced” over the years.

The attack began hundreds of years ago, which is more than enough time to perfect a perpetuating systematic genocide of the Native people. A modern-day genocide masked by the federal government’s blandishments to act in the “benefit of all Indians.”



About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.

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