Is Fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline Really the Right Priority for Native American Tribes?

Over the weekend we got news that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma donated $10,000 to the on-going protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline being organized by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a network of far-left environmental extremist groups. The tribe also donated “truckloads” of supplies, including firewood.

But is this the right way for the Cherokee Nation to be spending its resources?

According to the Department of the Interior, in 2013 that tribe saw an unemployment rate of over 44 percent for tribal members over the age of 16. After the tribe, which operates a network of eight casinos across Oklahoma, squandered millions on an attempt to legalize gambling in parts of Arkansas this year you’d think their resources might be better spent on helping improve the lives of tribal members.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…there is a point here to be made about tribal time and resources being dedicated to a quixotic campaign against fossil fuels when those things might better be used on improving the lot our Native American neighbors.[/mks_pullquote]

As opposed to supporting a protest that a) seems more a pet cause for white, liberal environmentalists masquerading as an Indian movement and b) as I wrote in my newspaper column this week is probably doomed to failure.

We could apply the same thinking to other tribal supporters of Standing Rock.

Take, for instance, California’s Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians which donated $250,000 to the #NoDAPL movement back in September. The tribe operates two casinos/resorts in the Palm Springs area, and has been described as one of the most wealthy special interests in California, yet has an unemployment rate over 66 percent.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, based in Oregon, has donated $2,500 to Standing Rock. According to the 2010 Census, less than 46 percent of tribal members over the age of 25 had a high school diploma, and 26.5 percent lived below the federal poverty line.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, based in North Carolina, donated $50,000 to Standing Rock. Yet the tribe, which operates two casinos with a third under construction, sees nearly a quarter of its membership live below the poverty line. Per the 2010 Census less than 40 percent of tribal members over the age of 18 had a high school diploma, and 53.4 percent over the age of 16 were unemployed.

By the way, at Standing Rock the Department of the Interior calculates that roughly 48.8 percent of the population over the age of 16 is unemployed.

I note these facts not to disparage the tribes, and I would further note that the situation of each tribe is unique and more complex than this information  I’m sharing. There is a long and ugly and undeniable history in America of oppression and marginalization aimed at the indigenous peoples which shouldn’t be discounted our dismissed, and many of the data points I’ve highlighted above are modern manifestations of that past suffering.

But there is a point here to be made about tribal time and resources being dedicated to a quixotic campaign against fossil fuels when those things might better be used on improving the lot our Native American neighbors.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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