Sadly, one of the nice things about being Native American is that we seldom have the luxury of high hopes when it comes to politicians pursuing policies that are favorable to our people. So, we don’t have far to fall after an election is over. Our issues are neglected in DC just as they are ignored by the media. Some administrations are hostile to our interests (preferring business interests over integrity or humanity) and others simply put competing interests in front of those in Indian Country (note the inclusion of the Indian
Health Services in the Sequester that inadvertently slashed our health system during the Obama administration). Our elders have seen these things come and go as little has changed for the better. However, we don’t have the luxury of standing on the side and letting the games of politicians drift by over the years. It is important to note that the resources we rely upon were fought for by our ancestors and have to be fought for in each generation: They are the result of a relatively small pie with fierce competition amongst many under-served populations (populations, by the way, with better lobbying and media access but no treaties with the government and statistically less need than in Indian Country).
Donald J. Trump ran against the status quo. He is promising to “Drain the Swamp” and to create a government that serves the true needs of the people rather than rewarding those with the best lobbyists or the loudest voices. I watch the pundits and they are trying to decide if Trump’s rhetoric during the election was simply a tool to win the presidency or a genuine reflection of what his true intentions are. I think such talk is simply that: talk (or, occasionally, Tweets). I prefer to watch. Actions are best for those who have real need. Talk is only good for people who want attention. (insert Shout out to Kanye here).
A true test, a real test, and a genuine opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to doing the right thing would be to direct attention and resources toward where the need TRULY exists. Native America has the highest poverty rates (roughly double) in the country. Our unemployment rate is nearly 4 times the national average and more than double that of African-Americans and Hispanics. We have the worst general health outcomes. Of all racial groups, Native Americans are statistically most likely to be killed by police. Pick a statistic. Statistics aside, if you are being guided by a true moral sense of serving those in need, Native America should top the list. The sad, sad fact is that, we rise to the top for intervention on at least three fronts Statistically, Morality, and Potential. We are, in the final analysis, a great people who have survived extreme efforts to eradicate, de-moralize, and neglect our very existence.
Note to President-Elect Trump:
So, President-Elect Trump, Step up and really show the system that doing the right thing is a top priority. This is your chance to align the rigged system you rallied against with the reality of doing the right thing, even if it isn’t popular. Don’t be swayed by lobbyists, pundits, or self-interested politicians trying to assuage their constituents. Don’t be influenced by concerns over voter demographics, campaign contributors, or the typical DC political correctness that decides issues upon who might be angry as opposed to what is the best thing to do. Don’t fall into stereotypes that Native Americans all have casino money or live off of un-earned government checks. Instead, rely upon what is right (morality), where the need is (statistics), and where the promises are (treaties). It would be out of left (or, in this case, right) field and the press would be blind-sided. Everyone wins. Ignore the loud voices and show the country, in a big way, that this country is finally ready to do what is just, fair, and difficult. This is a tremendous opportunity for you.
We, as always, are watching. Indian Country can only win if the system is no longer rigged. A perfect proof of concept for your first 100 days if you ask me! I dare you, to do the right thing. Prove us wrong.