The Associated Press has completed a detailed look at corruption on Indian reservations. The findings appeared in Monday‘s Havre Daily News.
The gist of the findings: Corruption is rampant on reservations, but little is done about it by federal officials.
This is either because of lack of concern, a shortage of resources or some misplaced feeling that the way to repay Native American for years of mistreatment is to let reservation hot shots walk away with millions in booty while the remainder of the populace is living in poverty and misery.
Right off, we can think of about 50 ways the federal government could help reservation residents live a better life. They range from improving health care, education, recreation, housing, roads and programs that help preserve cultural preservation.
Not high on our list of ways to improve the life of Native Americans: Letting tin horn dictators on reservations line their pockets by pilfering federal funds that were aimed at helping the destitute.
While the AP story was full of incidents in which federal officials did nothing, there are some hopeful signs to report.
Montana has some of the most remote reservations and traditionally some of the most corrupt.
But U.S. Attorney for Montana Michael W. Cotter is having none of that.
He has promised to fight the sleaze on the the state’s seven reservations.
At Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, nine people have already been indicted on various charges for alleged thievery, and from all indications, the probe at Rocky Boy is going full-speed-ahead. Similar investigations are taking place at other reservations around the state, most notably at the Blackfeet Reservation at Browning.
But just as federal officials have been strangely silent about the stench on reservations so, sadly, have the good people on the reservations. Many devoted public officials who got into office only because they wanted only to help their neighbors through tough times have remained quiet about the corruption surrounding them. Perhaps they were jaded by the darkness of it all.
The good news is that it seems to be coming to an end. Last week a group, with support on all seven Montana reservations, was formed in Havre with the intention of calling attention to the bungling and looting on reservations.
Participants at the meeting included past and present tribal officials, county commissioners, tribal elders and a good number of young Natives who were on hand for the meeting, sharing their stories about problems on their reservations. They vowed to take their fight to people on and off the reservations.
Ken Blatt St. Marks, who has won two elections and yet cannot be sworn in as tribal chair at Rocky Boy, said that his tax money and the taxes paid by off-reservation residents are being squandered, and politicians and bureaucrats should demand answers.
The Associated Press report on the situation painted a rather bleak picture. Indeed, there is much to be concerned about. But there are rays of sunshine coming through. Some federal officials want to do something about the problem, and most important, people on reservations are demanding action.