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TRIBAL LEADERSHIP MUST WORK TO ALLAY THE MOUNTING ANGST IN OUR MIDST

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EDITORIAL

By Gregg-Bear

People are not happy. Everywhere you go, if you listen closely, you hear their complaints, and their sense of foreboding. Many worry their future is a blind spot, and no one is telling them otherwise.

The politicians ignore or fail to see the anger building within certain families in their communities.

Police can see when burgeoning discontent erupts among jobless teens and young adults. Their solution is to incarcerate. A few days in jail, they say, and they’ll cool off.

Instead, many leave their detention seething with renewed frustration. They return home, where several impoverished families often live under one roof, where food is scarce, and they wonder where they’ll be living in five or ten years.

If you look closely, some homes in our communities are run by delinquent children, numbering seven or eight per household, with a frightened adult or two, or a single parent, to allay outside suspicions.

Tribal housing has done absolutely nothing to reassure our members that enough homes will be available in a future not so distant that individuals can still muster hope in what lies ahead.

Tribal government manages to provide a sprinkling of jobs, but far too few to make a difference where it counts. Jobs that pay a decent wage for those lacking skills (who feel they don’t belong) are rarely advertised.

These men and women are among those who really need work. Many are ostracized and barely survive with their families off-reservation, and the reservation is the only home they know, such as it is.

Those lucky to have decent-paying jobs often have two or more cars in their driveway and live far above their means, yet they love the prairie homeland of their birth as much as those with less, while often not bearing the same economic outrage.

Men who succumb to this insidious ill-temper they carry like a cross have frequently given up looking to tribal government for help—the women apply only to certain programs—while tribal government, for its part, has largely forgotten they exist.

Few consider it worthwhile voting or even registering.

Mixed with this irascibility is fear that healthcare will soon be unavailable on the reservation, and anger that our leaders may not be doing all they can to secure it. If leaders cannot solve constant LIHEAP shortfalls or provide school-clothing vouchers for our children on time, how can they hope to maintain the heavier load of healthcare for our kids and elders? they ask.

And what of the treaties, Pé Sla and the Black Hills? Why won't our tribal leaders reach out to us? Don't they know we all can't read the same newspaper or watch the same TV program or go to the same meetings? Why doesn't my president or my councilman talk to me in my newspaper? Is it true this area will become a desert in 50 years?

The irritation you see simmering around you (if you look) is not limited to our reservation alone. You can see it on Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Yankton, and beyond. You can see a similar anger all across America. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has tapped into that frustration, and he plans to ride it to the White House.

If Trump is successful, we might one day find our members standing guard on our fenceless borderline.

Yet, ironically, we each secretly wish for a spirited leader of our own, who will step into the breech and lift us to a better world; who isn’t a typical politician; who can pull us together as a nation once again; who is humble, truthful and caring, yet strong enough to help us dream of bettering ourselves, while helping each other fulfill that dream.

Even though this hidden aggravation continues to mount, if our leaders don’t regularly reach out to us with soothing, encouraging and constructive words of wisdom, we could find ourselves in big trouble—and maybe another failed experiment in humanity.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

 

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