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Post-Thanksgiving musings on ‘First Americans’

 

No history of the United States can be complete without mention of how our Native Americans were exploited, oppressed and, ultimately, forced to live in restricted areas.

Those who came from other lands to settle here grabbed the choicest land from those First Americans, laid waste to their food supply – thousands of buffalo that once roamed the Plains – and then, forced those once proud hunters onto reservations.

We may no longer be killing American Indians but we’re still treating them as second-class citizens of the land where they once freely roamed.

The remnants of an Apache tribe displaced from their homeland are fighting for the right to put up a casino on a 30-acre reservation tract in Akela Flats, N.M., where they used to live.

As reported by the Associated Press, they are known as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe who, according to Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous, after Geronimo’s capture in 1886 were kicked out of southwest New Mexico and Arizona and relocated, first, to Florida, then to Alabama, and ending up in Oklahoma.

Haozous told the A.P. that the expectation was with revenues from a casino – and maybe a new hotel – the tribe could buy more land and create more business and encourage other tribal members to return to their ancestral homeland.

A.P. reported that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that the new reservation location could support a casino and called for hearings on the issue. But the government of New Mexico has objected, claiming that the Fort Sill Apache had previously pledged it wouldn’t look to build a casino. Neighboring Native American tribes haven’t yet weighed in.

In 2006 former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others admitted overbilling Native American clients in connection with federal legislation on Indian gaming ventures as he and colleagues were scheming to bribe members of Congress. The Native Americans were being used as pawns in the lobbyists’ game to make money.

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut might say.

To the victors go the spoils, all too often, and history is written by the winners.

But a New Year is almost upon us and we, as a nation that once warmly welcomed people from all lands to come to our shores, can resolve to go for the high moral ground in future.

– Ron Leir

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