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Spindly legs can’t hold up a genuine economy

A Lakota legend talks about Iya, the Village Eater, and how a Lakota maiden found a baby crying in some bushes and took him back to the village. While the village slept, the baby would transform into Iya, a gigantic blob with a huge mouth on spindly little legs. Iya would then swallow the village whole, but the last time he tried this, an ear was too close to the baby’s open mouth, and they could hear the sounds from the last village he swallowed, so the village fled toward the river. Iya attempted to catch them but he had to run on those spindly legs, and when he tried to cross the river, he bobbed like a beach ball. The warriors seized the moment, attacked, and slew him.

As nasty and formidable as he was, in the long run, Iya proved to be unsustainable. You can’t continue to task spindly legs with holding up a blob so gigantic it can swallow a village.

Few reservations understand that they must develop a solid foundation, a sustainable infrastructure—relying on treaty obligated handouts from the federal government is a very bad idea. Every domestic dependent nation waddles on spindly legs, and they bob like the beach ball in the river.

No tribe can be independent if they do not develop their own economy. Because, even if they build nice schools, nice roads, nice homes, where is the economy to sustain these things? People must have a dependable source of income, preferably a job, paying a living wage. Why have the Winnebago of Nebraska been able to conceive and develop a company, Ho-Chunk Incorporated, which earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year, while other area reservations struggle to start a similar company?

Winnebago separated their company from direct tribal control. They hired Lance Morgan to run it, and if the tribe wanted to meddle, they would have to get through the firewall that was Morgan. Protected from a tribal council that would one day be mass indicted by the FBI for corruption, Morgan was able to build a company so successful it would one day buy the tallest building in Sioux City and put “Ho-chunk” on top of it in giant letters.

Lakota reservations just have no business sense, and they do not recognize a tribal member who does, let alone hire him to run a company like the Winnebago did Morgan. Tribal councils bring an anti-business mentality to the table when they address economic development. A giant diversified company is order made for reservations who can’t attract outside companies (because outside companies require a reliable and skilled workforce, a solid infrastructure, strong community support, and reservations tend to not have these things). The tribe should conduct business with the sole intent of generating income which can then fund training to hire qualified tribal members. Most tribes attempt to start up these companies, but then siphon off resources to provide services for tribal members and the company never becomes more than just another BIA type funding source. Tribes cannot refactor their dependent nation mentality to create a competitive and profitable tribal company. They immediately plunder it when it starts to make money and destroy any chance it has of growing and diversifying.

 

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