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Indians as Welfare Recipients

More analysis of how mainstream Americans believe Indians are lazy, good-for-nothing bums. See Good-for-Nothing Indians for background.

Government payments = socialism?
Some semi-racists are clever enough not to blame Indians directly for being weak and shiftless. Instead, they blame the "liberal" US government for making Indians weak and shiftless. The typical "free market" claim is that government payments to Indians foster dependency, idleness, and other social problems. For instance:

The reservation is a magnet for mooches because federal time limits on welfare benefits don't apply at Pine Ridge.

Here where cradle-to-grave socialism, the Democrats' fantasy state, is realized, more than half the reservation's adults battle addiction and disease.

Michelle Malkin, The Shambles in South Dakota, 10/23/02

I called this view semi-racist because it singles out Indians by race. Anglo-Americans receive countless bequests of money—inheritances, mortgage deductions on their taxes, college scholarships, subsidies from their parents, etc., etc.—none of which they've earned. No one suggests these payments have made Anglos weak and shiftless. Only Indians (and other minorities) are incapable of receiving largesse without blowing it on alcohol and other vices.

The truth about "welfare benefits"
From Tim Giago's column:

Who Is a Native and Who Is Not?

Many of the larger tribes signed treaties with the U.S. government. In exchange for giving up millions of acres of land the government agreed to provide certain services to the tribes in perpetuity. These treaty agreements usually included health care, education and the funds to operate a tribal government. In this instance the treaties clearly outlined certain treaty rights to compensate the tribes for the loss of their land. This is not a case of generosity or charity by the United States, but the continuation and the fulfillment of legal and binding treaties.

Let me emphasize this point. What the treaty tribes receive from the federal government cannot be construed as a handout or welfare money. It is the fulfillment of a treaty obligation. The United States became the wealthiest nation in the world off of the land surrendered to it by the Native nations through treaty agreements.

Some replies to Malkin
I asked my correspondents the following question:

What would you say to the typical "free market" claim that government payments to Indians foster dependency, idleness, and other social problems?

The replies:

I would say Bullshit. I would say how come it's so much worse in South Dakota then elsewhere in the country. Look at the whole picture there. What is causing this disenfranchisment? Why do people have only one choice in SD, which is to live in poverty on handouts or get off the rez? Why does that state work so hard to keep economic development off the rez? How come every time there is a dispute about what the state should be allowed to do on a reservation, the state just eliminates its rez status and takes it over? (Yes, SD does this regularly. More than in any other state.) South Dakota is awash with corruption, lies, deceit, all aimed at making the Indian people there look dangerous, lazy and substance abused. Look deeper folks. There is a whole lot more to it than that typical brain dead Republican cares to see. Read Racism for Profit on STAR's website.

Christine [Rose]


There are so many false analogies and ad hominem attacks upon an entire ethnic group in her column, it's hard to know where to begin.

1) "Govt payments=socialism." If that is so, then Ross Perot and defense contractors are the biggest dependents on "socialism" around.

2) "Cradle-to-grave payments." The pretense here is the outright race-baiting assumption that Natives are the recipients of undeserved largesse, the old "Indians get money just for being Indian" myth. In fact much of those "govt payments" are Natives' OWN money in the form of payment for the sale of mineral and grazing rights.

3) "Government dependency causes poverty." This makes the same race-baiting assumption as 2). Some sociologists compare reservations to internal colonies. While there are some flaws to that argument, in some instances much of their thesis is true. Wealth is flowing OUTWARD from some reservations rather than inward, in the form of ridiculously low payments for mineral rights and leasing.

4) "A magnet for mooches." More race-baiting, assuming Indians are lazy and looking for handouts rather than working, gravitating towards allegedly easy money. The reality of why Natives stay or go back to reservations is far more complex. Some demographic studies say more Natives are in fact returning to their rezzes in greater numbers. But guess what, Ms. Malkin? It's because there are more JOB opportunities there now.

Ms. Malkin is being badly used to say a number of race-baiting statements that any white author would rightly be accused of racism for saying. Much like D'Souza or Sowell, she functions as a token. Yet at least Sowell can occasionally be a somewhat decent writer, even if nearly everything he says is distateful. Her writing and analysis wouldn't pass muster at a junior college history course. This isn't even an essay, it's a sneer pretending to be an argument.

Al Carroll

Rob weighs in (12/3/02)
>> So, what do YOU think of the weaning philosophy? Can there be a tribal nation w/out tribal economic independence? <<

If you read my article on the NCAI, you saw what Neal McCaleb, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said about economic development. Pretty much everyone agrees that economic development is important. But a tribe doesn't have to be "independent" of the government's treaty obligations to it. It can retain the treaty obligations, which it paid for in blood, and develop its economy also.

To give some related examples, no one complains about a US state being "dependent" because it receives federal money as well as raising its own taxes. No one complains about a big defense contractor receiving "pet" contracts from the Dept. of Defense as well as earning contracts on their own merits. Heck, no one complains about a kid who gets an allowance from his parents as well as earning money on a paper route.

The idea that receiving money "weakens" someone is false, disproved by almost every example in society. Those who make this claim aren't making it seriously. They're trying to eliminate payments to tribes—or eliminate tribes, period—because they're greedy and selfish and lacking in human decency.

If you think a government benefit "weakens" your independence, don't ever put your children in a public school. Buy food only straight from the farm and drugs only from Mexico, before the government has inspected them for quality. Drive only on toll roads, not public roads. Don't ever take unemployment benefits, and forgo the mortgage deductions you get on your properties. Because all these government "gifts" weaken you the same way treaty payments "weaken" Indians.

America's real slackers
From a column by Rod Dreher in the National Review Online, November 2002:

That the younger generation of black Americans are throwing away the gains of their ancestors through laziness, self-centeredness, lack of discipline, greed, and a weakness for seeing themselves as eternal victims....

Opinions like this are a joke. "President" Bush, a typical representative of the power elite, coasted through school...dodged Vietnam in the National Guard..."earned" a living on his family's coattails...indulged in drugs and alcohol...skirted the corporate accounting rules...rejected a full count of Florida's votes...and now blames big-spending Congress, environmental regulations, and terrorists for America's problems. He's worse than any black, Indian, or other minority who is supposedly playing the victim.

For more on the subject, see The Myth of American Self-Reliance.

Correspondent Christine and I discussed a similar posting:

>> So what else is new. I am white and I am privileged. Boy, let me tell you, a week on the rez will let you know THAT right quick! <<

I don't have to live on the rez, or endure poverty myself, to get the idea. The information is almost omnipresent. Just pay the slightest attention to the Internet or newspapers or books and you'll get the message.

>> I always wish I could plunk people like that down on the rez for a week or so. Let them come home knowing just how much they have and just how little it takes to be happy. <<

Would it make a difference? Half the US population (the ignorant/conservative half) would say, "These people need to stop taking government handouts, leave the reservation, and get a job. My ancestors pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Why can't these Indians?"

In short, take you classic argument about lazy, good-for-nothing welfare "cheats." Substitute "Indian" for "black" and "reservation" for "inner city." You now have what passes for an intellectual argument against poverty-stricken Native people.

Indians as welfare recipients in the Stereotype of the Month contest
Kay:  Reserves are "bastions of...decrepitude" and "hellholes"
Gaming was supposed to eliminate federal support but hasn't
Indians are poor because of "dependence on federal money"
Helin:  "Indian industry" exploits aboriginals, keeps them poor
Maine lawmakers:  "Indians are lazy and want a free ride"
Berry:  Stop "giving welfare" to Indians; "we conquered them"
ND Indians live in "pure filth"; rez system is a "total failure"
Indians suffer "dependency"; genocide was a "coincidence"
Indians get "countless freebies" from the federal government
SF Chronicle headline:  "Skiing Squaw, Welfare Waif?"
"Communal nature" of reserves destroys Indians' initiative
False sovereignty is "real culprit behind Indian problems"
Sask. MP decries "race-based privileges" and "handouts"
Omdahl:  Natives miss out as the world passes them by
Arizona rep. asks why Hopi don't go where the jobs are
Yaffe:  Welfare saps aboriginals of will to pursue goals
Native "mooches" depend on "cradle-to-grave socialism"
Natives don't educate selves, get jobs, or pay for things
Yaffe:  Chiefs stretch hands for money but do nothing
Dolphin:  "Spoiled rotten" Indians get everything free
Canada's aboriginals are "sedentary welfare-collectors"
MT lawmaker:  Indians won't work like "normal" people
Kay:  Indians are preserving "hunter-gatherer traditions"
Detroit News:  Native casinos are "slot machine welfare"
Columnist:  Native advocacy is "a thorough-going racket"
Coach claims rez kids stay for the "government check"
Norton says Gwich'in can choose "subsistence lifestyle"
Professor says Indians rely on "victimhood" and "white guilt"
Three Montana legislators call Indian reservations "ghettos"
Ottawa News claims "treaties...have little relevance" today
"The Miccosukees can just get their squaws pregnant"
Native woman owns non-crafts business, BMW, house?

More on Indians as welfare recipients
Indian students get "free ride"?

Related links
The "outdated" reservation system
Greedy Indians
Savage Indians
Uncivilized Indians
Faith in free markets
America's cultural mindset

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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