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Archive for the ‘LIHEAP’ Category

I may make some enemies saying this, however in my humble but educated opinion John Stossel, “reporter and consumer crusader extraordinaire” has gone over to the dark side.  That is a wordy and pretentious way to say I think he’s full of BS.  I believe Stossel is more interested in self-promotion than a deep analysis of the truth at this point in his career.

There was a day, I must admit, when I admired John Stossel.  I thought his consumer reporting was helpful.  But in those days I was not taking the time to check the veracity of his statements.  Had I read FAIR reports earlier in my life, perhaps I would have known that his “facts” were not always really truthful facts.  You can check FAIR concerns yourself at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1887 .

I will also tell you that, had I attempted to write this last night, when I first read his blog post of March 25, 2011 entitles Freeloading Doesn’t Help the Freeloaders, it would have turned into an angry diatribe.  I would have attacked Mr Stossel personally which would not have been worthwhile.  However, I will say I was really steamed!

I refuse to give a link to take more people to his blog post.  I will tell you he posted it on that date at 4:57 in Entrepreneurs, Fox News Appearances, Free Market, Freeloaders and Government. I will analyze it for you, though.  So don’t give him more views unless you plan to add to his already large quantity of negative comments.  I don’t claim to be an expert, like Stossel does, but I do think I am fairly well-informed.

Stossel’s opening statement was “No group has been more ‘helped’ by the American government than American Indians.  Yet no group in America does worse.”

Right here I have to split a few hairs with Mr Stossel.  “No group has been ‘helped’ more …than … Indians.”  Mr Stossel, please tell us the definition of the word “help” that you used.  In my dictionary, help means “to give what is necessary to accomplish a task”, “to save or rescue”, “to make easier/less difficult” and “to relieve in pain, sickness or distress.”

Let us consider how the American government has “helped” the Indians of this country.

American Indians are the original inhabitants of this continent.  They had flourishing cultures, strong family structures, languages of their own and their own forms of government and justice.  In those cultures, the poor were taken care of by sharing – no one went hungry when others ate.  A chief wasn’t the most popular person in the group but the person chosen as having proved him or herself as most wise.  Chiefs didn’t seek the office; it was usually thrust upon him/her.  It wasn’t even a real office, as such.

There was variety among the cultures.  Some were more centralized, where game was plentiful or perhaps the soil was good enough to grow crops.  Other tribes were nomadic – without a permanent home although they did have “permanent” territories.  They followed the migration of animals that were their own life blood.  Indians used every single part of the buffalo, for example, not just the meat or hide.

Although there were certainly disagreements and conflicts between families (clans) and amongst tribes, most were also generous and hospitable.

Enter the Europeans.  Yes, those who are the ancestors of most of you readers, definitely me and assuredly Mr Stossel.  Those Europeans step on the soil of this continent and “claim it.”  CLAIM IT!  Oh yes, there are already people living on this land.  But there don’t seem to be that many of them.  We think there is room for all.  We will claim some of this land as our own.  Yes, we will OWN it.  What?  You, the original inhabitants don’t believe you can own land?  Well, we do and we have stronger weapons, so it will be our way.  Besides, we don’t need that much land.

The success of those first European interlopers would not have been a problem for the Indians if their group did not grow.  But grow it did!  They had huge families and they interested more Europeans in moving to this land of promise.  Then they needed MORE ROOM.  MORE LAND.  Oh, so sorry, we’re going to take more land from you.  Sure, we’ll give you a few trinkets and shells for it.  Trust us.

Woe to those who trust the untrustworthy.

The first Indians to encounter the Europeans had smaller tribes and were more settled (which is NOT to say they were permanently settled in towns, etc).  As happens everywhere, some fell into interracial love affairs.  So begins assimilation.  Others were truly converted to the European life style.  Many were either forcibly “converted” or died trying to preserve their own way of life.

But we need MORE LAND.  MORE SPACE.

So the push westward was begun.  Indians who were already displaced from the east were pushed further away from their homelands if they did not assimilate.

The government began to make treaties with the tribes.   In exchange for the land you are “giving” us we PROMISE to take care of you, make sure you have enough to eat, good places to live.  We PROMISE to punish any bad person who hurts, steals from or otherwise harms a member of your tribe.  We PROMISE no one will bother you on the land we are giving you.

People today like to think that these treaties are quaint documents in which the government meant well but which don’t have much meaning in this day and age.  WRONG!  Treaties are legal documents between sovereign nations. Would we think of saying, “Sure, we have treaties limiting nuclear arms with Russia, but that’s for them, not us.  We can do what we want to.”  That wouldn’t fly, would it?  Treaties are binding on all signing parties.  That includes the US government.

So our government agreed to give the Indians certain things and do certain things for them.  Did the government follow through on everything it PROMISED?  NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Treaties were broken by the government.  There was more land taken (stolen).  There were cultures destroyed and languages lost.  Sacred places were defiled.  And did I mention more land was taken?  Reservations began to shrink as precious minerals were found and mines begun.  Cattle and other grazing herds competed with the native animals that formed the Indian diet.  The government condoned the wholesale slaughter of buffalo to get them out of the way for the railroad to cross the country and to free up grazing land for stock.  The government condoned genocide, too.

The remaining Indians were left on reservations with fairly useless land.  They had no access to food, especially the food they were all accustomed to.  There were no jobs on the reservations.  The children were taken from their families to be “civilized and educated.”  These are the Indians whom Stossel calls FREELOADERS. These are the ones surviving on the benefits the US government promised to them in “exchange” for all their land and their culture.

Let’s go back to the dictionary.  Freeloader is defined as “slang: a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc”.  And freeload the verb is defined as “to take advantage of others for free food, entertainment, etc”.

Okay, based on what we’ve discussed, it is obvious that Indians are freeloaders, right?  The are taking advantage of those who stole their land and culture by expecting to be given the things that treaties have promised.  I’m sure they are entertained by the broken promises, hungry children, substandard living conditions and prejudice they have.  It must be an advantage to experience hopelessness and despair to such a degree that there is an epidemic of youth suicide on reservations.

Mr Stossel blithely notes, “They have short life spans.” That is the understatement of a lifetime! The life expectancy for a male on Pine Ridge Reservation is 48 years and for women it is 52 years!  Those are life expectancies comparable to Burundi, not anywhere in the USA.  Do you really think, Mr Stossel, that these “freeloaders” are getting a benefit here?  Do you think they greedily and lazily think that losing 30 years of expected life is a good deal?

Do I disagree with Mr Stossel’s premise that people who are given everything prosper less than those who must work to get ahead?  Not entirely.  I look at the youth of this nation, a group who have come to believe they are entitled to things, education, jobs because their parents gave them everything they asked for.  Talk about a group of freeloaders (in general; there are certainly exceptions).

However, do I believe that American Indians are freeloaders, as Stossel claims?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

I wonder if Mr Stossel has ever spent any time visiting a reservation or talking to those who live there.  I doubt it.  I have done both.  I have seen with my own eyes what passes for housing on the reservations of South Dakota.  I have seen how hard it is to succeed even with an education – that it often means leaving home, family, culture and friends.

So, Mr Stossel (I’m sure you read your own press and hope you have been able to read to the end), I urge you to read any of my blog entries in the Lakota category.  Watch the videos I’ve made from photos I’ve taken on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

My Passion is Pine Ridge  http://youtu.be/t8UYGSBl4yU?a

Third World Conditions in the USA  http://youtu.be/-gHXmlUpVvs

Look carefully at the pictures of my friend’s house, Mr Stossel.  Tell me if you really believe that someone would live in those conditions willingly in order to take advantage of charity or “government handouts.”  If you really believe that, you don’t deserve the BA in Psychology that you got at Princeton University.  You obviously didn’t learn enough to merit it.

Yes, there are prosperous American Indian individuals and tribes who don’t need the benefits they are entitled to from the US government.  But there are many, many more who, for whatever reasons, absolutely need them and would not be able to survive without them.  You should know better than to compare apples to oranges, Mr Stossel!

American Indians, especially in the Dakotas, endure prejudice and bias akin to that experienced by African-Americans in the deep South in the days before the Civil Rights movement.  Where is the American media when that occurs?  Absent.  It is abominable that you add to this with the commentary you wrote equating all American Indians with freeloaders.  Shame on you!

Mr Stossel, you should not write about what you don’t know, even if you have a wonderful staff to feed you statistics.

And you owe American Indians an apology at the very least.

g a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
slang a person who habitually depends on the charity of others for food, shelter, etc
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I got a weather report from the Rapid City Journal earlier and have been trying to figure out which cliché I wanted to use to describe the cold there.  But I couldn’t think of anything cold enough to be fitting, so I’ve decided to let you fill in the blank after you read the post.

These are the facts:  the temperature is zero degrees F, the wind is blowing at 32 mph with gusts to 38 mph and it is snowing lightly.  The “feels like” temperature is -27 degrees F.  That’s right – minus 27.

That’s very likely the temperature measured at the Rapid City Airport, as many places use the airport to measure official weather statistics.  But let’s travel an hour and a half south, to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Now we’re on the prairie and in the badlands.  The wind has fewer obstructions and is really howling.

How cold does it feel here?  Let’s factor in a few other pieces of information.  Most housing on the reservation is of substandard construction.  There are many wood frame houses and trailer homes.  Most are not insulated.  In fact, many have holes and drafts.  Homes here are heated in several ways – propane furnaces, wood stoves and electric space heaters.  With the coldness of winter there, the propane does not last very long.  Those who heat with wood may run out, especially in bad weather.  There are those who have resorted to burning whatever will burn in the stove to stay warm – clothing, books, furniture.  Electric space heaters are extremely costly – not to purchase but to run.  They need to be on continuously.  The electric bills by the end of heating season often end up too high to be paid, so the electricity is shut off.  The electric company is not supposed to shut off the power in the winter, but it has happened. Trying to heat with wood or electric has also resulted in some catastrophic, wind-driven fires that destroy homes before the fire department can arrive.

I am not going to debate the causes of these circumstances here and I refuse to make this a political discussion as well.  It is, to me, a moral issue.  No one in this country should have to burn their clothing or books to stay warm.  No child should have to be under piles of blankets or clothing to stay warm while he or she tries to sleep.

I am going to make an exception to my rule, though.  It’s my blog and I can do that if I want to.  I will do it because of another article I read in the Rapid City Journal this morning.  The article by Mary Garrigan of the Journal staff was actually posted Thursday, Dec 10, 2010 and is entitled “Energy assistance payments vary.”

In a place like Pine Ridge, where unemployment is 80%-90% and 90 % live under the federal poverty level, you can be sure that energy assistance is a winter lifeline – literally.  People have frozen to death there, including one man I had personally met.

So what did the article have to say about energy assistance?  The first thing I found interesting is that there is a different amount available to people depending on whether they qualify for aid through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) of the State of South Dakota or must rely on the LIHEAP of their tribal government.

LIHEAP helps income-eligible families pay for heating and insulating their homes in winter and cooling them in summer.  It is a federally funded program which begins in October.  South Dakota’s allotment last year totaled more than $29.3 million; the amount of that set aside for Native American tribes in the state was $5.2 million based on a federal formula that uses 1990 Census data to determine the amounts.

Tribes have the option of administering their own LIHEAP programs and in South Dakota 7 of the 9 tribes have opted to do so.  There is an agreement between the state of South Dakota and the tribes that the federally calculated amounts (2.3% of the total) will be doubled (to 4.6%) because it is commonly agreed upon that the Census undercounted tribal residents.

So, we have the 7 tribes, including the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge Reservation, receiving 4.6% of the total funding.  In a state with such a significant Native American population, this seems insufficient – but that is just my non-scientific opinion.

What kind of amounts of money are we talking about, anyway?  Does it really matter?

The article tells of a resident of the nearby Cheyenne River Reservation.  He is enrolled with his tribe; his wife is not a tribal member.  Therefore their household is able to qualify for the state-run LIHEAP funds.  If both were tribal members, they would have to qualify for the tribal LIHEAP instead.  How much of a difference can it make?

This year, this couple expects to receive about $1661 in aid.  His cousins, brothers and other relatives will receive about $400 on the same reservation.  $1661 vs $400!  If you don’t belong to the tribe, you can get 300% more!

The amount available to residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation was expected to be $300 for the winter.  I don’t know why it is less.  I do know that is how much people have been receiving.  They have told me that when I’ve spoken to them.

The people I have spoken to have also told me that the money has already run out and that people have been turned away because of that! How can that be?

The Journal article notes that South Dakota’s LIHEAP awards vary according to primary heating source and geographic region.  The poorest families could expect approximately $427 per year for coal and wood, $1245 for natural gas, up to $1096 for electricity, up to $2082 for propane and $2333 for fuel oil.

I have no information on how these programs are administered.  I do not know where the money goes or why tribal members receive less.

I DO KNOW THAT $300 OR $400 IS NOT ENOUGH TO HEAT A GOOD HOUSE IN SOUTH DAKOTA, LET ALONE A HOME LIKE MANY OF THOSE ON THE RESERVATIONS!!!

I also know that, while the politicians (state, federal and tribal) are bickering about the responsibilities and trying to assess blame, I will be talking to people who are COLD and are asking for help to keep themselves and their children warm.

It really ticks me off!!

You can read the original article at http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_8056e9b4-13c2-11e0-b813-001cc4c002e0.html

In the meantime, don’t forget to fill in the blank – either as a comment here or in a Twitter reply to the link.

Colder than … ______________________

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