[sixties-l] Fwd: South Dakota needs to change attitude, Indian activist says

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/12/00

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    >Argus Leader News
    >South Dakota needs to change attitude, Indian activist says
    >Argus Leader
    >published: 11/6/00
    >VERMILLION, S.D. -- "South Dakotans need to recognize the value of American
    >Indian culture and create an atmosphere similar to New Mexico, which accepts
    >and celebrates cultural diversity", says activist Russell Means.
    >During a recent interview, Means -- an author, film actor and former leader
    >in the American Indian Movement -- offered opinions on the reservation
    >system, the state of AIM, the "refugee" status of American Indians and
    >economic development in the state.
    >South Dakota is missing economic development opportunities because the state
    >does not embrace Indians, he said.
    >"We've got the most famous Indians in the world living here, the Sioux, the
    >most celebrated of all indigenous people," he said. "And the state doesn't
    >take advantage of it."
    >Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Means maintains homes in
    >Porcupine and Sante Fe, N.M.
    >"They celebrate three cultures; Anglo, Spanish and American Indian," he said
    >of his New Mexican neighbors. "And they do so for one simple reason:
    >Means recently visited the University of South Dakota campus to present the
    >Sixth Annual Joseph Harper Cash Memorial Lecture.
    >He spoke to classes, participated in other campus events and attended a
    >special showing of "The Last of the Mohicans," in which he had a starring
    >role. He was also the voice of Pocahontas' father in a Disney animated
    >In the interview, Means said he wonders why there aren't artist colonies in
    >Rapid City, Hill City or Hot Springs, similar to those in Sante Fe or Taos.
    >"There should be world-class destination resorts on the Missouri River," he
    >said. "We need both private and international investment."
    >One state expert agrees with Means' concept of economic development.
    >"He's right," said David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of
    >Commerce and Industry. "He's accurately looking at one part of what economic
    >development in this state could be."
    >Owens said some of Means' version may actually be starting in Hill City and
    >other Black HIlls communities. But Owens believes other types of development
    >would be more beneficial.
    >"How does this rank as economic development? It would be a second or third
    >choice," Owens said. "Artists are super consumers. Manufacturing or
    >agriculture, in full production, get more turns on the dollar. Artists may
    >buy things downtown, but their dollars leave the area faster."
    >Means said racism is what's holding back the state.
    >"Racism is born of ignorance, which makes the Northern Plains states the
    >most ignorant area of North America," he said. "If the state could rise
    >above the ignorance, and run an economic partnership with Indian people, we
    >would all prosper."
    >Means admits to stealing a plank from the Libertarian Party platform when he
    >addresses what the federal government should do to improve its relations
    >with American Indians.
    >Each tribe should be dealt with individually, he said, and all outstanding
    >land claims settled, including the return of the Black Hills.
    >"Obviously, this is not something that can be done overnight," he said. "But
    >look at South Africa and their (ongoing) policy of land reform."
    >Means believes each reservation should be allowed to determine its own level
    >of sovereignty.
    >"I bet 95 percent will opt for the status quo, but you're dealing with
    >colonized people," he said. "But there would be a few who would opt for
    >Means blames the current reservation system for turning roughly two-thirds
    >of all American Indians into "refugees."
    >"We have to leave our homes, our nations, to put a roof over our heads, and
    >to find opportunities," he said. "Not unlike Mexicans or Eastern Europeans
    >coming to this country.
    >Art War Bonnett, executive director of American Indian Services in Sioux
    >Falls, agrees with Means on that point.
    >"The average reservation unemployment rate is 80 percent," War Bonnett said.
    >"Many American Indians leave the reservation for an urban setting, like
    >Sioux Falls, with a 2 percent unemployment rate. The challenges they face
    >here are affordable day care, housing and low wages."
    >Immigrants from all over the world face the same challenges, War Bonnett
    >said. All are in a refugee status, brought here because of the strong
    >economy, and hoping to better themselves.
    >"What I've found is that the Sioux Falls community is very proactive in
    >helping these people face these challenges," War Bonnett said.
    >Means said AIM as an entity is dead, existing only in a few isolated pockets
    >around the country.
    >"It died, as soon as it sank into dysfunction," he said.
    >The group's leaders say the movement is growing, particularly in education
    >and job training.
    >"AIM declined for him, when he became the 'Last of the Mohicans,' and
    >Pocahontas' dad," said Clyde Bellecourt, who founded AIM and serves as a
    >national director. "The movement declined for Russell since day one."
    >Bellecourt points to AIM's successes as proof of the organizations
    >The Heart of the Earth Center for Indian Education in Minneapolis just
    >became the first culturally based charter school in Minnesota, Bellecourt
    >said. It first opened its doors in 1972.
    >"This is the number one thing that we've done," Bellecourt said.
    >He also pointed to the AIM-sponsored American Indian Opportunities and
    >Industrialization Center, which has trained more than 18,000 Indian people
    >for jobs.
    >"We've taken more than 15,000 people off the welfare rolls, and put them on
    >the payroll," Bellecourt said.
    >Means has clashed with Clyde and Vernon Bellecourt through the years. Each
    >has had a lifetime of activism, which included arrests and numerous battles
    >with tribal, state and federal governments.
    >Said Means: "In my lifetime, I've seen this country address its deceit
    >concerning slavery and its mistreatment of blacks. I've seen it face its
    >deceit of migrant workers, its terrorization of women, its mistreatment of
    >Japanese Americans during the Second World War, and its anti-Semitism. I see
    >this country now coming to terms with its homophobia.
    >"But I have yet to see this country face its deceit concerning American
    >Indians. When it does, then we can all join together and become Americans."
    >Reach reporter Lee Williams at lwilliam@argusleader.com or 331-2318

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