Harry Reid has called Native Americans in Nevada, “my Nevada Indians.” This one statement oozes long-held paternalistic sentiments about Native Americans. Most Democrats hold similar opinions about blacks: “our African Americans.”
Over lunch I always have some reading material. One particular day I was reading an article written by Michael McVicar titled “‘First Owyhee and Then the World’: The Early Ministry of R. J. Rushdoony” that was published in the November/December 2008 issue of Faith for All of Life, a publication of the Chalcedon Foundation. As the title indicates, it’s about the early life of Rushdoony’s ministry work.
Rushdoony served for eight and a half years as a missionary to the Shoshone and Paiute Indians on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in a remote area of Nevada beginning in 1944. It was his time on the reservation where he deduced correctly that the state “is the giver of all things, the source power, of land, and (having built a reservoir for irrigation here) even of water. . . . The government hospital delivers the children, and the government army taketh them away, and blessed is the name of the government each Memorial Day and Fourth of July.”
The government’s “management” of the Indians ruined their lives. Rushdoony told about the impact of this process in a prescient article published in 1954 in Essays on Liberty, a publication of the Foundation for Economic Education. As you read it below, note how Rushdoony’s reservation experience has broadened in scope to include a majority of Americans who are now on a much larger reservation. — Gary DeMar
The reservation Indian is becoming less self-sufficient and more dependent upon what he calls “the Great White Father in Washington.” Instead of freedom, the Indian has government-guaranteed “security.” Instead of individual responsibility, he has a government bureau to handle his personal affairs. There are special laws governing his right to own land and to spend tribal money. Under that system of bondage it would surprise no one to find that many thousands of Indians have remained uneducated, hungry, diseased, and mismanaged.
—FROM Wards of the Government
As a missionary to the Indians, I find your warnings underscored by my daily experience. One of the surest consequences of a government of “welfare” and “security” is the rapid decline and death of responsibility and character.
Whatever the pre-reservation Indian was—and his faults were real—he was able to take care of himself and had a character becoming to his culture and religion. He was a responsible person. Today he is far from that. The wretched security he has had, beginning with the food and clothing dole of early years, designed to enforce the reservation system and destroy Indian resistance, has sapped him of character. The average Indian knows that he can gamble and drink away his earnings and still be sure that his house and land will remain his own; and; with his hunting rights, he can always eke out some kind of resistance.
Government men too often hamper and impede the man with initiative and character. This is because their program inevitably must be formulated in terms of the lowest common denominator, the weakest Indian. In addition, the provisions of the government for the “welfare” and “security” of the Indians remove the consequences from their sinning and irresponsibility. The result is a license to irresponsibility, which all the touted government projects cannot counteract.
And I believe the results would be no better for the best hundred or thousand persons selected from any society, after a generation or so of the same kind of “welfare” and “security” government.
There are many men in the Indian Service who are sincerely and earnestly trying to improve the Indian’s welfare. They are, however, faced with this constant dilemma: All their zealous and patient efforts to help the Indian simply tend to become another crutch that the Indian depends on. Those Indians who have become progressive and independent apparently have done so because of personal and religious factors totally unrelated to the government program.