Abourezk: In support of an Indian bailout


Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. I’m Kevin Abourezk, a Native American writer. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today about the future of Indian country and the need for emergency assistance for this vital population of our society.

I’d like to acknowledge for the Committee the audiences that I represent: Me. Myself. And I.

Of course, while I officially represent no one, I would like to offer some statistics regarding the state of Indian country for your consideration:

• There are 2.37 million Native people living in the United States.

• The median age for Native people is 31.5, compared to 36.4 for the general U.S. population.

• About 590,000 Natives live in poverty, or about 25 percent of all Natives.

• The median house income for Natives: $35,200 (that's 30 percent less than that of all Americans).

These statistics come from your own government, by way of the 2007 American Community Survey, so you really have no reason to doubt them (we all know how accurate the Census has been in describing Native people).

Mr. Chairman, now is the time for action on behalf of Indian country.

I’d like to acknowledge for the Committee the audiences that I represent: Me. Myself. And I.

A collapse within Indian country, which contributes 927,000 civilian workers age 16 and over to the U.S. workforce (compared to the mere 96,000 people employed by General Motors), could lead to economic collapse nationwide.

As for the conditions of this economic assistance, Indian country would be happy to accede to the same requirements placed on the auto industry in exchange for $15 billion in aid and on Wall Street for $700 billion in aid.

We'd be happy to give up our corporate jets (we have none so that’s an easy one). We’ll gladly limit our executive pay compensation to just $10 million a year (since no tribal official makes that much anyway this is more of a self-imposed ceiling but we’ll stick to it). And we see no problem with allowing the U.S. to share in our future profits (by way of income taxes and other taxes, of course).

As for golden parachutes, we’d be lucky if we could muster a copper parachute for a fired tribal leader, so you have no worries here.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, allowing Indian country to collapse would certainly further the economic crisis we’re currently in and endanger this country’s ability to support itself.

That said, economic stimulus assistance for Indian country isn’t only essential for this country’s economic well-being, it’s the right thing to do.

By investing in Native workers and businesses, the United States will help Native people provide for themselves and give them the means to help pull this country out of its current economic mire.

By investing in Native health and education, this government will finally live up to the guarantees it gave countless tribal leaders centuries ago to provide for the health and education of future generations of Native people.

We cannot allow the quality of life for this country’s first peoples to fall further behind that of all other Americans, lest we find ourselves in greater peril than we do today.

You can help Native people in their current crisis. … and reap the rewards for generations to come.

Thank you, and I am happy to answer your questions.

Kevin Abourezk, Oglala and Rosebud Lakota, is a reporter and editor at the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. He writes for Reznetnews.org and teaches reporting at the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute.