UN to US: Give Native Americans Land

The UN has a bum rap in the United States.  Some of it is undeserved, much of it is.  In speaking with people connected to the UN, I get the distinct feeling that it’s basically a country club for third world nations, where nothing ever gets done, and indulging in bureaucratic rituals is far more important than delivering concrete results.

Supporting this thinking is a story making the rounds that a special UN investigator is calling for the US to restore tribal lands to Native American tribes.  This kind of story does nothing but reinforce that narrative that the UN is pursuing the impossible at the expense of the less grandiose, but feasible.  Sure, restoring tribal lands sounds great in theory, but a land restoration program won’t fundamentally alter the sorry state of affairs that characterizes most Native American communities.  We don’t live in an agricultural society anymore where territory brings riches and influence.

If anything, effective and well-calibrated federal policies focusing on education, health, jobs and infrastructure would do more to demonstrably improve the day to day lives of Native Americans, far more than a simple land transfer could ever hope to accomplish.  This isn’t 1860, where when you acquire a large chunk of land, the automatic consequences are increased wealth and power.  Now, what translates into wealth and power is skills and health, preferably on a sustainable basis.  That, far more than land, would correct the historic injustice that’s occurred here over the past four centuries.  Not giving the Ogala Sioux a chunk of the Dakotas.


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