They trusted their welfare to the Government

I am standing Hwy 2, passing through the Blackfoot “Res” in Montana. What I see before me doesn’t look like much, a scrubby field under low hills and Montana’s incredibly beautiful big sky.

Where I am standing is the former site of the Badger Creek Indian Agency, where the Blackfeet Indians gathered after their buffalo had been slaughtered and the government promised them food and support in exchange for having given up their independence and self reliance.

By the winter of 1883-1884, however, the government had really, really screwed up. The Indians’ own source of meat (buffalo, deer, elk) had been destroyed. Their limited crops had failed. Their limited livestock was depleted. They were running out of food.

Since 1881, Indian agent John Young’s repeated requests to the government for more food aid had been met with bureaucratic indifference. Frankly, the “government” didn’t care very much and there were budget constraints that had to be met.

Then, in the winter of 1883-1884, the inevitable happened: starvation came. By the time the world outside the reservation heard about it, one quarter of the population (600 Indians) had already starved to death. The surrounding Montana communities responded immediately, sending relief trains of emergency food, livestock and blankets to the Blackfeet survivors. The government, by contrast, did nothing. After the fact, they held hearings, absolved themselves of responsibility and, finally, blamed Indian Agent John Young for gross negligence.

This is a story to keep in mind for all those that believe that it is somehow a good idea to surrender their independence and self-reliance to a faceless entity called “government”. Whether it is welfare, social security, Medicare or Obamacare, I can guarantee this: the government will screw up through indifference and people will die. Not because government is “bad” or that the people in government are “bad”, but because people are people and government can never be better than our collective human nature. And, once stripped of our independence and self-reliance, there will be no recourse. We will not be able to rely upon surrounding communities to rush to our aid.

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  • Charles Martel

    Danny, everything you say makes sense. If I were an American Indian, I would be enraged at what the federal government and my own people have done to themselves. (Notice I used the word “enrage,” as opposed to “outrage,” which I no longer use because the left has turned it into a knee-jerk word for being very, very, very upset.)
    That said, your commentary reminded me of a now almost-forgotten story from the 1990s. A couple of ecologists from upstate New York began traveling through the Great Plains quietly introducing the idea of setting aside tens of thousands of square miles to be returned to their original native prairie-grass state. Their reasoning was based on an astounding, demographic fact: The 900,000 square miles that make up the American Great Plains are less populated now than they were in 1900. The terrain, which fooled settlers with an uncharacteristic run of rainy years, is a dry, desolate, treeless stretch that has slowly bled off its population over the years.
    But what really stuck with me from the couple’s low-key crusade—which won many converts among the people they talked to—was the idea that the areas set aside would be replenished with bison herds, and that young men (and women) of the Sioux and other Plains tribes would be invited to hunt upon those lands once again, living a simple life as hunters under country sky.
    I’m sure that if such a great preserve were ever to be set aside, few young Sioux would hear the call of the hunting life. But some would. It’s a terribly romantic notion, but I would draw great inspiration from the idea that some Indians could break free of miserable reservation life by taking up again the life that was once their glory. 

  • David Foster

    The Blackfeet had little choice, because they had been conquered by greater numbers and better technology. But what accounts for the willingness of so many members of the American population at large to be herded into the virtual equivalent of reservations?

    The following link by the Comanche David Yeagley, who blogs as Bad Eagle, bears reading and thinking about. I first read it right after 9/11.

    What’s up with white women?


  • Ymarsakar

    The key is progressing along the human spectrum of civilization without losing your own roots and heritage.

    This is an obstacle for Leftist megalomaniacs so first they force you to come along, such as Mao’s modernization plan, and then when the ancient methods are proven to be better or more popular, the practitioners are exiled or killed by political purges.

     Irregardless of a community’s specific standards, so long as you have a feudal overlord on your shoulder, there’s not much you can do about anything.


  • Ymarsakar

    Like with many marriages, unequal balances of power eventually begets bitterness, a superiority complex, insults, and fear. Which inevitably results in conflict.


  • Danny Lemieux

    Hammer, I once knew a nice American Indian (Cheyenne) woman who was married to a white guy, a trapper, who would go up in the mountains and live in a teepee during trapping season (deep in the snows). I asked her if she ever wanted to go with him. She said, “H*** no! I lived the old way when I was a kid because our family was so poor. I have no desire to ever live that way again.”

    I remember the story that you cited. Only Looney Toone academics from the hallowed walls of East Coast academia could dream up something so ridiculous. The problems on the reservations run deep and much of it has to do with lack of purpose in life and dependency on government. And it isn’t just government largesse: there is a tiny reservation close to Minneapolis (Sioux) where the casino revenues are so great that many “families” pull-in close $100,000 – $250,000K per year. They still have the same problems with alcohol, drugs, lack of education and loss of purpose in life. 

    Yesterday, I asked my son, already a highly awarded soldier at the tender age of 22,  why he though so many of his peers were drifting in life with no sense of direction or purpose. After thinking about it, he said, “because we had everything handed to us”.

    That is what government does to people when it gives them things they didn’t have to earn. I saw the same dynamic happen in socialist Europe when I lived there. People lost their ability and will to rely upon their own abilities. Once that disease takes hold, it is very hard to eradicate.

  • Ymarsakar

    There’s nothing death cannot eradicate that was created from life.

  • Gringo

    Many people who live in the West, such as my Montana cousins, do not have an idealized view of  life on the Res, as they know people who live on the Res.