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“Indian Giver”: The U.S. Government Spoke With Forked Tongue

Written by Gary North on November 2, 2012

We have a [phrase in the United States: “Indian giver.” An Indian giver is someone who gives you something, and then takes it back.

It turns out that the biggest Indian giver of all is the United States government. It gave tribes assets, and then it mismanaged the assets or actually looted them.

It is taken since 1996 to settle a class-action suit against the United States government for its mismanagement of Indian tribal assets. The government has finally agreed to pay the people bringing the suit over $1 billion in settlement, plus pay tribal entities over $1 billion. The total is around 3 ½ billion dollars.

We should never forget that the original experiment in socialism in the United States was the system of property management that was imposed on tribes by the United States government. This is the system known as Indian reservations. The system has been a catastrophe from the moment it was conceived. It has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the government mismanages economic assets. We have had this demonstration in front of us since the late 1860s. But the system still persists.

My wife was born in a tiny town in Nevada because her father would not let her mother be under the care of the drunken physician who was on the government payroll through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Her father was a missionary to the tribe, located in Idaho and Utah, and he knew firsthand about the total incompetence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

At least in the old Western movies, the person who was associated with the government on a reservation was likely to be portrayed as a crook. I grew up with those movies, and I developed an early distrust of the reservation system. Only later did I figure out of the reason why the system was so bad is that it was run by the government. I can’t think of any other organization at the federal level that has been subjected to more artistic criticism in Hollywood movies than the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The organization was never named, in the same way that the Bible was never called “the Bible” in Hollywood movies, but at least young people got the idea early that this is one agency of government which nobody should trust.

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