A Native American Perspective on the Government Shutdown


They’ve done it. A mere thirty Republican Tea Party extremists have managed to shut down the U.S. government, potentially tanking a national economy that’s already on life support. Ironically enough, the flawed logic behind their congressional temper tantrum, to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (coined Obamacare) by taking the country hostage, was a complete and utter failure. Obamacare remains unscathed by the shut down and full online enrollment in the program began October 1, 2013.

So here sits the grand Ol’ U.S. of A. National Parks, landmarks, museums, zoos, and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program will close its doors. Scores of government agencies will be staffed by a paltry skeleton of essential personnel, who will be working without pay. For example, over 94% of all Environmental Protection Agency employees will be sent home, on furlough. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is also bare bones. Who stays in office? The Internal Revenue Service and Federal Courts. Yay! (*sarcasm*) The President and Congress will also continue to receive full pay and benefits.

Native Americans are hardly trusting of the Federal Government, and with good reason. Genocide by disease, starvation and outright massacre, colossal theft of our lands and resources, attempts to assimilate us by kidnapping our children and outlawing our ceremonies, the Trail of Tears, the Trail of Broken Treaties, and ongoing acts of terror against not only Native Americans but Indigenous peoples abroad, all under the banner of Manifest Destiny and The Doctrine of Discovery, are proof positive that this new Roman Empire is not only deceitful, but negligent and culpable of crimes against humanity itself. The colonial forefathers of this country claimed a divine right to rule it. I’ve got news for you. It was a sham, a hustle, a con. This form of government now fosters a greed driven, power hungry, capitalistic fascist theocracy where mega corporations and lobbyists pull the strings while millions of numb, apathetic, brainwashed citizens drool in front of TV screens, ignorant of their own power. It is a cancer upon Ina Maka (Mother Earth) and must be excised. Change must come, or it will be forced upon us. The Emperor has no clothes!

Native Americans aren’t panicking. Every apparent problem is a budding opportunity and this dilemma is no exception. They are the largest minority group in North and South Dakota. In recent years, Native Americans have proven that their vote can determine election results. As a Native American, I say it’s time for us to bolster support for congressional candidates who will run against those who are responsible for the shutdown. Senator Thune (SD-R), Congresswoman Noem (SD-R) and Congressman Cramer (ND-R) have all revealed their true colors through this shutdown and by voting to take away food stamps for poor citizens who need them just a few weeks ago. These elected officials are acting like tea party extremists who care more about political posturing than being the voice of those they ‘represent.’ Among their constituents are Native Americans who live in the poorest counties in the nation, which are all located on Indian reservations.

Further, we Native Americans should use this as an opportunity to mold our future into one that promotes real Tribal sovereignty. Let’s get off the government tit- enough with ‘trust responsibilities’ and being relegated to ‘domestic dependent nation’ status. We can grow and become truly independent once more, as our ancestors were. There are real economic development opportunities out there, in the green energy sector, for example. We can grow our own food, and even get into the organic foods business. We don’t have to compromise our traditional lifeways to have abundance. The secret to our livelihood is our culture and beliefs- our traditional arts, teachings, and modes of healing. We have everything we need because we belong to the land. It provides for us. We’re built for it. The economy of our Native American ancestors established is sustainable long term. Governments rise and fall all the time. The United States is only 237 years old. Our ancestors sustained themselves here for thousands of years. Thanks to ancient teachings that have been passed down to us and our incredible ability to adapt, Indigenous peoples shall remain.

In the meantime, some feisty Native American women around the country are contemplating how we go about reclaiming our homelands while the government continues to spiral out of control and the Empire crumbles into disrepair. We’ve got our Tribal flags are ready.  There’s an old saying, “A Nation is not conquered until the hearts of it’s women are on the ground.” While our moccasins may be on the ground ready to fight for our people and lands, our hearts are soaring.

Ruth Hopkins is a writer, blogger, ethnoscientist, administrator, Chief Judge of the Spirit Lake Nation, a founding writer for Lastrealindians.com, and a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network. 


Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton and Mdewakanton Dakota, Hunkpapa Lakota) is an author, blogger, biologist, activist, judge, columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network, and founding writer with Lastrealindians.com.

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