Violence and deceit have characterized the relationship between the federal government and Native Americans ever since the era of policy- driven expansionism. The aftermath of all the bloody wars and cultural conflict is the present situation of Native affairs. After tribes signed treaties guaranteeing protections of their inherent sovereignty, the federal government over the years enacted laws or made rulings in court which severely undermined the guarantees of these treaties. As a result, tribes have little control over the conditions in the reservations and depend on the federal government for their most basic needs.
However, federal aid programs are not enough and actual conditions on the ground are potent reminders. According to Ward Churchill, a former professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Natives suffer the lowest health levels and highest disease rates of all major population groups in America (Churchill 70). Widespread poverty has disastrous effects on Native American conditions, and according to Melinda Newport, the Director of Nutrition Services for Chickasaw Nation, Natives suffer more food insecurity and hunger than the general population as a result (Newport). Trying to make ends meet, a large proportion of Natives choose to consume low quality foods with high fat content and suffer obesity-related problems like diabetes and heart disease.
[...] Past violence against Natives under the colonial justification for expansion should be answered for. Legal guarantees offered by treaties only bolster the inherent moral obligation by responsible actors in this issue. An expansion of the FDPIR to include culturally appropriate foods would realign the relationship between tribes and the federal government. The struggle to put Natives in a position of self- sufficiency in food production plays an integral part in the broader struggle for sovereignty as a whole. The dependence of Natives on the federal government for food aid reifies centuries of colonial violence destructive to Native ways of life. [...]
[...] However, bison are procured from nontribal suppliers, leaving Natives out of a vital cultural process. In fact of federal contracts are granted to two corporate producers (Lulka 82). Bison meat from corporate sources are viewed as culturally insensitive and unhealthy because conventional western methods entail feedlots and the use of grain, which increases the meat's yellow and white fat content and contradicts Native American ways of raising bison in an open, grass grazing environment (76 and 77). In order to address these needs, the United States federal government should acquire culturally appropriate foods from exclusively tribal suppliers for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. [...]
[...] Acts of Rebellion: the Ward Churchill Reader. New York: Routledge Print D'Errico, Peter. "SOVEREIGNTY - in the Context of U.S. "Indian Law"" University of Massachusetts Amherst. Web Oct Lulka, David. "Bison and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations." Great Plains Research 16 (2006): 73-84. Digital Commons. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Web. [...]
[...] If sovereignty actually had a place in federal policy as an inherent right of Natives rather than a way to appease the anger of conquered subjects, policy would uniformly reflect the words of past treaties. True sovereignty rests in a group's ability to provide for their people without being dependent on another's material aid. How better to provide this autonomy than ensuring a wholly Native means of addressing the hunger of their own people? Once an organic, intangible element of sovereignty is in place, tribes can engage the federal government as true equals, not dependent nations. From there, fruitful discussions and plans for change can be established for the good of both nations. [...]
[...] An expansion of the FDPIR to meet the needs of Natives would be trivial compared to the broader federal budget. In fact, the total cost of the FDPIR in FY 2009, including food, administration, logistics, delivery, and nutrition education, was $ 109.6 million (Food Nutrition Service 1). The average of 95,000 monthly participants of the program must receive income below the federal poverty line to remain eligible for aid, which are the same guidelines for the Food Stamp Program However, the average monthly cost per Food Stamp recipient in FY 2009 was $ while during the same year an FDPIR beneficiary received $ 78.44 worth of food aid per month When the federal government deals with yearly budgets amounting to the trillions, a plan of this importance is surely within the nation's economic means. [...]
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