Roland John Morris, Sr. Fall, 1998
What made this Tribal Elder want to work against Tribal government and federal Indian Policy? Roland John Morris, Sr., tried of watching his family die, asked Senators in Washington DC to step away from current Federal Indian policy and begin to treat all men equally. Read his story below.
My name is Roland Morris Sr. I am a full-blooded Anishinabe American citizen from the Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa. It is my hope you will discern the truthfulness of my message by examining both my heart, as well as my words.
When my brothers and sisters and I were growing up in the 50’s, the hateful overt racism did hurt. However, the reverse was also hurtful. When patronizing people essentially pat us on the head and said; "you poor dear, you are a victim and can’t possibly take care of yourself." and "you can’t be to blame for your actions", that was just as hurtful, if not more so.
On top of that, itself views as
helpless wards. With hateful racists on one side putting us down, well meaning liberals on the other side putting us down, and the federal Government there to take care of us anyway, many started to believe what was said about them and succumbed to the expectations of all sides. How should one feel when as a man, one is treated as a child? I ask for nothing "special". To receive something "special" means I will be treated differently and separately from other men.
Government dependence, through current Federal Indian Policy, is killing people. Federal Policy currently treats tribal members as wards; as children. A man needs to feel needed, but as long as the government is taking care of a man’s family through welfare, food stamps, fuel assistance, Medicaid, and HUD housing, a man loses that feeling of being needed and important to his family. If a man doesn’t feel needed, what is there for him? I have to ask myself, and you as well: are Indian people to be considered separate but more equal, separate but less equal, or separate and equal? And is it necessary to be separate anyway?
Secondly, Tribal governments have become dependent on help. Through this dependency, many tribal governments have become corrupt with unchecked power and money. Because of this corruption and unwillingness to let go of power and money; tribal government themselves, in some cases, are keeping their people in the bondage of poverty and oppression. In addition, we have seen tribal governments, in order to keep power and money, attempt to keep outsiders sympathetic by using pictures of poor, disheveled elderly and children. The tribal gambling industry did this in the fall of 1997. Isn’t this an abuse of the people?
I also see true elders feeling defeated. Young people won’t listen to how the elders want to handle the situation. Seeing this disrespect is hurtful to me. It can be no wonder that Indian people are tired and depressed. Not only do many feel alienated from the United States Government, but many tribal governments can’t be trusted either. Through this depression and loss of hope, people are dying of alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and violence. Some die quickly, others die slowly. Some live years but are dead in their hearts. If the current system is so good for Native people, why is this happening?
Current Federal Indian Policy is also hurting non-tribal members. Many treaty provisions were meant to last only twenty or so years. It has been Congress and tribal government that have been stretching it out longer. Now, some tribal governments, again in effort to keep money and control, use guilt and pity to keep American taxpayers from putting an end to the funding. And politicians, either afraid of seeming cold-hearted or because tribal governments make huge campaign contributions, turn and look the other way.
How do we fix the problem? That is the question. Many elders are distressed at the thought of giving up even more tribal autonomy. Too much has been lost already. These elders need to be respected and listened to. Other elders say we have lost hope and happiness, and without these, what is everything else worth? If the power structure continues as it is now, angering and estranging people, creating a society full of hopelessness, drug abuse, violence, and hate, what good all the assets we have left anyway? Is there a way to make the situation more healthy for everyone without giving up tribal assets? Can we work this out so that elders feel they are heard, tribal members get what they need, and non-members aren’t trod on? With the current epidemic of corruption on , how could tribal members be better protected?
It is clear to us that some kind of discussion needs to begin. We can’t continue to sit back and watch relatives die. Lastly, pain, rejection and persecution are not factors isolated to one people group. In fact, all people have their own crosses to bear, pain to hide. Christ went to the cross, beaten and spit upon, but blaming no one and without self-pity. If we are to come together as people, we must follow his example of forgiveness.
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those that spitefully use you and persecute you. That you may be sons of your father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your Brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:44-48
Native Americans are not more "needy" then anyone else. In fact, Native Americans are just as good, just as evil, just as productive and just as non-productive, as any other people.