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James Luna, A Native American Man

“James Luna, A Native American Man,” is an insightful, cut the bullshit, view of the modern Indian culture. I identify with Luna’s viewpoints as I have seen many of the situations he describes with his art to be true to life. I have spent a lot of time in Northern Canada fishing with my brother and father. The areas we visit are predominantly Indian reservations. Having spent quite a bit of time getting to know these types of towns and people, I have grown aware of some of the many problems that surround the modern day reservation lifestyle.

It is true that most people have romantic and Disneyland-ish ideas about what it means to be a modern Indian, the most of which are complete fantasy. The reality behind the situation seems to be the exact opposite. The majority of reservation towns are dirty, poor, and run-down. Many of the people have alcohol and drug related problems starting at a young age. At a quick drive through one might assume he was passing through another slum. There are no teepees, no headdresses, and no rituals.

For the most part there is only poverty. Unless the town is lucky enough to have a casino, the majority of the people live month to month on their reparation checks. This is where I believe, as do many of the Indians I have spoken to, the problem lies. The idea of reparations sounds good enough in theory. Pay people back for what was taken from them long ago. The long-term effects of reparations though tend to be devastating to the Indian culture.

Why would giving people free money be harmful? Quite simply, handouts deprive people of pride, a sense of equality and belonging, and especially motivation. The people I have talked to all claim the same thingChildren growing up know that they don’t have to work if they don’t want to. That tends to be the common attitude of the reservation Indian. This also encourages what Luna calls, “Wannabee’s,” to try and get in on the action for a chunk of change.

And lets not forget the known tendencies toward alcohol and addiction that makes it even easier to drink and pass the time, rather than having to work and entrepreneur. Even those aware of the situation get caught in the trap. Its easy to give up when the option of failing is backed up by a monthly checkAnd so goes the vicious circle of reparationsSomething that was designed to payback a culture for past wrongs does nothing more that take the life and hope out of a culture and its future.

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