Chapter 6: Un-American Indian reservations and resource management
In my youth I spent summers on an Indian reservation where my uncle managed a ranch. One of my heroes was Francis Calf-Looking. Every morning Francis would wrangle a horse for me to ride so I could help him herd cattle. What I did not know at the time was just how different our lives were. I came from a middle-class family where home ownership was a given, where going to college was expected, and where health care was excellent. Francis Calf-Looking would have lived in poverty had he not received room and board at the ranch. He probably did not complete high school, and his toothless grin was an indicator of substandard health care. Today, many Native American tribes and First Nations bands are now trapped in reservations not unlike areas in very poor developing countries. The explanations for poverty and poor environmental quality in the developing world are the same for American Indian reservations and lie in the structure of property rights and the rule of law. The following insights into reserv- ation institutions help shine a light on problems surrounding stewardship and economic develop- ment worldwide. American Indian tribes are the largest land- holders in the United States; together, reservations make up nearly 100 million acres – an area just smaller than California. And much of this area is rich in natural resources.
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