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Mark Nickolas

Mark Nickolas

Posted February 13, 2009 | 07:33 PM (EST)

Obama Makes Good On Promises To Indian Country In Stimulus Bill


If you've ever visited an Indian reservation and ventured into the actual community (going to a casino doesn't count), you would know just how heartbreaking it is to witness how these Americans are forced to live. Frankly, it's impossible to believe that you're standing on United States soil and not in a Third World country.

During the year I spent in South Dakota, traveling with Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) as his deputy campaign manager during his 2002 re-election, I had reason to visit seven of the nine Sioux reservations in the state on at least one occasion (but mostly a number of times). It was an eye-opening experience for someone like me who grew-up in a major urban area (San Francisco) and, I thought, not naive about how the lesser in our society live. I was dead wrong. I was floored by the abject poverty, rampant unemployment, the staggering percentages of families who lacked a phone, electricity, running water, and sewage service. Not surprisingly, the roads were awful and the number of health and educational facilities was truly offensive. Sadly, few Americans have any idea what life is like for our native people on reservations all across the country.

But you might recall some of my posts during the presidential race (here and here) about how the Obama camp was making a very aggressive effort on the reservations (understandably, voter turnout there is typically minuscule). Not surprising, leading the Obama effort in Indian country was none other than Obama field general Steve Hildebrand (who was Tim Johnson's campaign manager in 2002 when I was deputy), and that caused me to watch the effort with great interest. As a result of their hard-fought and tenancious efforts, Obama won an enormous share of the vote on the reservations.

I raise this because I just went through the breakdown of spending in the final stimulus bill and it seems that Indian country was not left out and was allocated some modest and long-overdue help. No doubt, the Obama White House made sure that we didn't leave them out, once again.

I doubt the media will spend any time on this, so I wanted to point it out:

  • Highway infrastructure funds for the Indian Reservation Roads program ($550,000,000);
                 
  • Native American housing block grants ($510,000,000);
             
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs construction of roads, schools and detention centers ($450,000,000);
           
  • Indian health facilities ($415,000,000);
            
  • State and local law enforcement assistance to Indian tribes ($225,000,000);
                 
  • Community Development Financial Institutions Fund for financial assistance, training and outreach to Native American, Hawaiian and Alaskan native communities ($100,000,000);
             
  • Indian Health Service information technology and telehealth services ($85,000,000);
         
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs job training and housing improvement programs ($40,000,000);
            
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs - Office of Inspector General ($15,000,000);
          
  • Indian guaranteed loan program ($10,000,000);
          
  • Food distribution program on Indian reservations ($5,000,000).

Mark Nickolas is the Managing Editor of Political Base, and this story was from his original post, "Obama Makes Good On Promises To Indian Country In Stimulus Bill"