Indian Nations are Eligible for Foreign Development Assistance

Guest Commentary

The Turkish Ambassador, Namik Tan, on November 12, 2013, presented the very first development assistance grant given by the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Collaboration (TIKA) to an American Indian tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon.

Todd Theringer

Todd Theringer

The Turkish Ambassador talked about the kinship the Turkish people feel they have with American Indians based on an ancient connection in Central Asia. The Warm Springs Chief, Joseph Moses, thanked the Turkish Government for giving $200,000 to the tribe to pay for a water tank at a new elementary school that the tribe has been asking the Bureau of Indian Education/Bureau of Indian Affairs to build for the past 20 years. He talked about children spending 80 minutes a day on a school bus to be able to attend elementary school.  This new school will reduce the need for long commutes and help the parents in the local community to participate in the education of their children.

This small grant from a foreign country is a sign that tribes should seek out international development assistance.  If the tribes are truly sovereign nations, then there is no reason that they cannot accept foreign economic assistance.  Venezuela’s CITGO has been providing free heating oil for the past 9 years to over 60 American Indian tribes.   There is no reason for the tribes to wait around for Washington to help meet the needs of their citizens. The Bureau of Indian Affairs budget has remained about the same as during the Bush Administration as under the Obama Administration, despite Obama’s willingness to consult with the tribes.

Talk is very cheap in the Obama Administration. Schools and education continue to be underfunded and delegations of newly elected tribal officials continue to waste resources on lobbyists in Washington DC in hopes of getting the funding they need to improve conditions on reservations. One large foreign aid grant from Germany to a tribe could eliminate the need for lobbying activities and that savings could be put back into a tribal program.

The self confidence that a tribe can gain by going directly to the World and the International community to ask for help is an assertion of sovereignty.  Washington DC is never going to be held accountable as long as the tribes are willing to be patient and long suffering. Why does the United States government give more than double to the money in foreign aid to Israel every year than to all of the tribes combined?  How much does the government give to Egypt? If the United States government gave the amount of money it gives to Israel to the tribes, there would be no need for foreign assistance to the tribes.  How about a tax on all foreign weapon sales or foreign aid be put into a development assistance fund for the tribes?

The World Bank should have an active development assistance program on how to economically develop the 566 officially recognized tribes. One of the first things the tribes need is a banking system.  How hard would it be to set up a credit union on each reservation if the money behind the creation of such a system were funded by the World Bank? Jeffrey Sachs is able to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into “pilot projects” in Ethiopia to end poverty, but not one dollar to a tribe in the United States?  The pilot projects in this country might actually work and generate economic activity.

Why take a chance in Ethiopia and not in the US?

The Turkish government’s grant to the Warm Springs Tribe is a sign that international development money needs to start to flow into the richest nation on Earth to the domestic areas left out of the US economic system. Why shouldn’t a tribe sell their natural resources to the highest bidder, or allow a foreign company to open a company on its reservation if it is going to benefit both parties?  The Turkish grant is a wake up call to the tribes to stop wasting time in Washington DC and start spending time in Ankara, Beijing, Caracas, Paris and other capitals of the world and enter the global economy.


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