With respect to Native American youth suicide, it was recently reported that "In an area where the poverty rate is more than 50 percent and unemployment is above 70 percent...'children carry the outlook that things may not get better for them.'" In response to the suicide epidemic, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said, "We will not turn away from this issue until it is resolved"... which, of course, is a clear sign that Congress will turn away from this issue before it is resolved. U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said, "We’ve got to find a solution, we've got to find best practices, and then we have to fund those best practices." ("Native leaders tell senators how to help stop youth suicide," Huffington Post, June 25, 2015)
But we already know what the solution and the best practices are, there's no need to search for them: We need several public job programs for Native Americans who cannot find work in the private sector. We need a new WPA and a new CCC. These and other New Deal policies helped reduce suicide rates in the 1930s and they can do the same today.
Though perhaps created by well-intentioned people, this legislative approach is little more than gobbledygook. Studies? Reports? Longer-term goals? Increasing coordination? Strengthening partnerships with the private sector? Please. If people need jobs, then jobs should be created directly, and not wished for through the mysticism of the "market."
During the New Deal over 85,000 Indians worked in the CCC--on 200 reservations in 23 states--and the employment improved their financial situation and their morale (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, pp. 31, 44-45). For example, in 1933 the following was reported: "The work furnished us for the eradication of Johnson grass, combined with that provided for road improvement, practically ends unemployment on the Yuma Reservation. The only Yuma Indians now to whom rations are issued are the old and the infirm" (U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, "Indians at Work," October 1933 edition, p. 26).
Many Native Americans were also employed or assisted by the WPA. For example, the following was highlighted in 1938: "Through cooperation with state, county and WPA road units, a number of Indians trained in Road Division work are taking their places with white men in outside jobs. There is generally a local market for experienced road workers, and it is becoming evident, through specific cases, our men can compete in their local labor markets with the best in their field" (U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, "Indians at Work," June 1938 edition, p. 17).
So, why doesn't Congress create a new WPA and a new CCC? The answer is fairly simple: Because many of the wealthy Americans who are controlling Congress's puppet strings with
There is no doubt that a new WPA and a new CCC would help reduce the suicide rate for Native Americans (as they would for any group of people struggling with unemployment and poverty). Unfortunately, there is also no doubt that American plutocrats, and the politicians who serve them, will make sure that a public job program never happens. Instead, the problems facing Native Americans will be buried under commissions, studies, reports, and longer-term goals.