The Ravages of Welfare on the American Indian Family - Encounter Books

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The Ravages of Welfare on the American Indian Family

By Ben Weingarten | August 08, 2016

Naomi Schaefer Riley believes that the federal government’s central planning of American Indian lives—akin to the “War On Poverty”—has sapped human capital and created a “new trail of tears” for American Indians.

During my in-depth interview with Riley on The New Trail of Tears How Washington Is Destroying American Indians, I asked her about the federal Leviathan’s pernicious impact on family structure and Indian American kids.

As Riley discusses in one particularly harrowing section of her book, educators must literally lock their students inside schools at the time of the month that welfare checks are doled out to their parents. Why?

Riley explains in the transcript below:

So I was at this school [in Wounded Knee, South Dakota], and the principal was taking me around to different classrooms and we were watching at one point, you know these five year olds playing, and she just said to me “Oh yes, and one weekend a month, the kids just stay here for lock-in.”

And I said “What is that? What have they done wrong?”

And she said, “Oh no, we have to keep them here to protect them because that’s the weekend that their parents receive their checks from the government, and they often get drunk and abuse their children.”

And it’s amazing to me the way that the sort of clock, the calendar, the timing of everybody on the Indian reservation kind of lived by this knowing when the government checks went out.

They know that the kids would be really hungry toward the end of month—they had to give them more food at school because all of the money from the food stamps would be gone by that point. They knew that when these checks first came there would be this huge amount of celebration, and partying and drinking.

And so these kids are just suffering to an enormous extent, and everybody knows what’s going on here. Everybody realizes—it didn’t take some white academic to come on the reservation and say “Let me study this for awhile and figure out exactly what weekend this is going on.” Tribal officials are well-aware of exactly why and when this happens.

A student boards an early-morning school bus on the Pine Ridge reservation. Photo by Swikar Patel


The scene Riley describes is illustrative of a cycle of dependency and societal breakdown all too common on Indian reservations, aided by a lack of policing and jurisprudence, and thus protection of individual rights.

Riley in fact goes so far as to compare the rampant child abuse among American Indians—abuse that law enforcement at all levels appears to have turned a blind eye to—to the massive child sexual abuse scandal that was uncovered in Rotherham, England.

To learn about how the American Indian population ended up in such a perilous condition, and what might be done to enable its revival, be sure to listen to my full interview with Riley below, in which we address topics such as:

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BEN WEINGARTEN is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, Senior Contributor at The Federalist and Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and production firm dedicated to advancing conservative principles. You can find his work at, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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