What is the “Urban Reservation”?

The Urban Reservation

Parsing History from Actuality

First post. And a definition of the concept of an, “Urban Reservation”.

The Urban Reservation, to me, is a place that can be quickly defined as analogous to the American idea of the “ghetto“. The distribution of ethnicity is unimportant; the defining point is that these areas do not offer enough food [external], jobs, or services (ranging from water & sanitation, to healthcare.)

Let’s be clear, though: American Ghettos were created by Redlining, Segregation, “Black-listing”, White Flight, just… rampant racism.

Here’s an article from EconoFact.org, “Concentrated Poverty and the Disconnect Between Jobs and Workers“, which is pretty detailed. I pulled together a couple of other articles, and linked them at the bottom of this page.

Other forms of ghettos exist. Some rural areas closely match the defining properties of ghettos. The only difference is that these areas suffer because of low population density–State and Federal funding is usually allotted by population; therefore, less populated areas receive less funding. Smaller populations also do not attract large corporations. Industry in rural areas is generally mineral, and agriculturally based; and introduces pollutants, and negatively impacts community and environmental health in myriad ways.

This is an article called, “Prisons and the Rural Ghetto“. It’s included because this specifically looks at prisons built in rural areas.

Prisons are seen as the Silver Bullet for the issue of Population vs. Funding. The idea of using incarcerated people for both their labor to create and sell goods; but also their bodies, as legislative weight is not dissimilar to slavery. It’s not.

Mineral-based industry usually involves the “boom” and “bust” cycle: an intense period of high production, lots of jobs, housing, and services being built to accommodate a larger population…. And then, overnight, the mine shuts down, well dries up, and everyone leaves. Just like the inner cities–with factories, power plants, and other industrial facilities and complexes.

Detroit, Chicago, East Oakland. All leveled by the loss of industry. Citizens basically stranded in a desert. Food desert [external]. Job desert. Sometimes the land is so rotten, it basically is a desert.

Historical Indian Reservations were the original Concentration Camps.

Land where Native American people were forced into captivity; they were not allowed to leave that space. In the same way that white people hunted Escaped Slaves, they hunted Indians “Off The Reservation”.

Many times, there were laws in place, that allowed Native Americans to be put in Debtor’s Prisons, and forced to work, as Slaves. This could be done by any white person, as a right. This Custodial System was codified in the mid 1800’s, around when the Office of Indian Affairs was created; the Indian Wars; and the United States government openly encouraged killing as many Native Americans as possible. [Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California; Northern California ACLU.]

Today, people think we all get this magical “Casino Money”; and that’s not the case.

Today, many reservations are like the inner city ghettos, just set in a rural location. Specifically: no jobs, food, or services, with moderate density for the area provided. The U.S. Government did promise to provide sanitation and water services; some tribes were also promised electricity. But these are Treaty Promises; which still haven’t been delivered upon, more than 200 years later.

Right; so what’s the “Urban Reservation”?

It could literally be super-developed, urbanized reservations. Like the larger tribes we all know about. That’s not what I mean, though.

I’m talking about the Native American descendants living here, in the city, separated from language, history, culture and tradition. Literally the living, breathing product of the United State’s ultimate objective: the complete destruction of Native American culture, identity and–most importantly–blood. (It’s been referred to a post-apocalyptic existence.) The Urban Reservation is the ghetto. It’s another name for a place that is largely ignored, and profoundly misunderstood. Another place where organizing, and self-determination is crucial.

The Urban Reservation a lot of times feels like another place we’re trapped in. But it’s a place where we’re really not as alone as we may think.

The Urban Reservation is a place where we come together in Inter-Tribal Friendship Houses; to be together; to share what we do know; speak our languages with others. We hold Pow-Wows to gather all our relations around the drums; to dance; and to sing. (To eat Indian Tacos!) To feel the earth-beat, and create a space where we can be free, relax; just enjoy being together.

The Urban Reservation is built on the shadows of Indian Land. It’s a place where the whispers of the past still carry on the wind. A place where we can feel the echoes of our ancestors, but where we can’t see our signs of life. It’s this searching that leads us to one another. That draws us to strange places, for no reason. That makes us follow the sound of the drums.

A Note on Isolation:

Quarantine Dance Specials 2020, a FaceBook Group, has been going for 9 months! Since the beginning of the COVID-19 declared emergencies.

Upcoming digital bay area events:
BAAIT-S 10th Anniversary Powwow (Virtual)
February 2-6 2021


Usage of the term “Ghetto”

How America’s Ugly History of Segregation Changed the Meaning of the Word ‘Ghetto’; Daniel B. Schwartz; Time; 24-September

Urban Reservation

How to Survive an Apocalypse and Keep Dreaming: As Native people, we have inherited an audacious vision.; Julian Brave Noisecat; The Nation; 2-June 2020.

American Indian Urban Relocation; National Archives: Educator Resources; last reviewed 15-August 2016

Most Native Americans live in cities, not reservations. Here are their stories; Joe Whittle; The Guardian; 4-September 2017

The Plight of Native Americans on the ‘Urban Reservation’ : Los Angeles Indians Express Concern Over Growing Discrimination at Bell Gardens Hearing; Lin Simross; Los Angeles Times; 16-April 1986

Food Desert

“Food Inequality in America: What Living in A ‘Food Desert’ Looks Like”; Lisa Jubilee; LivingProofNYC.com; 19-June 2020

American Ghettos

Concentrated Poverty and the Disconnect Between Jobs and Workers; David Neumark, U.C. Irvine; EconoFact.org; 22-January 2019

Are Job Candidates Still Being Penalized For Having ‘Ghetto’ Names?; Janice Gassam Asare; Forbes; 20-February 2020

A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America; Terry Gross; Fresh Air; National Public Radio; 3-May 2017

Rural Ghettos

Prisons and the Rural Ghetto; John Major Eason; Dissent Magazine; Fall 2019

Native American Slavery — Custodial System

Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California; Northern California ACLU