Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I spent the first part of this week in the western edges of the reservation in a place called Ak Chin at the clinic. The area is just south of Maricopa, a little explosion of homes in the middle of the desert that was a leftover dish from the gluttony of the real estate boom buffet. The little clinic in Ak Chin currently had a physician over the care there who experienced the third world conditions of health care in Zimbabwe for three years, quit medicine to teach high school and then returned to medicine from his brief six month teaching stint. I was afraid to ask if he thought medicine in Zimbabwe was easier than American high school. He is a walking medical resource library. I think all the online resources for health care professionals should be tapped into his brain to use as a server. His knowledge of medicine was only eclipsed by a his affable demeanor. He brought me on, showing me the ins and outs of the clinic..."don't hesitate to call the Ambulance" and "most people who come in won't need much." The other staff, a medical assistant, receptionist and a registered nurse, handled the flow of patients well with pleasant banter and attitudes to get things done right.

The casino is the major employer in the direct area and due to the crank down on the flow of finances in the area the slot machines and roulette tables were getting a little down time. I spoke with many people and heard stories of drinking, daredevil antics resulting in best freinds' deaths, cancer, suicide, divorce, rattlesnake bites, chasing coyotes (the actual animals not the red neck inspired bar maids from the pub) and death in the valley. Death from the great westward expansion of the appetites of men, mostly whitey. The timeless waters filling rivers in the valley were cut off from up river and the rivers dried to dust. The highway has bridges over the Gila River. When you drive over the river and the sign clearly says Gila River you look and everywhere the dust swirls in the breeze but no water. The irrigation canals now provide some areas with water but the Gila is a shell of the snake it once was.

The Great Government (my words not anyone else's) has promised the tribes in Gila River and all over the country if they settle on their neat reservations they would provide for the native peoples. The Great Government would provide health care, schooling and other benefits to the tribes for the remainder of forever. The tribes began building casinos and providing some income into their nations bringing prosperity into an otherwise languishing land. When the river dried up the farming Pima Indians could not farm extensively, began relying more on the prepared foods of the culture surrounding them and activity levels dropped off. To date the people of Gila River carry the distinction of the highest concentration of diabetics in the world. Health care costs grew and the Indian Health Services were obligated to provide their needs.

I don't have the facts, legislative documents, recorded messages from back hall congressional, senate or presidential meetings. I do have the words given me by members of the tribe. They are still, rightfully so, bitter about how things are from how things were. I feel at times responsible for this turn out but I can't take any full responsibility. The next idea to come from somewhere inside the Great Government was an idea to allow tribes to have ownership of their own health care. Pitched in the right wording and the tribes could believe they can manage and care for their members as they see fit. The Great Government would provide them with funds to use as they see most appropriate and if they wanted they could supplement their needs with casino funds. Eventually as casino funds grew the Great Government weaned off the funds initially earmarked for IHS. The Great Government could slowly grease their way out of one of the remaining obligations provided for the tribes by treaties. The Native American tribes were washed off the lands and placed on reservations a long time before modern sensibilities were accepted. These current times place the obligations observed by the Great Government as one of the final platforms to honor the atrocities Native Americans had to suffer. It appears even today we can attempt to weasel ourselves away from the needs of the original owners of this land for our own wants and needs.

The valley of the sun has been good to me and my family so far. I hope the rest of the week goes well. We miss everyone back home and shed some tears for you all.

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