Good intentions gone bad on the reservation

In case you missed it Monday, there was an interesting story from The Associated Press about a Pine Ridge woman who was appealing her conviction for hosting a drug ring in her house.

The house, it turns out, was donated to her after a 1999 visit by then-President Bill Clinton. Curing his visit, Clinton praised Geraldine Blue Bird for housing and feeding the needy. Her story inspired donations to her from around the country, according to the AP:

More than two dozen adults and children lived in her four-room, dilapidated house and in a mobile home out back when Clinton’s presidential visit made her a symbol of conditions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one of the nation’s poorest areas.

After Clinton’s visit, donations came in from around the country, and Blue Bird got a new doublewide trailer as a result of all the attention.

Later, an investigation uncovered a drug ring operating out of the trailer. Blue Bird was identified as the ringleader. Late last month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal.

Sadly, this is an oft-repeated story on reservations in South Dakota. Years go by with no improvement in the poor living conditions, and then an outsider shows up and arouses people’s sympathy. Money comes in, housing gets built and projects are started, but after a while the outsiders go back to their lives and things on the reservation go back to the way they were.

If anybody knew how to break that cycle, I suppose it would have been done by now.

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