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Native American tribes . . . agriculture is your future . . . not gambling

Native American tribes . . .  agriculture is your future . . . not gambling

 

Guess which country is number two in the world after the United States in food exports?  Canada?  Russia?  China?  Brazil?  No, it is the tiny nation of the Netherlands, which is about the size of the State of Maryland.  If you excuse the pun,  the Netherlands is also light years ahead of most nations in the generation of electricity from the sun, wind and tides.

Gambling is bad karma.  In the short run, many federally-recognized Native American tribal governments have seen their coffers fill with the revenue from casinos.  State recognized tribes cannot operate casinos.  However, what has been the true cost of making money off of “one armed bandits?”  Corruption in tribal governments . . . organized crime moving into and around reservations . . . dissolution of traditional Native American values . . . dirty politics being used by large tribes “with people in Washington” to keep other tribes such as the Lumbee, MOWA Choctaw and Southeastern Creeks from being federally recognized.   In the long run,  operating what is basically a scam, will come back to the ones doing the scamming. 

Look at the crime and drug abuse statistics for Oklahoma, since its Native American casinos proliferated!

It is absolutely ludicrous that the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River . . . the Lumbee . . . still has not been federally recognized.  There is only one reason that the Eastern Band of Cherokees and Cherokee Nation fiercely sabotage Lumbee pleas for recognition . . . gambling casinos. They don’t want competition.

And then there is the fact that there is a finite number of people in this nation, who are foolish enough to give away their assets in gambling casinos.   In several regions of the country,  Native American casinos have super-saturated the potential market.   By federal law,  Native American tribes cannot build casinos on land that they purchased after 1988, so establishing new casinos in other parts of states or in other states is typically not an option. 

So what if people get wise to gambling or a mega-casino developer enters into the market once exclusive to a Native American tribe?   The tribal government will find itself with huge loan debts for casinos that are no longer producing significant income.

A goal of self-sufficiency turned into a nation’s economic base

For three centuries, the Netherlands depended on its far flung colonies in Asia and the Americas to provide their minerals and food surpluses to the mother country in order to support a much larger population than the land area of the Netherlands could justify.  In many ways, it was like the current dependence of many tribes on casino income.   That all ended after World War II.   The Dutch suddenly found themselves owning only the Netherland Antilles and Surinam in the Caribbean Basin.  Neither country can produce temperate climate crops.

Royal Dutch Shell had become one of the world’s largest petroleum companies off the resources in what is now Indonesia.  There was no petroleum in the Netherlands.  The nation’s last coal mines in Limberg Province, closed in 1976.  The Dutch faced the prospect of importing all of their fuel and much of their food.    That situation would quickly bankrupt the nation.  The bleak future of the Dutch was remarkably similar to many Native American reservations in the USA and Canada . . . importation of most food and and all energy resources combined with high unemployment.

A combined government-private sector-university program was launched to make the Netherlands food and energy self-sufficient.   The Dutch must still import coal for aging steam-electric plants from Germany, but alternative energy sources are providing an increasing portion of electrical generation to the point that energy self-sufficiency seems likely in a decade or two.

The big surprise came in the area of agriculture.  Vastly improved cultivation methods,  sophisticated livestock husbandry, combined with computerized greenhouse technology made the nation food self-sufficient . . . except for a few crops such as bananas and citrus fruits.  They soon will be grown in Dutch greenhouses also.  Greenhouse agriculture was inately more expensive than open air cultivation because of the cost of electricity to run the lights in a northern latitude.  However, it did ensure availability of food within the nation and throughout the year. 

Of all things,  illegal marijuana growing operation in the United States and Europe radically changed the technology of growing plants in greenhouses.  Conventional greenhouses rely mostly on the sun for growing plants.  There are limits to which plants and at what time of the year, plants at any given latitude can be grown.   The marijuana operations developed computer-controlled fluorescent lights that exactly matched the sunlight for any time of the year to get optimum production of marijuana.   The inflated value of illegal crops paid for these innovations.  

Dutch agricultural scientists realized that this technology could be applied to a wide variety of food plants.   They also developed sensors, based on space exploration technology, which could monitor key plant nutrients, soil moisture, humidity and light absorption conditions of the soil, 24/7 . . . turning on irrigation-fertilization systems at optimum times.   However, the electricity required to operate the lights made the vegetables and fruits much more expensive than plants grown conventionally in the Americas.

LED lighting technology (Light-Emitting Diodes) and the precipitous drop in the cost of solar-electric panels have radically changed the economics of greenhouse farming in the Netherlands.   LED lights require such a reduced amount of electricity that many Dutch farms can generate the power to run the LED lights on site much of the time.  The cost of food production has dropped so much that farmers in the Netherlands can export their crops to other parts of Europe and the world at prices that are competitive or cheaper than conventional crops.

Now this is an investment that has a long term future for Native American tribes . . . and they don’t have to be federally recognized.  In fact, all they need to do is form a privately held or corporate business to construct these facilities.  Such investments will be eligible for a wide range of tax credits and direct grants.  

What do most Native American reservations have in abundance? . . .  lots of land and sunshine.  Their soil does not even have to be fertile.  Dutch greenhouse soils are artificial creations.   However, the new agricultural technology is now being applied in Dutch cities.   High tech greenhouses and solar collection assemblies are now being constructed on roof tops in Dutch cities.

The article about this agricultural revolution appeared in the August edition of National Geographic.  If you don’t have a National Geo membership,  POOF has provided a link to the article that was reprinted in a Dutch website (in English).   You will be amazed.

This Tiny Nation Feeds the World

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

3 Comments

  1. pres@gloriafarley.com'

    Richard,

    While I have my doubts about the current ability of applying alternate energy sources on a mass scale, you do present interesting ideas. But how would they ever be implemented? Nothing will happen until there are extreme changes in the attitudes and mindset of individuals. Got any ideas of how to accomplish this?

    Reply
    • Yes, I do have an idea . . . publicize the news in POOF. We have up to 77,000 readers a month and Native Americans are the future cultural leaders of the United States. The old ways of doing things are bankrupt.

      Reply
  2. rwburden@utk.edu'

    Your article on encouraging our Native cousins to embrace sustainable agriculture was excellent. Over the years working with ag, I saw the time-honored profession of agriculture become a joke. Although the last few years have seen a slight increase in ag college enrollment, the all-time high numbers seen during the 70’s and 80’s has never been reached. Ag graduate programs are essentially being funded by foreign students coming here to get their PhD’s. Most veterinary school graduates will enter companion animal care rather than food animal health care. Agriculture has a stigma and stereotype that is not only unfounded but negatively viewed by most young people. This is not just my opinion but has been identified in numerous studies over the years. I can only hope that our young Native American men and women will see the opportunities available by choosing agriculture as a career. The ceiling is unlimited. We need agricultural engineers, biochemist, agronomist, botanist, animal geneticist, and more. Unfortunately, there is not much available in the way of start-up financing. However, the young must be encouraged to seek degrees in agriculture at land-grant universities. They can then work for private sector companies or work with research institutions until they can start-up their own farming and ranching operations.

    Continue to sound the call for self-reliance!. You have the attention of many more than you can imagine.

    Reply

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