Why are Indian reservations so poor?
That's the question Forbes tries to answer in a recent story that looks at the country’s 310 Indian reservations, where many of America’s poorest 1% live. Writer John Koppisch focuses on Montana's Crow Reservation and offers up this short answer:
To explain the poverty of the reservations, people usually point to alcoholism, corruption or school-dropout rates, not to mention the dusty undeveloped land that doesn’t seem good for growing much and the long distances to jobs. But those are just symptoms. Prosperity is built on property rights, and reservations often have neither. They’re a demonstration of what happens when property rights are weak or non-existent.
There's more to it, of course, and Koppisch examines the finer points over the course of his story. He also explores possible solutions. For instance, a reformer in Canada is "lining up support for the First Nations Property Ownership Act, which would allow bands [tribes] to opt out of the government ownership of their land and put it under tribal and private ownership."
Alas, there is no such effort in the U.S.