David W Bland

Slings & Arrows - Book Cover


How Toxic Narratives Perpetuate
Poverty in Indian Country

by David W. Bland

Garrison Dam Signing Lease

In 1948 the US Congress approved a plan from the Army Corps of Engineers to build a dam on the “prime river bottomland” of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Ft. Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. The tribes were compensated, if you can call it that. It worked out to about $33 per acre. Over 150,000 acres of the very best land on the reservation were flooded. In a photograph commemorating the signing of the contract for the transfer of the land, George Gillette, tribal chairman, is seen wiping tears from his face. He is quoted, “You will excuse me if I say that the members of the tribal council will sign this contract with a heavy heart. With a few scratches of the pen, we will sell the best part of our reservation. Right now, the future doesn’t look too good for us.”

In a 40-year career working with Black and Native American communities, I have witnessed how  poisonous story-telling and flawed decision-making seamlessly collude to perpetuate poverty. My book describes my experiences and provides some insights into how we might change the narrative.

"The One Who Tells the Stories Rules the World"Hopi Proverb