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AMERICA DAILY INC
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Turning Point USA gained a lot of attention in March for a video called “I am Native American and I believe in reservation capitalism.” Today we speak with Mikaela Bearpaw, the young woman who made that video. She explains why she made it, what response she’s gotten, and what she’s working on next.
Mikaela Bearpaw, Native American supporter of reservation capitalism and Indian.
In March, you published a video for Turning Point USA about reservation capitalism. Why did you make that video, and how did it come about?
Mikaela Bearpaw: So I had recently discovered Turning Point USA on YouTube. I saw that they were having an event at Mar-a-Lago later in the year. One of its student action summits, and I decided to get tickets. I went with my husband, and I ran into assistant, Stacy. And I had noticed, in the presentation that they gave during the convention, that they were trying to reach a lot of different ethnicities: the Jewish community, the Latin community, the African American community.
I noticed that the natives weren’t mentioned. Natives are hardly ever mentioned in the political circle or in most circles. So I went up to her and I asked why they weren’t trying to reach the natives. We are a small percentage of the population, but we happen to sit in the largest swing states. So if anybody ever tried to reach us, or just even made the effort, you have the potential of swinging the actual presidential vote, in my opinion, or just even state votes.– Mikaela Bearpaw
Mikaela Bearpaw: So a month later, Charlie actually was in the city where I live and he asked to get lunch with Stacy. And we started talking about the environment on reservations and the issues that exist right now in all the different native nations. And he asked me if I’d be willing to make a video about it. And I was like, yes, why not? Nobody else is doing it. So that’s kind of how that came about. I just saw a need. I don’t see any young Native Americans who are conservative leaning trying to reach the community. There might be some, but I haven’t found them. So for me it was, if I don’t do it, who’s going to do it?
In your video, you talk about how socialism has failed on Indian reservations. Could you explain?
Mikaela Bearpaw: All of the programs that deal with Native Americans through the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] or just even locally with tribal governments, everything’s run by either the tribal government or federal government. The decisions are made in those two aspects. So it’s a very big government concept, where the money goes, how it goes, what programs are made, how they’re formed, and how they’re run. I personally think there’s very little choice within the community or the people themselves. So socialism to me is when you give all of the power of the money, or money that comes via tax dollars, to the government and the government decides what is best for the community in general. And they’re the ones who control the finances and distribute and whatnot. So when when you look at tribal nations or reservations, that’s exactly what’s going on, and the federal government and the tribal governments are deciding how the money is going to be used, where it’s going to be placed, and how things function. So if you look at the statistics, we still have the highest suicide rate among any ethnicity from ages, I think it’s 15 to 25. You can double check me on that. But it’s the Native American community. Alcohol is a problem. We have women going missing and murdered. We have fetal alcohol syndrome, we have diabetes and obesity and depression and like just all these horrible statistics.
Everything’s being run by the federal and tribal governments. So shouldn’t everything be great? You know, that is technically what socialism is. It’s giving the power to the government or the tribal government to decide how things will be run. The numbers are in, if you look at them, everything’s a mess. So for me, that’s where I say that the concept of socialism has been enacted when it comes to tribal nations and it’s failing miserably. — Mikaela Bearpaw
You advocate the idea of “Indianpreneurship.” So what exactly is that?
Mikaela Bearpaw: Yeah. So I think one of the ways out is encouraging the Native community to actually have purpose and drive to do things with their own life and to earn things themselves through Indianprenuership, which means business, starting business, and delving into the free market capitalist mindset and society that exists in America, to start dreaming up business ideas. Tribal government should be supporting that. The pipeline is an issue, right? And a lot of the Natives are against the pipeline. Well, for me the pipelines are probably going to happen anyway. So why aren’t the tribal governments encouraging their people to start their own construction businesses so that they can be in charge of laying these pipelines themselves, and they can also be profiting off of it instead of just protesting and trying to ruin the machinery that goes out there. We could actually be laying the pipelines ourselves and being the true water and land protectors that we claim to be by being in charge of those pipelines and whether or not they have leaks rather than letting the government hire these different contractors. We don’t make any money off of it and now we get to complain when they don’t run things smoothly. So that little shift in mindset, I think, is important to fixing a lot of the issues we have. The suicide rates to me means that we lack purpose and drive in our communities.
There’s a lot of power in tribal governments, but they’re not placing it in any specific pathway, and it’s just leading to these horrible conditions. And people are, like I said, they are lacking purpose, and they’re lacking motivation, and they don’t know what to do with their lives. And I think one way out of that would be Indianprenuership or encouraging a free market mindset where we’re actually independent, self-sufficient nations that are providing our needs for ourselves rather than waiting for appropriations from Congress. — Mikaela Bearpaw
What response has your video gotten from the Native community?
Mikaela Bearpaw: I haven’t spoken to all native nations on that specific issue. From the people I have spoken to, I’ve found a lot of agreement in that the Democrats show up around election season and promise things and make the other side look bad, and they get the native vote, and then they disappear for the next two or four years. And the Republicans just don’t ever even try and reach out, period. So I think that both parties are failing. The Democratic Party is failing by keeping us in this complacent, somewhat comfortable mentality where we just wait for the government and our tribal governments to fix everything rather than ourselves. And that’s okay because they do this victim mentality. You know, I’m native so therefore I’m owed because of the things that happened to my ancestors. So I think that party has been harmful and you know, a lot of people would agree with me. But then, of course, there’s going to be Natives who don’t agree with that. And then on the other end of the spectrum you have Republicans. And they just, I feel like they just lack a connection to the community, period. We aren’t thought about when it comes to voting. I don’t see the president trying to speak to natives. I can’t think of any republicans, from watching the town halls or people on Instagram or different politicians who are running for president. They never mention Natives. So, like I said, they fail big time when they do that because it’s almost like we’re forgotten minority.
Are there any stories from your supporters that really touched you?
Yeah, quite a few actually. They were a lot of the same story. So I had a lot of messages from Natives who said that everybody’s talking a lot of crap about your video, but you know what? You’ve actually given me a bit of bravery because this is what I think, and this is what I believe. But I’m too scared to say it because of all the hate that I get from other Native members in my tribe, but you were brave enough to do it. And so now I feel as if I have somebody to stand behind to start. — Mikaela Bearpaw
Mikaela Bearpaw: The whole point of doing this is to show other people in my community that, hey, it’s just words, it’s just hate to people. But it has to mean more. Your idea to change your reservation through free market capitalism, through, you know, these changes I’m talking about, that has to mean more than the hate. The change has to mean more than the fear of what people are going to say about you. So if I can spearhead that by showing I don’t really care what crap everybody’s going to talk about me, I mainly care about changing reservations for the better, and I can spearhead that. And I can show that it’s possible to do it and, hey, look, they haven’t killed me yet. I can lead that movement even if it only speaks to one or two natives then, hey, I’m going to do it. So hearing those stories from people that feel emboldened now to now go out and talk about these topics is great. Great stories to me.
There’s been a lot of talk about social media platforms censoring conservative voices. Your video has gotten a lot of attention, so I was wondering if you’ve been censored at all.
Mikaela Bearpaw: I got shadow banned on Instagram within two weeks of my video going up, and I was only able to post on my story. Everything I tried to post on my feed was taken it down immediately, which I thought was really impressive. You know, I had, I think it was less than 4,000 followers and my video just hit and nobody really knew who I was yet. But I was shadow banned, and it was like that for about four days. But I kept posting on my story, the instructions on how to report it. And so all the people that were coming in, all the supporters were reporting it to Instagram. And I think after three or four days they shut the shadow ban off. But on Twitter I don’t have that many followers yet. It takes longer. So I haven’t had any issues. I’m not big enough for them to care. And Facebook, I only started that like three or four weeks ago. And that’s just because people were asking for me to have a Facebook, so I put it up. But I put most of my stuff on Instagram, so I guess that’s why I was shadow banned.
It seems like you’ve gotten a lot of personal attacks on social media. They don’t attack your ideas, but they do attack you personally.
Mikaela Bearpaw: Oh, they still do it whenever I post anything on Twitter. Even if it’s true, they still comment, making personal attacks because if you can’t attack the message, you’ve got to attack the messenger.
Would you like to respond at all?
Mikaela Bearpaw: For me, the haters are never going to go away. To me, they’re a good sign because, as long as I’m doing something right, I’m going to have some people attacking me personally. That’s all I know. I’m doing something right, I guess. So if everybody agrees with you, then I think you should question what you’re doing there. There should always be some resistance to change and there will always be resistance to good change.
Your first video was very successful. So what’s next? What projects are you working on now?
Mikaela Bearpaw: So I’ve been working on videos for YouTube. I’ve been doing street interviews, and then I’m also planning to go to different reservations that have actually embraced this idea of Indianpreneurship and free market capitalism and are successfully doing that. And they’ve brought their tribes out of the poverty circle that they were trapped in. So that’s what I’m going to be working on over the summer is going to different reservations that are successfully doing that and putting their stories online. Because I feel like if you go on YouTube and type in “Native Americans today,” you’re going to find, you know, all these sad videos from MSNBC, to personal videos about the suicide rate and the alcoholism and all these horrible things that go on on reservations. But there’s nothing encouraging whatsoever. It’s our horrible history. It’s our third world conditions. But what happens to that, you know, that little Native kid that wants to make it out of that cycle of poverty and where do they go these days? They go on social media to find inspirational people or heroes or role models. Well, there really isn’t anything that I found on YouTube for them to go and look at and mimic themselves after or find advice from.
So what I’m trying to do is, is make those videos to show that, hey, it is possible to change your reservation for the good. It is possible through this mindset and through this, you know, this crazy idea of free market capitalism, and here’s the people who’ve done it, and here’s how they did it, and you can use them as role models. — Mikaela Bearpaw
Press play to listen. What do you think about the idea of reservation capitalism and Indianpreneurship? Please comment below.