Monday, November 17, 2003

Facts from Rosebud Hog Farm

In regard to your article of Nov. 15, 2003 entitled “Indians now disdain a farm...”, I lived on the Rosebud Indian Reservation for five years and I was responsible for interviewing and hiring the original workers on this farm. As I interviewed candidates, I had women tearfully tell me that the cigarette burns on their arms were from her mother’s boyfriend. There were girls as young as twelve having babies as a result of incest. It was not uncommon for four generations of people, up to twenty-four at a time, to live in one small government issued shack.

I can tell you firsthand about the number of kids that smoked. I caught a number of people using illegal drugs while working at the farm. Individuals were fired at the door because they came to work carrying a 44 oz bottle of malt liquor after they had already consumed many others. In addition to widespread drug abuse, alcoholism runs rampant on the reservation. When government payments are issued, it is not uncommon to have to swerve to miss drunken people staggering down the road in the middle of the night. Many have died this way.

Norman Wilson was the chairman of the tribe when the council invited Bell Farms to the reservation. Mr. Wilson told me that fetal alcohol syndrome was their biggest problem. When asked how long he felt it would take to correct all of the problems of his people, his answer will forever ring in my head: Five generations! He was so optimistic about the possibilities this farm had for his people – good paying jobs, health care benefits and a sense of pride in a job worth doing well.

As you read this letter, you may think that all Rosebud tribal members are messed up. I have left out important facts, just as you did in your article. Most of the people on that reservation are tremendous human beings. I cannot describe the emotions I felt watching them proudly come to work every day and, for the first time in their lives, feeling hope and pride in a sense of accomplishment. You didn’t interview any employees who actually kept their jobs, just disgruntled ex-employees. There are workers there who will proudly tell you they couldn’t have purchased their own home or own a reliable car if it weren’t for the farm. There are two sides to every story and you have only looked at one.

It irritates every single bone in my body that, in a society that tolerates such horribly inhumane treatment of it’s own people, your main concern about the Rosebud is abuse of animals. The goal of this swine operation has always been to produce protein for the world while providing hope to a segment of Americans that have had very few opportunities. For those willing to come to work regularly, pride leads to hope and hope is the beginning of a better future.

Trent Loos
Loup City, NE

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