Unlike Anthony Bourdain, I go places less than desirable. I've poked fun a time or two at rough areas but this one really stands in a league of its own. The cause for this intensity of badness is complex, a solution is tough to work out. It comes down to being a victim of happenstance on several occasions. I am of course referring to Indian Reservations.
Generations of poverty hasn't been kind to this group of people but it is not a simple fix. Gambling and the sales of crafts in roadside three sided shacks can only go so far, and the farther you get from civilization, the more depressing things get. The land is about as useless as land gets with no water and temperatures soaring well over 100 degrees. A short drive reveals an incredible difference in lifestyle between the planned communities of Casa Grande and the simple dirt streets of Sacaton.
How the US Government treated the Native Americans in the past was certainly horrific but in many ways they haven't done themselves any favors. The capital city of the Gila River Indian Community is a prime example of mismanaged finances. The showcase of the small community is the municipal complex featuring a luxurious city hall and municipal building, there is a massive new jail and a sprawling juvenile detention center. The stores and high school is crumbling with no public parks to speak of. I ran into some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, just stuck in a unfortunate situation on some pretty unusable land. They could sure use help, an actual solution instead of some quick fix. Down the road a new liquor store is opening, perpetuating stereotypes and prolonging the cycle of poverty. I have heard suggestions of misappropriated funds but had never seen the areas personally. It looks like those in charge must not spend a lot of time in the village.
A days drive to the North and the situation at the Navajo city of Kabitio was much worse. Hours away from the nearest Interstate Highway the village was a dusty patch of ground with sick looking horses running loose and a dead puppy getting stepped over in the middle of a parking lot. People seemed to be less friendly and borderline hostile. People would turn away if I asked a question, cut in front of me in line at the small grocery store... Seemed to be a bit of tension as I tried to survey the village.
I get the fact I was an outsider and that my job makes me look incredibly conspicuous, but why the attitude. I'm just doing my job, sure would be nice if someone would lead by example, put an address on your house and for christ sake bury that dog.