Contemporary Native Americans face many challenges today. If you watch the news you’ll see headlines about mascots, celebrities wearing headdresses, and pipelines. While these are important issues, there are other problems facing Native communities that are more significant.
These challenges are experienced socially, economically, culturally and on many other fronts, and include but aren’t limited to:
- Impoverishment and Unemployment
- Violence against Women and Children
- Native Americans are Less Educated
- Poor Quality Housing
- Inadequate Health Care
- Unable to Exercise Voting Rights
- Native Language is Becoming Extinct
- Limited Financial Institutions in the Native Communities
- Natural Resources Exploitation
567 tribes that are recognized by the federal government see these issues. The Native Americans, a diverse race of people, are subjected to racial abuse, societal discrimination, wrong depiction in arts mental, spiritual and physical violence and others.
These historical and social hurdles have resulted in many Native Americans becoming alcoholics and suicide potentials. In this post, we will be looking at the various problems that the present Native American has to grapple with.
This is by no means a definitive or comprehensive list of issues and challenges!
Impoverishment and Unemployment
The Native American population is grappling with poverty and joblessness even with casinos. Ever since the recovery from the Great Depression the Native American society has been left out of economic prosperity. According to U.S Census Bureau Data, 27% of all Native Americans live in poverty.
In the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana, the unemployment rate is 69% as of 2014. In 2012, the Sioux reservations in the North and South Dakota constituted three of the five poorest counties in the USA.
Violence against Women and Children
About 46% of all Native American women have experienced some sort of physical abuse including rape, stalking or dating or domestic violence. It is also envisaged that one in three Indian women will experience physical trauma at some point in their life. On some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate, 10 times more than the nation’s average. Report from the Department of Justice in 1990 states 80% of the physical abuses and rape experienced by Native American women are perpetrated by non-native Americans.
Nevertheless, efforts have been made to prosecute non-Native men that subject Native American women to dating violence, domestic violence or rape on Indian reservations.
Many people are working to raise awareness of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).
Native Americans are Less Educated
The Native Americans represent less than 1% of the students’ population in the U.S. Since 2008, the graduation rates of the Alaska Native and American Indian has been dropping. The Native Americans dropout rate is twice the nation’s average and is more than any other U.S racial or ethnic group.
This high dropout rate can be attributed to how they are treated in school or their academic needs not being met. For some Native Americans, their dropout can be linked to the structural deterioration and poor equipping of schools due to insufficient funding from the federal government.
Poor Quality Housing
Due to the high poverty rate among the Native Americans, many of them live in overcrowded and poor conditioned houses on Indian reservations. There are over 90,000 under-housed or homeless American Indians. The living conditions of some Native Americans have also been compared to those in third world countries.
Presently, over a third of American Indians live on largely concentrated reservations with over 700,000 inhabitants. Mostly, the development of houses on reservations is attributed to underfunding by the federal government.
Inadequate Health Care
Many Native Americans live in poor health conditions with limited access to healthcare facilities. This health care disparity has led to high rates of obesity, diabetes, HIV/AIDS. The Indian Health Service(IHS) has been established to provide healthcare services to American Indians but almost one in three Native Americans are ensured to benefit from the scheme.
The IHS is underfunded and many of the local IHS facilities lack the basic amenities to provide quality and excellent healthcare services. Mostly the local IHS facilities are distant from the Native Americans. It makes it a grueling process for the locals to access the facility.
Unable to Exercise Voting Rights
Native Americans have suffrage rights but are unable to exercise them because of the unavailability of polling units. Some of the natives’ Reservations such as the Goshute Reservation in Utah and Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada do not have any polling unit near them. The polling units around are many miles away.
Many Native people on reservations are unable to register to vote. Many reservations don’t use traditional street addresses and their applications for voting cards are rejected.
Native Language is Becoming Extinct
Native American languages is gradually going obsolete. Only 175 out of the more than 300 native languages remain today according to the Indigenous Language Institute. It is also predicted that without any measure set up to salvage the remaining languages about 20 will be left by 2050.
Many educators that want to teach the Native American children the Native languages face an obstacle of poor funding and resources.
Limited Financial Institutions in the Native Communities
There is a dearth in the Native American communities. On many communities, the land is held by the government in trust, which makes it difficult for the Natives to leverage them in the collection of loans that they will use to set up businesses. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, about 56.2 million acres of land are held in trust by the federal government. This, in turn, has resulted in the stunted economic growth of the area.
Natural Resources Exploitation
Some of the Native American reservations such as the Ute tribe contain natural resources such as timber, oil, and gas. American Indian territories in the West house gold and have had previous clashes with gold miners. These areas have been exploited for its natural resources for economic reasons and have threatened the area with climate change. Efforts have been made by the communities to safeguard natural resources and protect the environment.