W. E. B Du Bois once stated “to be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships” (qtd. in Rodgers 1). The Native American culture is often overlooked by many people in the United States today. What many people do not realize is that about twenty-five percent of Native Americans are living in poverty (Rodgers 1). A majority of the poverty among Native Americans is due to the United States breaking treaties that promised funds for their tribes.
When non-Native Americans first began migrating to North America, the Indians were slowly having their land stripped away from them, and being pushed to live on small, poorly kept reservations. As well as taking their land, non-Native Americans fought wars with the Indians, wiping out large numbers of their population (Jenkins A9). Living in poverty has caused many early mortalities, alcoholism and crime. Today the few Native American tribes that are still in existence have had enough.
They are ready to take control and make their comeback, in hopes of preserving their culture and livelihoods (Gorospe 95).
Several tribes have begun opening and operating their own casino resorts, some have failed, but several have been successful (Nykiel 51). President Obama has also been making promises of funds to the Native American tribes, hopefully these promises will be kept, and improve the Native Americans way of life (Nasaw 1). Native Americans are beginning to find the determination needed to make a comeback. Much of this determination in from anger, so much has been taken from them that their angry emotions towards the non-Native Americans is quite understandable.
Land has been taken from the Native Americans, they have been forced to relocate several times. While relocating their economic resources are taken from them and they are not given any chance to provide for themselves. The reservations in which the Native Americans are forced to relocate to are hardly livable. Un-fair wars have been forced upon them and no respect has been shown to Native Americans (Jenkins A9). One main reason for poverty among Native Americans is the United States Government being unable to provide the billions of dollars that have been promised to Native American tribes.
A leader from the Sioux tribe states that “they were riding to overcome the poverty, alcoholism and despair that had engulfed their people for more than a century, and said real healing would not be possible until the U. S. Government lived up to its treaty obligations” (Walsh 8). Native American reservations are small and isolated. The living conditions are poor due to the lack of money, so as a result this can cause many health problems for Native Americans. There are poor roads and no sidewalks, which makes it difficult to travel in and out of the reservation, so this would be a main reason for their isolation.
No forms of public transportation are provided for the reservations since there is no money. There is no money for the Native Americans because the United States Government has not provided the funding that they have promised (Gorospe 96). Basically it is a domino effect that is not benefiting the Native American population in anyway. Before the Europeans migrated to America, Native Americans did not face many diseases. Post-arrival of the Europeans, diseases such as smallpox, influenza, measles, typhus, malaria, leprosy, and several others began to effect the Native American population (Grandbois 1002).
Presently these diseases and many other disabilities can be one of the many reasons why Native Americans are in poverty. It is inconvenient for Native Americans to seek help when it comes to being ill, so a majority of the time they rely on natural cures or do not seek help at all. In many Native American cultures they live with their extended families who will provide the disabled member of the family with whatever tasks they are unable to complete, so many do not view themselves as disabled(Gorospe 96).
As well as any other person, disabilities severely affect a Native Americans life. Having a disability or disease causes a person to be unable to work, so as a result this would cause a person to have less income and live in even more poverty than a fully able Native American. In an emergency situation it can be very difficult to seek help due to lack of transportation and isolation of the reservations, this can make it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach the reservations. In 1976 the Indian Health Care Improvement Act was passed.
The act stated that Native Americans would receive the same forms of health care that all other Americans were receiving. In 1992 it was time for Congress to reauthorize the act, but they never did. Since this act has not been reauthorized many Native Americans health systems are out of date and in serious need of improvement. Once this act is reauthorized it will improve disease screening on reservations, provide funding to modernize Native American health facilities, and will also help the Native American population better understand ways to prevent illness and disease (Rodgers 4).
Tom Rodgers states that If providing better health care to Native Americans during a time of Wall Street bailouts seems too costly, we should recognize that we currently spend thirty percent more per capita on health care in American prisons than on Native Americans, whose ancestors aided the Pilgrims, fed the soldiers freezing in Valley Forge, helped Lewis and Clark explore our nation, and proudly hoisted the flag on Iwo Jima (Rodgers 4). It is ridiculous that the Native Americans, who have helped many people, are put behind prisoners that have done wrong.
Health care is one thing that should be offered to all no matter what their ethnicity is. Many Native Americans are unaware of opportunities that are available due to the isolation that they face on reservations. In 1992 only seventy-eight percent of Native Americans received a high school diploma. This makes Native Americans the least likely of all minority groups, besides Hispanics, to obtain a high school degree. One main reason for Native Americans being unable to obtain a high school diploma is having to leave school to get a job.
If a member of their family faces an illness or disability that causes them to be unable to work, the younger members of the family are going to need to help provide for the family. In many cases there is not a disability or illness, Native Americans have very poor wages and are unable to survive on only two incomes. Only eleven percent of Native Americans continues on to college after high school and receives a degree. Being a minority student automatically gives Native Americans a disadvantage.
Parents of minority youth tend to have lower levels of education, and this is directly linked to what kind of performance their child will have in school (Donelan 4). In 1995 Native Americans had an overwhelming rate of unemployment at thirty-two percent. Since Native Americans are likely to obtain lower levels of education this puts them at greater risk for unemployment (Marshall 3). In today’s society many occupations require some type of formal education. For many Native Americans the only option they have is to have a job rather than a career. Being isolated on a reservation causes.
Native Americans to be unable to access many of the well-paying jobs that are offered to the non-Native American population. In 1995 an average annual income for a Native American household was ten-thousand dollars (Marshall 6). Many Native American households include extended families, so this would be the income to support a very large household. A few Native American tribes have begun opening casinos in hopes to become successful and keep their heritage alive. Foxwoods is the first Native American casino to be opened, it is also the most successful casino resort.
Mohegan Sun, another casino resort, follows close behind Foxwoods in their success. Foxwoods casino was created to help save the Mashantucket Pequot Nation from having their reservation taken from them and turned into a state park. In 1992 Foxwoods Resort Casino opened creating nearly thirteen thousand jobs for members on the Mashantucket Pequot Nation and members of surrounding towns. Not only are the casinos benefiting the tribes, they are also benefiting the communities they reside in. Foxwoods has an annual revenue of over one billion dollars.
The casino is also home to a Native American Museum that has become a leading cultural attraction in Connecticut. There are several other Native American owned and run casino resorts throughout the United States that have been successful such as: Mohegan Sun, Turning Stone in New York, Barona in California, Sac and Fox in Iowa, Silver Star in Mississippi, this is just to name a few. Casinos have helped pull many Native American tribes out of poverty and preserve their heritage through the decor of their casinos.
There have been a few casinos that have failed due to poor locations, unrealistic expectations, unfulfilled promises, high debt to income ration, and poor management through the tribe’s members and the management companies hired to help. Now that many of these tribes are out of poverty they are using their income to create more opportunities for young tribal members. Many of their funds are being dedicated to education for all Native Americans, including college. Several scholarships have been created to ensure further education for those who seek it.
Gaming has also created more opportunity to preserve their tribe’s history and culture (Nykiel 51-56) Even though Native Americans and non-Native Americans are on the same continent there are significant cultural differences that can create a barrier between the two different cultures. Non-Native Americans need to have a very strong drive to help Native Americans since there are so many barriers. The Native Americans being isolated on the reservations keeps the two different cultures apart.
The fact that transportation from the reservation is very difficult to obtain causes Native Americans to be unwilling to make the effort to leave the reservations. Native Americans have very different beliefs when it comes to treating health problems. They also handle a person that commits a felony very differently than how non-Native Americans do. These differences can make it difficult for non-Native Americans to help the Native Americans, more training is required to be able to understand how the Native Americans react to some situations.
Native Americans would rather have relationships with individuals than a group or organization, so one on one interaction is very important. Rather than Native Americans working with several different individuals it is beneficial to work with just one and form a relationship. Language differences also causes problems when seeking help from non-Native Americans. Some Native Americans speak English as their second language and feel comfortable speaking in their native language.
There are many differences that non-Native Americans need to take into account before they can try and help Native Americans, sometimes a person is un-willing to take the extra effort to gain the knowledge needed to help the Native Americans (Gorospe 96). John F. Kennedy once stated “for a subject worked and reworked so often in novels, motion pictures, and television, American Indians remain probably the least understood and most misunderstood Americans of all”(Donelan 3). Although this is true, it also takes effort from non-Native Americans to try and communicate with the Native American culture.
It cannot be assumed that if help is needed it will always be sought. Native Americans have had their economic resources taken from them by the non-Native American cultures, they have been driven off their land, and have been given no respect. Some Native Americans may be intimidated or un-trusting since the United States Government has broken so many treaties with them. The United States Government needs to make the effort to help the struggling Native American culture pull themselves out of poverty.
President Obama has vowed to end the neglect of the past two hundred years that the Native Americans have endured. The Native Americans have given Obama the name “One who helps people throughout the land”. Obama has signed a memorandum that is stating that the government is to converse with the existing Native American tribes to try and assist them. President Obama has appointed an Indian from the Cherokee Nation to become an adviser on Indian issues, he has also appointed a member on the Rosebud Sioux tribe to be the head of Indian Health Services.
Hopefully some progress will be made to help the existing Native American tribes become more prosperous in today’s society (Nasaw 1). Alcoholism has become a major problem in the Native American culture. Many people, not just Native Americans, view alcohol as an escape from their problems. The fact that a majority of Native Americans are in poverty and have very few opportunities offered to them has a lot to do with the problem of alcoholism on many reservations. To solve the problem of alcoholism, Native Americans believe in a sweat lodge ceremony rather than alcoholics anonyms meetings.
A sweat lodge ceremony is used to obtain spiritual purification through prayer, many members of the tribe participate to try and purify the person (Donelan 2). Life on Native American reservations can be very violent. According to statistics from 1992 to 1996, one hundred and fifty Native Americans were murdered per year (Donelan 1). Native Americans have a large amount of anger towards the people that have caused them to be in poverty that they are releasing their anger and causing harm to their own people. Poverty among Native American’s is one of the most overlooked forms of poverty.
Native Americans were the very last to be granted the right to vote, it is time for something to be done to change the way the Native Americans have been treated. Many people were unaware that November was Native American Indian Heritage Month and the day after Thanksgiving is Native American Heritage day (Rodgers 2). I am sure that nobody celebrated or gave thanks for the many sacrifices the Native Americans have made for the United States. Any problems Native Americans face can somehow be related to the fact that the United States Government was unable to follow through with their treaty to pull them out of poverty.
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