Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our forgotten minority

I got a chance to review the demographic profile of Native Americans today and I felt nearly ashamed of how easily we ignore their problems. I won't offer too much reflection today; instead, I'll just share the statistics comparing them to the rest of our population. Much of this data is a result of termination and assimilation policies forced through treaties.
  • 600% higher rate of dying from tuberculosis
  • 510% higher occurrence of alcoholism
  • 229% more vehicle crashes
  • 189% higher rate of diabetes
  • 1 in 3 Native American women have been or will be raped
  • 62% more suicides
  • Native American youth have the highest rate of suicide in the world
I think the saddest statistic from the bunch is the suicide rate. But think about it: what would you do if your tiny, impoverished community was in the middle of nowhere, where the nearest airport is only accessible after driving six hours on a dirt road in a crappy gas guzzling car, where the nearest court to incarcerate criminals is a day away, where your friends and family frequently suffer from all forms of abuse, and racism toward you and your people is prevalent and the norm. I don't know about you, but drinking myself to death might sound more enticing than waking up to another day like that.

Unfortunately, when their representatives go to Congress to lobby for inclusion in policy decisions that affect them, their concerns are ignored and rarely solicited. It occurred to me today that when we think about closing the disparities in health, education and socio-economic status for minorities, we often disregard the needs of our native population. This needs to change immediately- it's our ethical responsibility to be a guardian to these people and protect their rights. 


  1. The only stat I knew about was the alcoholism - and of course all the health/mental issues that come from it - its a reoccuring prevelence in psych.

    its amazing how the government thinks that throwing college scholarships at kids with a native american background makes up for thanksgiving.
    I remember hearing about that, how percentage-wise, the "cutoff" requirement is 1/4 native american. And depending on the tribe, you might be able to get a tribal card to prove affiliation. and then theyll lend you a hand.

    that list is appalling!

  2. Thanks for your comments, tcatz! I'll keep you posted on any other mind blowing tips.

  3. I think another root cause of their problems is that their culture and identity are slowing dying, because most of their lands were taken away and they are confined to smaller communities surrounded by america (not to mention some of american culture inside their territories in the form of casinos). It's a very sad situation with no easy answer.