Native-American Youth Are in Crisis and Need Protection
By Jessica Ramos,
Centuries after the first pilgrims and Indians came together in peace to give thanks (so the story goes), Native American youth have nothing close to peace. A new 120-page report from the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence screams that they are in crisis.
Violence Plus Poverty
As reported in The Washington Post, Native American children “face unprecedented challenges” of violence and extreme poverty that hurt their minds as much as their bodies, on top of the “historical trauma” that they carry. The combination of violence and poverty fuels more issues: compromised neurological development, poor health in all aspects, unsatisfactory scholastic performance, unhealthy substance abuse and a high rate of participation in the juvenile justice system.
In 2014, Native American youth are fighting battles that they can’t win at home. The report concluded that they experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the same rate as returning veterans who fought in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan. Compared to the rest of the American youth, they experience PTSD at triple the rate. The consequences can be fatal; it’s not a coincidence that Native American youth are twice as likely as any other group to die before 24.
Legal Loopholes and Losing Funding
The legal system isn’t helping them either. Last year, Congress did pass a law where federally recognized tribes could prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence against women in tribal territory. But there’s a giant loophole: non-Indians can’t be prosecuted for crimes against Native American youth in tribal territory.
As common sensical as the proposed law seems (if Native American women need protection, then why wouldn’t their children need it?), there’s always a chance that it won’t get passed. ThinkProgress explains that “political resistance,” mostly from Republicans, is to be expected since many don’t want to give tribes more authority or autonomy. And frankly, that needs to change.
The tribal legal system is far from perfect. And it doesn’t help that the U.S. government doesn’t adequately support it. It’s hard enough to get basic governmental services in tribal territory. The Interior Department pumps money into the tribal legal system, but unsurprisingly those funds are super low, and it’s getting alarmingly lower every year. The Washington Post describes how the main grant from the Justice Department that protects Native American children fell from $25 million in 2010 to only $5 million in 2014.
Change From the Top
If real change is going to happen, then it needs to start from the top. That legal loophole needs to be closed: non-Indians who abuse Native American youth can’t get away with it and should be prosecuted in tribal territory. In light of this eye-opening report, it’s clear that the Justice Department should consider making budget cuts elsewhere, not cutting funding that is helping Native American youth.
Furthermore, Native American youth deserve better than to live in squalor. Many live in third world living conditions, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development needs to fix that. Basic shelter and basic running water aren’t luxuries, they’re rights. Young people also need proper places to hang out, so they stay off the streets and, hopefully, stay out of trouble.
There also needs to be more Native American representation in leadership. The panel of the report suggests a “fully staffed Native American Affairs Office in the White House” by May 2015. One senior official should oversee the welfare of Native American and Alaska Native youth.
The U.S. government has had centuries to remedy the injustices of the past. Instead, it chooses to turn a blind eye to suffering children and youth. Thanks to this report, there’s no doubt that change needs to happen, but if it will ever come remains to be seen.
Jessica Ramos is a Los Angeles freelance writer and nonprofit grant writer. Jessica is passionate about animal welfare, sustainability and green issues. A borderline obsessive cat lover, Jessica probably knows too much about cats than she cares to let on. When she's not writing, she's probably mesmerized by the local jewelry, finding the next big thing in cruelty-free living or perfecting her green juice recipe. You can learn more about Jessica at jessicaeramos.com. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @ramoswrites.
About 22% of our country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands (2010 U.S. Census). Living conditions on the reservations have been cited as "comparable to Third World," (May 5 2004, Gallup Independent). It is impossible to succinctly describe the many factors that have contributed to the challenges that Native America faces today, but the following facts about the most pressing issues of economics, health, and housing give a hint of what life is like for many first Americans.
Typically, Tribal and Federal governments are the largest employers on the reservations. Many households are overcrowded and earn only social security, disability or veteran's income. The scarcity of jobs and lack of economic opportunity mean that, depending on the reservation, four to eight out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed. Among American Indians who are employed, many are earning below poverty wages (2005 BIA American Indian Population & Labor Force Report).
The overall percentage of American Indians living below the federal poverty line is 28.2% (2008, American Indians Census Facts). The disparity for American Indians living below poverty on the reservations is even greater, reaching 38% to 63% in our service area (2006, National Center for Education Statistics, and other sources).
There is a housing crisis in Indian country. Despite the Indian Housing Authority's (IHAs) recent efforts, the need for adequate housing on reservations remains acute. One legislator deplored the fact that “there are 90,000 homeless or underhoused Indian families, and that 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and less than 50% of it is connected to a public sewer.” (March 8, 2004, Indian Country Today).
"The average life expectancy for Native Americans has improved yet still trails that of other Americans by almost 5 years” (2010, HHS Indian Health Disparities Fact Sheet). About 55% of American Indians rely on the Indian Health Service for medical care (2006, Indian Health Facts). Yet, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act only meets about 60% of their health needs (2003, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights).
American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many
The federal government began sending American Indians to off-reservation boarding schools in the 1870s, when the United States was still at war with Indians.
An Army officer, Richard Pratt, founded the first of these schools. He based it on an education program he had developed in an Indian prison. He described his philosophy in a speech he gave in 1892.
"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one," Pratt said. "In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."
please read the whole article here:
Native American Languages
A common misconception is that there was one Native American language. In reality, there were perhaps a thousand languages spoken in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans - about 250 in the present territory of the United States alone. In addition, these languages showed tremendous variety between one another.
ComplexityThe spoken languages were neither primitive nor simple, and many had grammars as complex as those of Russian and Latin. However, with the exception of an ideographic system used by the Mayans and their neighbors near the Yucatan peninsula, none of the native languages of America had a writing system until the arrival of Europeans.
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it is way past time for a change... violent or otherwise!
Being Black: The Real Indictment in Ferguson and the USA
Now that the grand jury has returned with their decision on the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown, we should be reminded that even though Darren Wilson was not indicted, Blackness was certainly indicted by the grand jury.
Darren Wilson is free and the police continue to be empowered to kill with impunity. Blackness was found guilty yet again, as witnessed by the many Black slain and their stories. The color some of us carry around can exact a death sentence at a moment's notice. Ever since the formation of the world's greatest empire, Black people have been the eternal scapegoat for all that's been wrong. Our blood waters the roots of war.
Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)
There is nothing that can be expressed but grief, anger and frustration at the depraved patterns of this consistently immoral farce that calls itself the "criminal justice system." Kill the Black body and then blame the corpse. This happens repeatedly. Anything is a good excuse to kill a Black person. In Michael Brown's case, stolen cigarillos were worth his death. In 12-year-old Tamir Rice's death this week, it was his unmarked toy gun. And recently, Tanesha Anderson's mental illness made her death worth a violent killing in front of her own family. No matter what, the dead Black body is at fault.
The United States was born out of an incident where a Black man was victim blamed for his murder. It was the Black blood and "mad behavior" of Crispus Attucks that led founding father John Adams to defend the beguiled crown when Attucks was the first American shot down leading up to our nation's birthing revolution. What was his defense of the British patrols overzealous policing? Adams uttered words that would cement our ever-present pattern, stating it was the fault of Attucks "whose very looks was enough to terrify any person." Two hundred and forty-four years after the moment that sparked the fight for independence, we are still dealing with this type of thinking.
It was enslaved Africans that led to the declarations of immediate causes for Southern secession and a civil war. It's the loss of Black labor that requires we remember the Alamo. Yet and still, it is Black blood that stirs the movements of the internal war we are facing at this very moment. Black people do not cause the conflict; we are the conflict. We ignite the grips of fear with our very presence and strike first at oppression, even with our backs turned. Our freedom, in life and death, pulls at the reins steering us into predestined Black guilt, assumed criminality. The determination to be seen as human is a never-ending struggle.
Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)
There is something hauntingly ironic in all of this. A grand jury whose term was set to expire on September 10, 2014, made the decision about Darren Wilson. A grand jury that is 75 percent White and made up of 12 people "selected at random from a fair cross-section of the citizens." It seems insulting when about two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are Black. Alas, this is our system. An imposed state of emergency was declared based on the fear of protesters' reactions to the grand jury decision. This means the National Guard was activated and police forces were operating under high alert as a precaution in preparation. The Department of Justice has expressed frustrations that this move by the governor escalated the situation unnecessarily. If anything, the only emergency is Blackness itself. The directive issued by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is also set to eventually expire. It should be clear, though, that White supremacy does not expire. That being said, we should be having conversations about how we address the new manifestations that will inevitably arise.
The police are not going to be "fixed" - and hiring Black police officers is a naive solution. We live in a time where we have a Black president, a Black attorney general and a Black head of homeland security. Their Blackness doesn't win them respect for their dedication to the standards of the status quo, nor does it serve Black people as a means of liberation. We are still caught in the confines of permanent exile in the only place we have known as home. Discussions of historical Black struggles are presented as if the war is over. We discuss segregation and discrimination as if they are things of the past, while the present mocks us.
The police state in its current form is a protectorate of White supremacy. Black people are increasingly feeling that calling the police is never a good idea. However, this is not a new sentiment; it's a very old one. What does it mean to us as a nation that Black people do not feel comfortable using an emergency service? At our most vulnerable and scary times, we are silenced by the fact that those who are supposed to shield us see us as targets. How is Jim Crow a thing of the past, when, still, we can never be truly safe?
Police at the Chicago emergency call to action in solidarity with Ferguson and Marissa Alexander. (Photo: Sarah Jane Rhee)
Mariame Kaba recently reminded us that though the indictment of Darren Wilson was symbolically important, it would not dismantle the system. She goes on to offer her personal examples to fight oppressive policing, writing:
I vocally and actively oppose any calls for increased police presence as a response to harm in my community and in my city. At budget time, I pay attention to how much money is allocated to law enforcement. I press my local elected officials to oppose any increases in that amount and to instead advocate for a DECREASE in the police department's budget. I support campaigns for reparations to police torture [and] violence victims. I support elected civilian police accountability councils and boards (knowing full well that they are [Band-Aids]). I believe that we need grassroots organizations in every town [and] city that document and publicize the cases of people who have suffered from police violence. These organizations should use all levers of power to seek redress for those victims and their families.
This is a bare minimum when the police are still active in hate groups as we saw in Florida earlier this year. (If Anonymous' operation to expose the KKK reveals anything, I doubt Black America will gasp.) White supremacists are attracted to the police force and military. Those who have felt the brunt of their terror have always been aware of this. And in the Black community, police terror has always conveyed the structural oppression of White supremacy, a force that outweighs the narrative of one "bad cop." We live the realization that "you cannot indict White supremacy" - and embody the stress that comes with that.
Black people around the country have watched as Ferguson is flooded with our emotions and frustrations, with our family and friends protesting. We have heard the lies of figureheads and politicians, lies that echo the message of the nonexistent use-of-force report on Michael Brown's death.
Even as we awaited this indictment decision, Darren Wilson was rumored to be negotiating about resigning from the force.
Ferguson is the reminder that we will never be satisfied and many are still prepared to fight. The heart of Blackness is in this debacle, and in this spirit of resistance.
Ferguson is not about how Black people feel about Darren Wilson; it's about how this country feels about Black people. And until this country understands what Black people are protesting regarding our dead, things will only grow worse. If the demand for our humanity continues to be unresolved, I don't see why things should ever "quiet down."
The burden of restoring silence and peace over the sounds of injustice this country screams in our ears is not on us. Over time, whether Black people have protested with their hands up or with their fists, the message is clear: We know you're scared of us but we're not going to live scared of you.
WILLIAM C. ANDERSON
William C. Anderson is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @williamcander.
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