Most outsiders looking in on Indian life would be shocked to see the levels of poverty that characterize life on the reservation. I travelled through the Navajo (Diné) reservation a couple of years ago and was simply shocked.
What I saw looked more like an apartheid township than the developed suburbs of history's most prosperous country.
I stopped in a convenience store on the reservation and bought a local newspaper. A leading report described how some sections of the reservation were just getting electricity and running water. In 2005!
Read that again just in case you thought I was talking about South Africa or India. I am talking about the US and its occupation of what it calls America.
Take a look at this news report that Al Jazeera produced on poverty and Indians (November 16).
Now read some of the comments that were left in response to the contents. I have made a selection of a few here:
evenstephen85 - "The United States stole their land, destroyed their culture and has slaughtered their people. We should be ashamed of the atrocities that our country has committed against the Native Americans."
sugarpuddin88 - "American Indian casino wealth is greater than Vegas and Atlantic City combined -- Yet, they don't share with others. Forty thousand years ago Australian Aborigines settled the Americas. Their cave paintings depict Asiatic tribes, (American Indians), exterminating them 10,000 years ago. American Indians were the ones who killed off the original peoples of the Americas: Australian Aborigine peoples. My grandfather was dirt poor, and he was part of a western (Appalachian) tribe of Shawnee.
rararaHusky - "White man conspiracy, wtf? get a job you hooch!"
M3ridius - "Oh dear =( too bad you're not getting them back. The big mean white man built too many roads, factories, hospitals and skyscrapers on the land to want to return it to you now. They're American lands by conquest. Deal with it."
The last comment really gets my nerve. It is the same kind of racist arrogance that defines the colonial mindset. It is a comment that can be used anywhere where colonialism has reduced Indigenous people to little more than genocide survivors.
And we are not free.
***Update***(Saturday, November 17)
I looked at some census data and would like to provide the link here for anyone who wants to see some of what is officially reported on Native life in the US.
See also data contained in the "We the People: American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States" [2000: PDF 752K] report.
What follows is a selection from this 2000 report:
*In Census 2000, 4.3 million people, or 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population, reported that they were American Indian and Alaska Native.
* The educational levels of American Indians and Alaska Natives were below those of the total population in 2000.
* Seventy-one percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 and older had at
least a high school education, compared with 80 percent of the total population.
* Eleven percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 24 percent of all people.
* The labor force participation rate for American Indian and Alaska Native men (66 percent) was lower than that of all men (71 percent), while the rate for American Indian and Alaska Native women (57 percent) was slightly lower than for all women
* The ratio of American Indians and Alaska Natives living below the official poverty level in 1999 to that of all people was more than 2.
* In 2000, about 34 percent of the American Indian and Alaska Native population lived in American Indian areas (AIAs).
Based on this set of data we 'know' that almost two thirds of all Natives live outside the various reservations.
But living off the res has not decreased the significant lags in the typical socio-economic indicators between Natives and the general US population. The most significant is that if you are Native you are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than anyone else in the US.
In the past few days I have also been thinking about comparative data, particularly between so called minority populations in the US.
I found data that indicates Native communities bear a "greater burden of health risk factors and chronic disease than other racial/ethnic minority populations": See the CDC's Office of Minority Health and Minority Health Disparities (OMHD) report and others here.
In my comments section Shush li makes reference to an article that appeared in the Willamette Week by Beth Slovic entitled "Urban Indian: A Tight-Focus Lens on Portland's Invisible Minority", you can find that article here.
Regular readers of Eugene's blog will be interested in his comment (#20) on Slovic's article.
A slightly modified version of this article appears at Indigenist Intelligence Review.