January 10th, 2013 14:36 EST
Indians Are An Endangered Species
More than 560 American Indian Nations currently exist within the boundaries of the United States. To simply categorize them all as "Indians" is somewhat crude, since doing so is like homogenizing British, Italian, Irish and German as European. Each nation is characteristically different, with unique nuance of tradition. Generalizing Indians ignores actual regional and cultural differences.
Separate Indian tribes have never been entirely united. Maybe if they had united, they could have better resisted the encroachment of colonialism and foreign conquest.
American Indian lifestyle has continued to evolve through centuries of conquest, assimilation, and resistance that began with European contact in the fifteenth century.
A daring film called Generation Red Nation (www.generationrednationmovie.com) endeavors to portray the current and long persisting plight and struggle of Indian nations to maintain sovereignty and self-sufficiency while subsumed within The United States of America.
Indians have long held a place of interest in American history and entertainment; so it is disturbingly surprising and unconscionable that their contemporary state of affairs has been given such indifference and disregard by the American public and government.
American Indians endure the burden of numerous social problems; such as alcohol/ drug abuse, violence, crime, bad job conditions on reservations, governmental exploitation and corruption (external AND internal), environmental destruction, health problems, housing shortage, poor education and poverty at levels far above the national average.
Furthermore, abysmal federal funding and a tragic lack of infrastructure (often no electricity, telephones or Internet connectivity) makes life difficult in reservation territories. Such inadequacy prevents most external industry from providing resources to the reservations. Degraded and substandard conditions complicate the foundation of American Indian businesses- like casinos and tourism for some tribes, because they are not easily accessible to potential customers.
Lack of positive future prospects, leisure activities to distract them their situation, and meaningfully engaging work certainly does not improve their attitude or self image.
The common assumption about American Indians off the reservation shows that, when faced with challenges, Indian peoples adapt and change while maintaining their core identities.
Unfortunately, in many cases, several traditional elements have suffered and been compromised in the effort to not merely adapt, but survive against American oppression or indifference. Regrettably, indigenous language may no longer be spoken or religious rituals no longer performed, knowledge of traditional foods and practices get forgotten or not passed on.
Some of the most important issues today between the American Indians and the United States federal government is a fight for sufficient land and social, medical and educational services for tribal members.
In the 1800s the Native Americans ceded most of their land to the federal government in exchange for the promise that they could remain on reservation land and have their trust and freedom upheld. A mutually agreed upon trust that the American government has cavalierly betrayed.
To say that the federal government has been historically lax in their responsibilities would be a gross understatement.
This expressed legal commitment to Indian well being is defined in treaties, federal law, executive orders, and international doctrine.
They are intended for protection of Indian trust lands, of tribal self-governance, and provision of basic social, medical, and educational services for tribal members. Despite these promises, the U.S. government has consistently failed to follow through on these fundamental obligations.
There is disproportionately lower funding for critical Indian services- including law enforcement, health care, and education- than there is for all other populations of people in this country. Considering that American Indians in general tend to uphold honesty as something sacred in their belief system, this abuse by neglect and dishonesty and theft has rightly angered them.
Although the American Indians are trying to become, and prefer to be, more self sufficient, it is still the federal government`s responsibility to keep their agreements and promises with Indian nations. It is our responsibility as American citizens to demand our government comply, and to insist on reparations for this awful stain of dishonor.
Crimes committed against Indians did not end with the arrival of immigrants and conquerors.
Sadly, the only concern most outsiders tend to have about the tribulation of Indians are when they go to various Reservations seeking material for a new book, or movie, or new article, or some political agenda- usually for personal or commercial gain, rather than or more than to help promote awareness.
What Indian nations really need is for the U.S. Government to give the Indian People in this country back all of the money and land and identity and dignity that they have stolen for nearly 300 years. Indian tribes and factions need to find common interests that unite them, preserve their identity and heal sovereignty of these nations and their relationship with American government, not focus on issues that further erode and divide them.
American Indian populations are being decimated, reduced in a subtle genocide. American government coerces and allows despicable living conditions on reservations "which instigates various means of lower life expectancy, Indian heritage is increasingly being abandoned, American government issuing ID cards and blood percentages to determine Indian status (in exchange for "privileges"), and as full blooded Indians procreate with non-Indians- thereby diluting and decreasing Indian bloodlines.
What is at stake for non-Indians is the usual money and power and convenience?
What is at stake for American Indians is not only their life, but a WAY OF life?
Why does America care more about liberating the Middle East... than the people suffering within their own country?
What has been done to the Indian nations, what has been allowed to be done, is a tragic disgrace which ought to be remedied.
I was grateful to learn that President Obama promised American Indian leaders country wide that his administration would work to improve what he called the federal government`s history of broken promises to tribal nations. Many Indian leaders and representatives agree that this president has kept his word. The president conveyed, to the leaders, his commitment to strengthen and build upon the government-to-government relationship with Indian country.
Barack Obama has arranged and attended an Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference every year since taking office, leading to greater consultation between tribes and the federal government, and helping shape policy priorities. Although there is still much to rectify and resolve, which he acknowledges, more has been accomplished by Obama`s administration to revise conditions for Indian communities than any other president in over 30 years.