Recently I watched an episode of 20/20 based on the challenges facing the Native Americans in the United States. The Indian reservations of South Dakota is one of the poorest populations in America. More specifically the Lakota Sioux Indians of the Pine Ridge reservation were the last tribe to stand up against the new arrivals that were attempting to take their land. These people live in extreme poverty. Many of them live in small quarters with 10 to 15 of their family members. These people live in conditions that many of us can never imagine. In this area there are no large businesses so the unemployment rate is extremely high. One of the largest issues recently that has hit the reservation is alcoholism and suicide. These two issues are running rampant as if it were an epidemic. Without a doubt the Native Americans of South Dakota are facing some hard times. The reason this episode stuck out to me is that it seems as though they are the forgotten people of the United States. Throughout the semester we have discussed poverty in different societies with different races and ethnicities but never focused on the Indians of the United States. These are the people that have been on this land from the beginning and they are suffering the most. Why is it that there isn’t any help for these people? It seems as though this is a never ending cycle for these Native Americans. Without the establishment of businesses their economy will never flourish because of the lack of jobs. Despite all these obstacles, the episode focused on three children with hopes and dreams that will not be stopped by the hardships they faced in their lives. The episode was really inspiring but for me the main question was are the Native Americans the forgotten group of America? If so, why is there such little attention paid to them?

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2 responses

  1. I watched that episode of 20/20 also and found it it be really powerful, and I totally agree that there is not enough focus or attention to the Native American community. It seems that perhaps part of that reason is that people are avoiding the guilt and sense of responsibility (in the sense of taking care of each other, not necessarily in the personal sense of wrong doing) that proceeds with really looking at the truth of American history. I think our society likes to perpetuate the idea that we grew from a noble concept, and that the wealth our country has acquired is from simply “hard work”, but when we dive into the history it reveals a much uglier and heinous reality. Maybe we avoid things that are upsetting?

    A few years ago I took a class on Native American history and it overwhelming and pretty depressing. The book we read was really good- The Earth Shall Weep by James Wilson. I don’t remember if the book really talks about the structure of oppression in the last hundred years or if it mostly covered the earlier historical context, but the class did touch on the way the government has participated in pigeon holding these communities into poverty. All in all, it is super heavy and disconcerting that we don’t know more about it, as it is apart of America’s history.

  2. THEGrnMtnBoy says:

    I believe the Apaches were the last Native Americans to give the U.S. Government a go for their money.

    Natives are a very proud people. Most ask for nothing. Most demand nothing. How many holidays do we have celebrating a Native American or Native American “event”? We still put Custer on a pedestal. He died for greed.

    The govt. has stolen from these Peoples since it’s inception and continues to do so.