What the United States government has done, for decades, to Native Americans is appalling. Since well before President Andrew Jackson’s despicable Trail of Tears, the United States has killed them, broken well-established treaties with them, ignored tribal boundaries, and betrayed them in many other egregious ways.
The impact of this treatment on the Native people is devastating (these statistics are taken directly from the National Congress of American Indians):*
When compared to all other U.S. races, American Indians and Alaska Natives have a lower life expectancy by 5.5 years. This includes higher rates of death from chronic illness, including diabetes, chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, mellitus, and suicide.
American Indians and Alaska Natives die of heart disease at a rate 1.3 times higher than all other races; diabetes at a rate of 3.2 times higher; chronic liver disease and cirrhosis at a rate of 4.6 times higher; and, intentional self-harm and suicide at a rate of 1.7 times higher.
For American Indian and Alaska Native youth, the rate of suicide is 2.5 times higher than the rest of the country. It is the highest youth suicide rate among all other races/ethnicities in the country.
The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native homeowners who owned their own home in 2017 was 459,158 thousand. This is less than 1 percent of all owner-occupied homes and compares to a rate of 63.8 percent for the total U.S. population.
The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Natives living in poverty in 2017 was estimated to be 26.8 percent. This compares to 14.6 percent for the nation as a whole.
American Indians and Alaska Natives attend post-secondary education at a rate of 17 percent, in comparison to 60 percent among the total U.S. population.
Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 ravaged American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “In 23 states with sufficient Covid-19 patient race/ethnicity data, the overall Covid-19 incidence among AI/AN persons was 3.5 times that among White persons.”
And, still today, Native Americans are confronted with major barriers to vote (things like limited access to in-person voting and often no “acceptable” mailing address and/or identification), and their households are 19 times as likely as White households to not have indoor plumbing.
But finally! Things seem to be changing. In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a large portion of Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma was indeed the Muscogee Creek people land. This ruling confirmed that the Muscogee Creek people — and, as an extension, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and other Nations — are indeed sovereign nations with sovereign territory.
In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who broke ranks with his fellow conservatives, wrote: “On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise.” Beautifully said, Justice Gorsuch.
1. “Demographics.” National Congress of American Indians. 16 May 2021
2. United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Covid-19 Among American Indian and Alaska Native Persons – 23 states, January 31-July 3, 2020.” 28 Aug 2020
3. George McGraw and Radhika Fox. “Closing the Water Gap.” Dig Deep and U.S. Water Alliance. December 2019