Reservation poverty


Reservation poverty

Reservation Poverty in the United States is defined as poverty among reservations, or “state or federally recognized, geographically defined areas of varying size over which Native Americans have the primary governing authority” [Grover, Michael: "Demographic trends reveal mixed portrait of 9th district reservations", indiantenure.org.] Indian reservations, as “the ultimate welfare state”, usually subsist on what the government provides, and little else [Carlson, Peter: The Washington Post, 1997] Some the poorest counties in the United States are contained largely on reservations [Miller, John J.: "The Projects on the Prairie", The Wall Street Journal]

History

In 1851, the United States Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act, which authorized the creation of Native American reservations. Sometimes land was forcibly taken from the American Indians, who had lived in the Americas for thousands of years. Overall, it is believed that about 70, 000 Native Americans were forced to migrate onto reservations. Today, reservations within the United States serve as homelands for more than 550 tribes [Lucent Books: "Indian Country Today, 2008.] ).In many cases, the lands granted to tribes were not ideal for, and in some cases, resistant to agricultural cultivation, leaving many tribes who accepted the policy in a state bordering on starvation. Many of the treaty promises made by the federal government to the Native Americans were not kept.

The federal government appropriated land from the Indians by conquest and treaty. Although Indians once were able to obtain title to specific parcels within reservations, this practice ended in 1934-an act that essentially turned the reservations into not-so-little housing projects on the prairie [ Miller, John J.: "The Projects on the Prairie", The Wall Street Journal] Off-reservation hunting prohibitions, minimal government and outside investment, meager rationing, and tuberculosis and measles epidemics ravaged populations of Native Americans [phs.org] The historical subordination of Indian nations, the intentional stripping away of indigenous political power, the wholesale expropriation of native economic resources, the situational obstacles many of today’s would-be tribal developers face in their search for investment capital and accessible markets, and the continuing discrimination many Indians experience-aid in the persistence of poverty on American Indian reservations [Cornell, Stephen and Kalt, Josseph P., :Culture as Explanation in Racial and Ethnic Inequality: American Indians, Reservation Poverty, and Cllective Action", hks.harvard.edu, 1993]

For a century, the federal government wielded immense influence over the affairs of the reservation, primarily through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In recent years it has turned over political authority to the tribe, though it does award contracts and loans to develop things like schools, hospitals, and businesses. Although, federal aid has not kept pace with inflation, and in the context of the reservation’s poverty its contribution is minuscule [Kilborn, Peter T.: "Life at the Bottom-America's Poorest Country...", New York Times, 1992]

Reservation problems also consist of out-of-home placement of foster children, loss of federal funding, under-funded education, employment issues, and lack of family support, housing, and transportation [Miron, Molly: "Legislative Commission to End Poverty visits reservations", Bemidji Pioneer, 2007]

Categories of poverty

*Structural Poverty: This results from underlying conditions of the economy
*Incidental Poverty: this results from changing events in people’s lives, also known s situational poverty.
*Generational Poverty: This is defined as being in poverty for two or more
*Poverty of Place: Decades of declining economy is reservations, which create a poverty of place.
*Poverty related to people: Decades of persistent poverty see a steady increase in the number of social, medical, and economic problems-emerging new threats to the well-being of families.
*Forced Relocation and Loss of Personal Assess: Forced relocation is extremely disruptive on both economic and emotional levels. Sudden loss of personal assets can have the effect of plunging families into poverty overnight.

Native American group

“The country’s 2.1 million Indians, about 400,000 of whom live on reservations, have the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, and disease of any ethnic group in America” [Carlson, Peter: The Washington Post, 1997.] Native Americans remain at the bottom in almost every measurable economic category. Indians earn only a little more than half as much money as the average American-less money per capita than whites, blacks, Asian Americans, and Hispanics. Nearly one-third of Native Americans live in poverty, which is more than twice the rate for Americans in general ref<>Carlson, Peter: The Washington Post, 1997] American Indian couples earn $71 for every $100 earned by all United States married couples [phs.org]

Economy

Job opportunities have not increased to employ rising numbers of Indians with increasing levels of education [phs.org]

In the year of 1998, among 18-54 year old Indians living on the Wind River reservation, 54% were unemployed. Of these, 94% wanted to work. Of the 46% of employed Indian adults living on Wind River, more than half were working for the government [phs.org]

As their economies have withered, other social pathologies have taken root. Indians are distressingly prone to crime, alcoholism, and suicide. Families have suffered enormously. About 60% of Indian children are born out of wedlock. Indian kids are perhaps five times as likely as white ones to live in some form of foster care. Their schools are depressingly bad [Miller, john J.: "The Projects on the Prairie", The Wall Street Journal]

Health

A high percentage of Indians identify as “food insecure”. People who identify as food insecure are uncertain that they will be able to acquire enough food for all household or family members due to insufficient money or other resources [Capriccioso, Rob: "Hunger in a land of plenty", Indian Country Today, 2008] Indians living on reservations don’t have enough money to buy nutritious foods, and food subsidy programs often don’t provide incentives to help people purchase healthy foods, which tend to be more expensive than, say, junk food [Capriccioso, Rob: "Hunger in a land of plenty", Indian Country Today, 2008] Indians are far more liable to succumb to diseases associated with the poor-four times as likely to die of alcoholism, three times as likely to die of tuberculosis, nearly twice as likely to die of diabetes [emayzine.com] . Nationwide figures show that American Indian teenagers commit suicide at three times the national rate; are involved in alcohol-related arrests at twice the national average, and die in alcohol-related incidents at 17 times the national average [Associated Press: "World Bank President Bisits American Indian Reservation , Says Poverty Remains Top Issue", 2003]

Housing

A high percentage of Indians identify as “food insecure”. People who identify as food insecure are uncertain that they will be able to acquire enough food for all household or family members due to insufficient money or other resources [Capriccioso, Rob: "Hunger in a land of plenty", Indian Country Today, 2008] Indians living on reservations don’t have enough money to buy nutritious foods, and food subsidy programs often don’t provide incentives to help people purchase healthy foods, which tend to be more expensive than, say, junk food [Capriccioso, Rob: "Hunger in a land of plenty", Indian Country Today, 2008] Indians are far more liable to succumb to diseases associated with the poor-four times as likely to die of alcoholism, three times as likely to die of tuberculosis, nearly twice as likely to die of diabetes [emayzine.com] Nationwide figures show that American Indian teenagers commit suicide at three times the national rate; are involved in alcohol-related arrests at twice the national average, and die in alcohol-related incidents at 17 times the national average [Associated Press: "World Bank President Visits American Indian Reservation, Says Poverty Remains Top Issue", 2003]

Teenage pregnancy

One the reservation, as elsewhere, teenage parenthood and a lack of jobs combine to create a cycle of welfare dependency [emayzine.com] Native Americans are third highest in teen pregnancies, behind Hispanics and Blacks.

Gaming and casinos

Native American Gaming currently is perceived as the economic development strategy that will help reduce Indian Reservations high rates of family poverty. There is, however, considerable legislative activity at the state and federal level, which is aimed at reducing this opportunity [Vinje, David L: "Native American Economic Development on Selected Reservations: A Comparative Analysis", American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 1996] Indian gaming has become a curse in some communities. The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) reports that of the 200,000 jobs created by Indian gaming, only 25% actually go to Indians [itvs.org] The NIGA also states that fewer that a quarter of the tribal government participating in gaming distribute payments from gaming income to tribal members [itvs.org] Casinos located on remote reservations-many over 500 miles from the nearest big city-fail to attract the wealthy clientele that gaming proponents had hoped to entice. Instead, many poor local residents end up spending their meager earnings at casinos, only rarely hitting the jackpot they seek.

Pine Ridge Reservation

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, located in Shannon and Jackson counties of South Dakota, is one of the poorest regions in the United States. It is also the site of some of the bloodiest events in the 19th-century war between the Native people and United States government. There is isn’t any train, bus, theatre, clothing store, drug store, barber shop, restaurant, place to get a car fixed or home delivery of mail. A car is the only way to get around, yet a fifth of all Shannon County households don’t have one. The few shops are fortresses against burglary, with boards or heavy metal mesh covering their windows [Kilborn, Peter T: "Life at the Bottom-American Poorest Country...", New York Times, 1992] The unemployment rate is 35% to 45% and the median income is estimated to be $6,100 [Associated Press: World Bank President Visits American Indian Reservation, Says Poverty Remains Top Issue", 2003] Much of the hardship stems from having few places for the roughly 21,000 residents to spend the estimated $150 million a year from the government.

Pine Ridge housing

On the Pine Ridge Reservation, homelessness is at 30% and unemployment at 80%. 60% of its residents live in substandard housing, and the reservation, which is half the size of the state of Connecticut, doesn’t have a single bank [itvs.org] “The housing shortage on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is so severe that only 16 people living in a four-bedroom house is considered lucky. Next door there are 23 people in a three-bedroom house” (Rapid City Journal). In the 1876 Treaty following the war between the United States and the Sioux, the United States government promised “a comfortable house”. Despite these promises, hundreds of people on the Pine Ridge Reservation are homeless and thousands live in a crowded or substandard housing. The American Indian Relief Council estimates that 44% of Sioux households lack complete kitchens and 55% do not have a telephone (itvs.org).

Pine Ridge health

Sioux Indians in South Dakota have the poorest health of any minority group in the United States. The Indian health Service says that for every 1,000 children born on the reservation in the late 1980s, twenty-nine died in infancy, almost three times the national average [Kilborn, Peter T: "Life at the Bottom-American Poorest Country...", New York Times, 1992] Death from heart disease, pneumonia, influenza, and suicide was twice the national rate; from alcoholism, ten times; from homicide, more than three times [Kilborn, Peter T: "Life at the Bottom-America's poorest Country...", New York Times, 1992] Diabetes rates are six times that of the general white population. Many factors contribute to the Sioux’s poor health; a distrust of standard medical practices, inadequate funding for Indian medical are, few trained physicians on the reservations and limited access due to remote living conditions, poor-eating habits and a high-fat diet, and a high rate of alcohol use (itvs.org). The average life expectancy for the Sioux is forty-eight years [itvs.org]

Pine Ridge education

Only 23% of Sioux children graduate from high school, and among that group, only 17% go on to college [itvs.org] . Homelessness, poverty, and learning disabilities contribute to the dropout rate, as does the lack of reading and writing experience. Lack of transportation keeps truancy rates high, and lack of electricity in many homes prohibits students from doing schoolwork after dark. Most reservation classrooms are in a deplorable state: many without heat in the winter or air-conditioning in the summer, when outside temperatures can exceed 100 degrees.

Pine Ridge prejudice

Many families have moved off the reservation in the hopes of finding jobs and creating a better future for their children. In Rapid City, a nearby large city where thousands of Indian families have settled, Native people face prejudice and hardship due to differences between their culture and the white man’s world [itvs.org]

Variation in poverty among tribal nations

The factors accounting for variation in poverty across reservations include: differences in the amount and quality of land per person, variations in population change, variations in cultural values concerning the accumulation of wealth, and different rates of economic development following the adoption of tribal self-determination into Public Law in 1975 [itvs.org]

Debate

There are a few hypotheses on why poverty persists on reservations. One hypothesis is that Indian cultures are inimical to capitalism [Anderson, Terry L. and Parker, Dominic: "The Wealth of Nations", Hoover Digest, 2004] . Another explanation for reservation poverty is that reservations lack high-quality natural resources [Anderson, Terry L. and Parker, Dominic: "The Wealth of Nations", Hoover Digest, 2004]

Some say the physical and human capital important to economic prosperity are lacking on reservations mainly because the institutions that govern Indian economies do not encourage investment [Anderson, Terry L. and Parker, Dominic: "The Wealth of Nations", Hoover Digest, 2004] . Others point to the fact that agricultural productivity on Indian lands is 30 to 90% less than on similar private lands. They put the blame of poverty on the tribal judicial systems that make biased decisions that discourage outsiders from contracting with tribes or individual Indians.

Many believe that the only hopes for pulling Native Americans out of poverty are quick fixes, such as federal aid and gambling. Others believe if American Indians are to escape poverty, they will have to commit to a rule of law with secure property rights and market institutions [Anderson, Terry L. and Parker, Dominic: "The Wealth of Nations", Hoover Digest, 2004]

References


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