All is not good in Indian Country

A few days ago, I wrote that we might look to what is happening in Indian Country in the US as a model for what might happen in Gaza-Israel today. How we could retrieve old history, acknowledge past errors, and learn from those we had not listened to in the past going into the future. I praised Deb Haaland and President Biden for their efforts on behalf of tribal lands, people, and culture.

I stand by that, but there is a caveat. I was reminded of that by a couple of blog readers, so thanks to them, I remind you all that things are not just all wonderful in Indian Country today. That Native Americans fall behind whites, and even Latino and African-Americans in just about every category related to health, safety, and education.

A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3 percent) have experienced violence in their lifetime, including 56.1 percent who have experienced sexual violence. AI/AN women are more likely to be trafficked, and more likely to disappear than are white women. And AI/AN men and women are twice as likely as the general population to be incarcerated, four times as likely as their white countrymen and women.

American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are at least twice as likely to die from diabetes, alcoholism, liver disease, and by accident than are all Americans. And almost twice as likely to die by suicide.

In darkness Indians find humor. I know that Native author Sherman Alexie has had a fall from grace, but images from the movie, “Smoke Signal,” come to mind. And, more pointedly and locally, a Nez Perce friend told me with a smile that there is debate in Indian Country about fry bread. “Some say we it should be our national food; others say that it is the white man’s latest attempt to kill us all.”*

* Fry bread originated on “Long Walk to Bosque Redondo” when Kit Carson marched thousands of Navajo from homelands to the reservation in what is now New Mexico; their rations flour, sugar, salt and lard–most of it probably old and stale.

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