Thursday, October 6, 2011

A History Lesson for all Americans - The Indian Wars are not over

Throughout our lives we learn about different people, minorities, cultures or whole countries which have suffered at the hands of others. In school in Australia I read about the mistreatment of the Aborigines when English settlers arrived a couple of hundred years ago. A reoccuring topic in news and current affaairs is the poverty in African countries contrasted with the excessiveness of Western countries. The Dalai Lama is recognised as fighting for the plight of the Tibetans.

In the last 100 years positive changes have happened giving equal rights in many countries to people regardless of race or sexuality such as the legislation recognising gay marriage in various countries, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the civil right movement in the USA.
However there is one group of people who seem to gain little attention. Although the USA has progressed so far with the rights of African American, another demographic has very little voice. Before the English settled the USA, the land was home to the Native American Indians. Suffering the fate of other native people of countries claimed by Britain, their position today has hardly improved.

There is a growing misconception in American society that most Indian tribes have struck it rich with the establishment of Indian casinos. Another rather persistent belief is that many Indians receive a monthly stipend. Neither of these is true. Suicide is a major concern amongst American Indians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that, from 1999 to 2004 suicide ranked as the second leading cause of death for those from age of 10 to 34. Among American Indian youth attending Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in 2001, 16% had attempted suicide in the 12 months preceding the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

In the battle for land throughout the years, reservations such as Pine Ridge were given to the American Indians. However the state of life on these reservations is bleak. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says the rate of poverty for American Indians living on reservations is three times the national average. Additionally, Over 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or under-housed.

According to "A Survey of Grant Giving by American Indian Foundations and Organizations" by Native Americans in Philanthropy, the needs of reservation Indians are so great that even if the total annual American Indian gaming revenue in the country could be divided equally among all reservations, the amount distributed per person would still not be enough to raise American Indian per capita income (currently $11,259) to anywhere near the national average of $21,587. Of the more than 560 Indian nations, only 224 are involved in gaming. Many tribes may never participate in gaming because of their geographic location in rural, unpopulated areas.

A report issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated one in five homes on reservations lack complete plumbing facilities and less than 50% are connected to the public sewer system. This has lead to the creation of numerous health and environmental hazards. Additionally, Over 30% of American Indian families live in overcrowded housing and 18 percent are severely overcrowded with 25-30 individuals sharing a single home. These rates are over six times the national average.

Aaron Huey, a Seattle based, freelance photographer wanted to photograph poverty in America. His journey led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people -- appalling, and largely ignored -- compelled him to refocus. After five years of work, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk from TEDxDU. This is a history lesson all Americans should take:

The Indian Wars are not over and to follow or support the current progress of Aaron Huey's campaign to have to treaties honored, please visit his website

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