Note: these figures as noted below are five or more years old;conditions
now, are much worse. The American Indians are with the Haitians by
far the most impoverished and oppressed person in the Western
Hemisphere. The USA participated in the attempted overthrow
and overthrow of the elected governments of the only two "Democratic"
elections in decades according to International Observers: in Bolivia, \which has the world's first Indigenous president, and in Haiti. Though American Indians like Ira Hayes won medals for their heroism in WW2, no Indian was allowed to vote until 1949; they had been given citizenship(!) only in 1939. Itis becoming a widespread beleif among American Indians and many others that the oppression and genocide of the American Indian is linked to the American support for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and their being subjected to Apartheid. Think on these ideas and facts and observe the actions rather than nodding your head to the rhetoric and lies of the two "moral and Democratic States" and their practice of that Parent of terrorism, the State terror extolled by Robespiere as the "Twin Towers" of the State: "Purity and Terror."
Food Distribution Programs
There are currently 2.1 million American Indians residing in the United States, about 25% of whom live on reservations. The disparities confronting these peoples are the most extreme of any ethnic group in the United States. Not only do American Indians have the highest rates of poverty (over twice that of all other ethnic groups), but they also have the highest unemployment and worst rates of disease. If this is surprising, also consider the following:
The poverty rate increases to 31.2% when addressing American Indians living on reservations; that is 1 in 3 people (Census Bureau, 2001).
Approximately 90,000 Native families are homeless or under-housed. (Senate Indian Affairs Committee, 2002)
30% of homes on reservations are overcrowded, compared to 5.7% of homes of the general U.S. population. (Senate Indian Affairs Committee, 2002)
American Indians are 670 percent more likely to die from alcoholism, 650 percent more likely to die from tuberculosis, 318 percent more likely to die from diabetes than any other ethnic group (Indian Health Services, 2002)
In 2004, American Indian schools will spend approximately $3,000 per student, less than half the amount that other public schools will spend (Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2004)
Over 50% of homes on reservations lack connection to a public sewage system, compared to 1.2% of the general U.S. population. (Senate Indian Affairs Committee, 2002)
11% of American Indian homes lack kitchen facilities, compared to 1% national average (Government Accounting Office, 2005)
There is no single cause for these disparities. The geographic remoteness, lack of economic development, political corruption within the tribal council, and inadequate federal assistance are all to blame. These problems are not foreign to us, they are the same conditions that we here of time and time again in mainstream media, but in relationship to other areas of the world. Our indigenous peoples are living in similar, if not the same, conditions as the indigenous peoples of the developing world.
Knowledge of the abject conditions on American Indian reservations is muddled by the derisory coverage of gaming and casino revenues by the mainstream media, amongst other things. As reported in a recent US News article:
"There's this new stereotype that Indians are rich now, because of the casinos," Hall says. "But out of the 200 or so tribes that have casinos, maybe 25 of those are doing pretty good, and that's stretching it." Some of the poorest tribes, such as the Navajo and Hopi, have rejected gambling as culturally inappropriate, and many others are too remote to rake in huge profits.
American Indians have the highest rates of diabetes, AIDS, alcoholism and tuberculosis amongst all ethnic groups in the United States. Yet, most American Indians do not have private health insurance and rely heavily on the Indian Health Services (IHS) for coverage. Not only is the IHS severly under funded, with 60% less spending on its beneficiaries than the national average, but the IHS only allocates approximately $2,000 per American Indian each year. This is only half of what our federal prisoners receive! Coupled with this issue are the poor health care facilities available to American Indians. Health care facilities are typically inadequately supplied, with treatment and prevention programs that are heavily under funded and are usually remotely located, requiring individuals to travel very long distances for services. As a result of these compounding issues, it is estimated that the health status of American Indians is 20 to 25 years behind rest of the nation. So, it should be of no surprise that the life expectancy of American Indians is on average 6 six years less than the national average, and amongst the Lakota tribe of South Dakota it is as low as 42 for men and 52 for women; that is a 30 year difference! This is characteristic of a poor developing nation, not a rich industrialized nation. The mental health amongst American Indians is equally despairing. Suicide rates amongst adolescents on the reservations are twice as high as the national average, and the majority of the suicides involve alcohol. Yet, on reservations such as Pine Ridge, where alcoholism affects 80% of the population, there are no treatment facilities.
In order to understand the rapidly deteriorating health of the American Indians, it is also necessary to address the drastic changes in nutrition that they have endured over the last 150 years. Traditionally, native diets were high in protein and low in fat. For centuries, they feasted on berries, roots, vegetables and wild game, which provided a balanced, nutritious diet. When the American Indians were 'placed' on reservations they were stripped of their self-sufficiency. Instead of continuing to live off the land, they were forced to eat the commodities provided to them by the federal government. These foods have traditionally been highly processed and refined, high in fat and cholesterol, and laden with sugars and salt. This has resulted in a high incidence of diabetes on the reservations. In fact, American Indians have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the world. Access to healthy foods remains very limited, especially for individuals and families living in isolated areas of the reservation.
Overcrowding and substandard housing has chronically plagued life on the reservation. It is not uncommon to have 12-15 people living in an 800 square foot, two-bedroom home. In addition, large proportions of the homes are lacking indoor plumbing, sewer service, heating, and adequate insulation. Many homes are also lacking electricity. Very few American Indians are homeowners due to limited or no access to credit and land ownership restrictions. This housing endemic finally resulted in some presidential attention when then president Bill Clinton visited the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1999. While HUD initially received funding to improve housing, the funding increase was quickly reduced, hindering any substantial progress from taking place. As a result there is an estimated 200,000 housing units in immediate need amongst American Indian families living on reservations across the United States.
As a group, Native American students are not afforded educational opportunities equal to other American students. They regularly confront dilapidated school facilities, outdated resources such as computers, cultural differences, and underpaid teachers. Teacher turnover rates are 700% higher than the national average on some reservations! The end result in learning is that achievement scores for basic levels of reading, math, and history are lower amongst American Indians than any other ethnic group. With little job opportunity, almost 50% of students drop out of high school. The vocational programs that do exist are poorly funded. For those students that do persevere through high school and enter a tribal college, the conditions don't improve. Tribal colleges receive 60% less federal funding per student than other public community colleges, and face the same shortages in technology, educational materials and staff that exists at the elementary and secondary levels.
The disparate condition of the impoverished reservations has a strong connection to the lack of substantial commercial, industrial and agricultural development, resulting in high rates of unemployment. Due to geographic remoteness, few industries are willing to build on reservations. Additionally, the infrastructure, ie. roads, to support new development are lacking. In order to improve living conditions, many American Indians move to urban areas, but often they still find themselves in extremely poor neighborhoods, and struggle to find suitable employment. For anyone making the transition from a rural to an urban life, the change can be very challenging, but American Indians often face the additional challenges of overcoming a poor educational background, few, if any, industrial skills and discrimination. As a result they may only be able to fill seasonal and/or low-paying jobs, often causing them to never escape the poverty they were fleeing from by leaving the reservation. Many, consequentially return to the reservation, frustrated and without any money.
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
This is the only nutrition program designed specifically for American Indians. The program provides monthly supplemental food packages weighing between 50 and 70 pounds to low-income households living on American Indian Reservations. Participation in Food Stamp Programs amongst American Indians living on reservations tends to be substantially lower than rest of the low-income families in America. This is caused by several factors. First of all, the tribal offices on each reservation are not permitted to administer the food stamp programs. This entails residents leaving the reservation to visit federal offices that may be several hours away from their home. Additionally, the grocery stores located on the reservation tend to be much more expensive, which drastically limits the amount people can stretch their benefits or may not even accept the food stamps. Food stamps may also be cut off when participants work even a minimum wage job, which works as a disincentive for finding employment. Forced to choose between either food stamps or the commodities provided through FDPIR (people are not allowed to participate in both), most choose the commodities. As many as six out of 10 households rely on FDPIR as their primary or only source of food.