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The Need

Being American Indian in the United States Today…

There is a growing belief in American society that American Indians have struck it rich with the establishment of Indian casinos. 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 550 Indian nations, only 224 are involved in gaming. Many tribes may never participate in gaming because of their geographic location in rural, unpopulated areas.

Socioeconomic and Housing Conditions

According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2003:

  • The poverty rate for American Indians living on reservations (31.2%) is nearly three times the national rate.
  • On some reservations unemployment levels have reached 85%. Overall, the unemployment rate on reservations is over two times the national average.
  • Over 22% of American Indians do not have enough food to meet their basic needs.
  • 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.
  • Sixteen percent of reservation households have no telephone phone service.
  • Only 33% of roads in Indian Country are paved and 72% are officially rated as poor.
  • It is estimated that 1.1 billion dollars is needed to adequately address housing inadequacies on American Indian reservations.
  • Over 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or underhoused. Homelessness on reservations is becoming increasingly more visible as families are living in cars, tents, abandoned buildings or storage sheds.
  • 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.
  • Approximately 40% of housing on reservations is inadequate according to the federal definition, compared to only 6% nationwide.
  • American Indians have the highest rate of home loan denial of any race in the United States; nearly 25%.

Health Status

According to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights in 2004, American Indians are:

  • 770% more likely to die from alcoholism.
  • 530% more likely to die from Tuberculosis.
  • 420% more likely to die from Diabetes.
  • 280% more likely to die from accidents.
  • 190% more likely to die from suicide.
  • 52% more likely to die from Pneumonia and Influenza.

According to this study, American Indians also experience:

  • A life expectancy a full five years under any other ethnicity in the United States.
  • Per capita funding for healthcare at 60% less than all other Americans and 50% less than federal prisoners.
  • The highest prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the world. Treating diabetes for only those Native Americans who are currently diagnosed with diabetes would amount to $1.46 billion per year, or 40% of the total budget for Native Americans health care.

According to the Indian Health Service in 2006:

  • American Indian health facilities have an average vacancy rate of about 13% for all professional health positions. This ranges from a 5% vacancy rate for sanitarians to a 29% vacancy rate for dentists.
  • Over 79% of American Indian children 2-5 years of age have a history of tooth decay.
  • In total, there is a $900 million backlog in unmet needs for American Indian health facilities.

Educational Attainment

Unfortunately, the socio-economic disparities faced by American Indians translate into deficient educational opportunities. American Indian youth often lack the family and community support necessary for a fulfilling education. The literature on American Indian education reiterates that public education has repeatedly failed American Indians. The following is the disheartening reality of educational attainment for American Indians today:

  • According to the National Education Association, American Indian students in California have a high school graduation rate of just 52%.
  • The US Department of Education’s 2006 Nation’s Report Card on US history found that while White, Black, and Hispanic students all showed improvements on their scores since the last report in 1994, American Indian students showed no sign of improvement.
  • In 2005, the California Postsecondary Education Commission found that eligibility rates for American Indian high school seniors was only 19.7% for a California State school compared to 34.3% for Whites. Further, only 6.6% of American Indian high school seniors met the University of California eligibility requirements compared to 16.6% of White students.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education in 2002, the college graduation rate for American Indians is 38.3%. This rate is 17% less than the national average and is significantly lower than the rate of other minority groups in the U.S. including Blacks, Hispanics and Asians.
  • According to the 2003 National Adult Literacy Survey, 32% of American Indian adults failed to attain basic reading levels, compared to only 13% of White adults.