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 gaming casinos. According to a Survey of Grant Giving by American Indian Foundations and Organizations by Native Americans in Philanthropy (1996), “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 the reservations in the country, 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 across America, only 240 are involved in gaming, with a mixed of financial success. Many tribes may never participate in gaming because of their remote 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 resulted in many health and environmental hazards.
* Approximately 16% 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 are needed to adequately address housing inadequacies on Indian reservations.
* Over 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or living in substandard housing. Homelessness on Indian 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% are severely overcrowded.
* Approximately 40% of housing on Indian reservations are inadequate, compared to only 6% of non-Indian housing nationwide.
According to the Indian Health Service (2014), “In 2007-2009, the AI/AN (IHS service area) age adjusted death rates for the following causes were considerably higher than those for the U.S. all races population in 2008.” The following list is a comparison of 2007-2009 AI/AN death rates to 2008 U.S. all races death rates.
* Alcohol related—520% greater
* Tuberculosis—450% greater
* Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis—368% greater
* Motor Vehicle Crashes—207% greater
* Diabetes mellitus—177% greater
* Unintentional injuries—14% greater
* Homicide—86% greater
* Suicide—60% greater
* Pneumonia and influenza—37% greater
According to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights (2004), 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.
* The highest prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the world. Treating diabetes for only those American Indians who are currently diagnosed with diabetes would amount to $1.46 billion per year, or 40% of the total budget for American Indian health care.
According to the Indian Health Service (2006):
* American Indian health facilities have an average vacancy rate of about 13% for all professional healthcare positions.
* 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 healthcare facilities.
Achieving a quality education, graduating from high school and achieving a college degree are the path to realizing socio-economic opportunity and becoming a self-sustaining member of American society.
Often, 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 of American Indians today:
* According to the National Education Association (2018), American Indian students in California have a high school graduation rate of just 52%.
* According to the 2016 State of American Indian Education report by University of California San Marcos, only 26% of American Indian high school graduates met the University of California and California State University enrollment requirements from 2010 to 2015.
* According to the U.S. Department of Education in 2013, the graduation rate for American Indians was 18% lower than the non-Indian in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.