Racism Against Native Americans


Discrimination against Native Americans is the longest held racism in the United States. It dates back to the arrival of the pilgrims and the subsequent invasion of the continent. In an effort to obtain much of North America as territory of the United States, a long series of wars and massacres forced displacements (including the well-known Trail of Tears), restriction of food rights, and the imposition of treaties. Ideologies justifying the context included stereotypes of Native Americans as "merciless Indian savages" and the quasi-religious doctrine of manifest destiny, which asserted divine blessing for U.S. conquest of all lands west of the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific.

Once their territories were incorporated into the United States, many surviving Native Americans were relegated to reservations— constituting just 4 percent of U.S. territory— and the treaties signed with them were violated. Tens of thousands were forced to attend a residential school system, which sought to reeducate them in white settler American values, culture and economy.

To this day, Native Americans are the most harshly affected by institutionalized racism. The World Watch Institute notes that 317 reservations are threatened by environmental hazards. While formal equality has been legally granted, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders remain among the most economically disadvantaged groups in the country, and suffer from high levels of alcoholism and suicide.

Native American women are also at a high risk of sexual and physical abuse, recorded at three and a half times higher than the national average. This estimate is very low because 70 percent of abuse cases go unreported, often due to mistrust Native American women feel towards government and police. Seventy percent of the violence experienced by Native American women is from non-Native American men.

Federal apathy and lethargy in prosecution of crimes against Native Americans is keeping the cycle of violence normative and commonplace.

This violence and fear is now translating to the younger generations, as acts of physical and domestic/date abuse are now becoming common among Native American teenagers.


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