As a White American, I have been virtually unaware of the harsh living conditions that Native Americans have been enduring. This past summer I was fishing and camping at a resort in northwestern Minnesota with my family. I realized that this resort was located on the White Earth Indian Reservation. As I drove around the towns that the resort was near, I saw that the Native Americans were terribly poverty-stricken. Besides the resort that my family and I were staying at and a small casino that was nearby, most of the buildings and houses were in poor condition. The majority of the houses were trailers and not something that I would call “livable.” This raised a few questions in my mind: Why are people on Indian reservations living this way and what other things besides housing are Native Americans lacking? As I began research on these questions, I found three major issues. Poverty, health, and education are three tribulations that, at this point, remain broken on American Indian reservations.
Although poverty rates on some reservations are getting better because of gambling enterprises and natural resources, most reservations have unusually high poverty rates. In 2000, the poverty rate of the entire United States was about 11.3%. Compare that to a 25.9% poverty rate for Native Americans living on reservations. The poverty rate of Native Americans in 2000 was higher than the peak of the poverty rate of the Great Depression, which was 21.7% (Native American Statistics”). This statistic alone shows that Native Americans are not doing well financially.
Location is a significant factor that determines how economically well certain reservations are doing. Reservations that are located in places with abundant natural resources and near metropolitan areas, tend to do better than reservations in remote areas. This is because with more resources available and more people to support businesses, the economy is more likely to thrive.
For reservations that are located in places with few resources and in remote areas, there is a lack of opportunity. Jobs are less available and the unemployment rate is high. This pertains to most reservations in the United States (Alvarez). In the United States, the unemployment rate in 2010 was 9.6%. The unemployment rate for Native Americans in the same year was 21.3% (“Labor Force Statistics”). Not only is there a dramatic difference between Native American and non-Native American unemployment rates, but there is also a severe undercount of Native American unemployment rates reported by federal and state government agencies. These inaccurate figures result in less funding for government programs that would improve employment rates and administer resources to Native American populations (Bouchard). These statistics tell us that something needs to be done to help the Native Americans.
Because poverty affects a lot of people on reservations, to go along with it, there is also a housing issue. Native Americans do...