TIME TO FACE THE CHALLENGES

Native Americans today face some extraordinary challenges. By nearly every measure, social, cultural, economical, and physical, Native American communities and Native American families are uniquely and negatively impacted by patterns of struggle.

While it is important to be positive and hopeful about the future of life for Native Americans in this country, it is first important to have a genuine understanding of what Indigenous people face, collectively and individually.

We have to understand the historical destruction that has occurred and how this destruction feeds the overwhelming hopelessness experienced by many Native Americans in the 21st century.

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Telling stories of Native struggle and Native
strength is a powerful catalyst for unity,
generational healing, and personal growth.
Each of us has an evolving story which no one
else can write.

 

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The indigenous peoples of this continent
have faced 500 years of genocide, dislocation,
and variations of physical, mental,
emotional, and spiritual violence.

 

 

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THE INFANT DEATH RATE FOR NATIVE AMERICAN CHILDREN IS
60% HIGHER THAN THE RATE FOR CAUCASIANS.

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NATIVE AMERICAN ADULTS ARE TWICE AS LIKELY
AS WHITE ADULTS TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH DIABETES

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NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN ARE 2.5 TIMES
MORE LIKELY TO BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED THAN ANY OTHER GROUP.

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THE LIFE EXPECTANCY FOR NATIVE AMERICANS IS
5.5 YEARS LESS THAN IT IS FOR THE POPULATION
OF ALL OTHER RACES.

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A FULL 20.7% OF NATIVE AMERICANS ARE UNINSURED,
COMPARED TO A NATIONAL AVERAGE OF 9.4%.

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THE RATE OF CHILD ABUSE AMONG NATIVE AMERICANS IS
TWICE AS HIGH AS THE NATIONAL AVERAGE.

NATIVE AMERICANS EXPERIENCE PTSD MORE THAN
TWICE AS OFTEN AS THE GENERAL POPULATION

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AND SERIOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS 1.5 TIMES
AS OFTEN AS THE GENERAL POPULATION.

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WHILE MORE THAN 60% OF AMERICAN YOUTH GO ON TO
RECEIVE SOME EDUCATION AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL

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ONLY 17% OF NATIVE AMERICAN YOUTH
CONTINUE THEIR EDUCATION AFTER HIGH SCHOOL.

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ONLY 13% OF NATIVE AMERICANS HAVE A BACHELOR'S
DEGREE COMPARED TO THE NATIONAL AVERAGE OF 28% FOR
OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS.

THE NATIONAL AVERAGE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATE IS
82%, BUT THE NATIONAL AVERAGE FOR NATIVE YOUTH IS
JUST 69%.

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FOR CHILDREN WHO ARE ATTENDING SCHOOLS RUN BY THE
BUREAU OF INDIAN EDUCATION, THE HIGH SCHOOL
GRADUATION RATE IS AN ABYSMAL 53%.

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THE LOSS OF NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE AND IDENTITY

All of these current challenges--lack of educational opportunity, physical and mental health disparities, the intense impact of historical trauma, lack of economic independence--are part of the great tragedy facing Native Americans: the loss of Native American culture and identity.

The traditional ways of life, the tribal languages, the songs and dances, the wisdom of elders, and the strong values that once animated Native cultures have in many cases been threatened or extinguished. Even for tribes who have managed to recover or maintain a strong sense of their cultural heritage, there is still the present difficulty of understanding how tribal identity can coexist with modern, Western culture which opposes it in so many ways.

Many Native Americans, especially young people, are ashamed of whom they are and wish they could be different. They look at themselves and their families, and they do not see goodness or resilience, only pain and suffering.

The pain and the suffering of the Native American people cannot be ignored any longer. We have to acknowledge the huge barriers that exist that work to keep young Natives stuck in the same cycles of abuse and poverty as have existed for generations. In order to move forward into a new era of revitalization and hope, we must confront and understand the enormous destruction and suffering that has been caused by centuries of discrimination and hardship.

Keep reading for more on the foundations and the future of Native American life.

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Reflecting on Our Foundations: The History of Native American Life and Culture

THE PAST
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Building a Hopeful Future: The Restoration of Native American Life and Culture

THE FUTURE