18 July 2014
A Navajo teacher said, “Rather than judging the past, the hard realities of today need to be assessed and dealt with. We are continuing to battle racism and prejudices even in the ‘free country’, we live in today.” The tragedies of Native American histories are all unfolded differently. One cannot simply begin to speak for all Natives, but one thing is for certain: promises not kept by the federal government has created many obstacles for Native American youth to succeed.
In The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams describes the American Dream, “It is a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone..” (A Better Life). Historical trauma, ineffective government policies, and failure to meet trust responsibilities contributes to the declining health, education, and economic disparities seen in tribal communities. The majority of Native Americans continue to suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment. Many tribal communities have unemployment rates near 70% and more than 23% of all Natives live in poverty, of which 32% are under the age of 18. Underfunding in federal housing dollars has resulted in Native youth living in overcrowded dilapidated homes (Why We Are Here). Tribal communities now suffer from increased youth gang activity, high rates of alcohol and substance abuse, violent crime and significant health disparities compared to the rest of America.
Because of this Native American youth has to fight against significant obstacles in order to succeed. High school dropouts are common as are low college enrollment rates. High school graduation rates for Native students are under 50 percent. These challenges cause Native youth to feel hopeless. Native youth today find it difficult to stay in school when their surrounded by other Natives who drop out. Who refuse and resist (Superman and Me). For many Native Americans the odds of success are not in their favor due to daunting challenges they face in their daily lives. The impact of the challenges combined is shown in the high rate of suicide amongst Native youth. Native American youth suffer from the highest rate of any group in the United States (Hummingbird).
Each tribe continues to be riddled with loss. The Native youth today are unpopular, disengaged, and uncomfortable as they continue to lose their Native language, and aspects of their culture and traditions. They can only hold onto what cultural knowledge they have and embrace the lessons learned in order to move forward in this “American Dream” reality.
Alexie, Sherman. “Superman and Me”. 19 April 1998. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/apr/19/books/bk-42979. Web. 13 July 2014
Monroe, Laura. “How Do Native Americans of Today Perceive The White Man?”. 29 Dec. 2010. http://www.usaonrace.com/sticky-wicket-questions/2115/how-do-native-americans-of-today-perceive-the-white-man. Web. 16 July 2014.
“Why Are We Here?”. Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute. http://www.cnay.org/WhyWeAreHere.html
Hummingbird, Linda M., RN, BS. (2011). The Public Health Crisis of Native American Youth Suicide. nas.sagepub.com/content/26/2/2/110.extract