The relationship between Native American communities and the Federal Government has been strenuous ever since the control of the American government fell into the hands of European colonialists. There are numerous factors that sustain the strain between Native Americans and the Federal Government.
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These include overt racial abuse, limited employment opportunities for Native Americans, provision of inadequate education and health services, denial of land ownership rights among others. However, the influence of some of the issues has diminished over time. Nevertheless, denial of land ownership rights, provision of inadequate education and health services has continued to exacerbate the relationship between the Federal Government and Native Americans.
Native Americans are a group of indigenous tribes that originally occupied the Americas before the coming of the Europeans. Currently it is estimated that there are about 2,786,652 Native Americans living in America. A majority of them are to be found in California, Oklahoma and Arizona, and are categorized into ten major ethnographic groups (Hann 2003, p 34).
America is said to be one of the cradles of agriculture. The origin of More than 60 % of the modern crops and domestic animals reared worldwide can be traced back to the Americas, thanks to the Native Americans’ obsession with agriculture (Hann 2003, p 35). This implies that much of the current land in America was originally owned by Native Americans.
The worsening of ties between Native Americans and the Federal Government: a review of related literature
The worsening of the ties between the federal government and Native Americans can be traced back to the colonization of the Americas by European settlers. According to Bolt (1999, p 45) the relationship between the Federal Government and Native Americans has been riddled with controversies and broken promises for hundred of years.
Currently there are many unresolved issues that exacerbate the relationship between the Federal Government and Native Americans, and which can be traced back to expansionary activities of the European colonialists in the 15th century. Eggers (1998, p 23) assert that Native Americans have been victims of judicial, social, political and economic injustices for hundred of years.
For instance, Native Americans, like the African Americans, have been subjected to overt racial abuse since the Europeans took control of the Americas. This is besides having access to fewer employment opportunities. Additionally, Native Americans have been misrepresented within the American judicial system, stalling their social economic as well as political progress.
Bolt (1999, p 47) further asserts that due to the dynamism of the issues and the passages of time, the influence of some of them has diminished. Such issues include overt racial abuse and poor judicial representation.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights examines the history of healthcare issues affecting Native Americans. In its report the United States Commission on Civil Rights adopts the term ‘Native American Healthcare’ to imply that there are overt differences between the quality and type of healthcare services offered to Native Americans and those offered to the rest of the American population.
The Commission notes that even after years of concerted efforts in search of Federal Government protection, Native Americans still lag behind in terms of access to quality healthcare, as compared to other Americans.
According to Steeler (2001, p 34), provision of healthcare services has contributed to the gradual worsening of the ties between Federal Government and Native Americans. Steeler (2001) acknowledges assertions made by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and adds that efforts by the Federal Government to address this sensitive issue only acts to accelerate “overt discrimination” against Native Americans (35).
The Federal Government formed the Indian Health Services, IHS after years of pressurization. IHS operates numerous clinics and hospitals that offer healthcare services to Native Americans. Steeler (2001, p38) adds that IHS offers poor quality healthcare and that this amounts to government supported racial discrimination.
Kidwell and Velie (2005, p 71) make damning revelations regarding land as a tool through which the Federal Government has historically used to gain control over Native Americans. Kidwell and Velie (2005, p 71) assert that the Federal Government controls Native Americans through its discriminatory land control policies. In the 19th century, the Federal Government managed to convince Native Americans to relinquish much of their ancestral land, in exchange of Federal Government’s protection of their rights to occupy reserved land (Anderson 1996, p189).
However, since then, the Federal Government has reneged on its promise to protect reserve land meant for Native Americans. Kidwell and Velie (2005, p 70) explain that the Federal Government has complicated the process through which Native Americans can reclaim their land.
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Johansen and Pritzker (2007) allude to assertions made by Kidwell and Velie (2005, p 71) and United States Commission on Civil Rights (2004, p 27) and assert that the Federal Government has deliberately denied justice to Native Americans to oppress them (40). Johansen and Pritzker (2007, p 45) note that the Federal Government has historically denied social justice to the Native Americans by offering them poor quality healthcare and justice services, denial of rights to own land and most importantly limiting their access to quality education.
In a report published by National Conference of State Legislators, it is found out that Native American children lag behind in terms of educational achievement as compared to other American children. For many years, there seems to be deliberate efforts to discriminate educational services offered to Native Americans. The Federal Government has failed to meet its promises of providing equal opportunities in education for marginalized communities, including Native Americans (National American State Legislators 2008, p 2).
The United States Commission on Civil Rights (2004) agrees with this and adds that the federal government has for years provided insufficient funds for vital services such as health, justice and education (33). This has had negative effects on Native Americans’ social economic development.
There are numerous factors that contribute to the worsening of the ties between the Federal Government and Native Americans. However, three of them are found to have significant influence. It is imperative to note that these factors are not isolated from each other but indicate overlapping influence.
Native Americans healthcare: glaring disparities
300 years ago, Native Americans exchanged land with the Federal Government for protection and provision of basic services including healthcare. For 300 years, Native Americans have tirelessly sought end to discrimination with regard to provision of quality healthcare. This has seen the enactment of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976, which led to the creation of healthcare system for Native Americans, backed by the Federal Government (National Library of Medicine 2003, p4).
The Indian HealthCare Services, IHS offers healthcare exclusively to Native Americans. It also ensures that there are appropriate funds available to fund adequate healthcare for Native Americans. Despite increased funding to Indian HealthCare Services, a study conducted by The United States Commission on Civil Rights (2004) notes that there are “real and highly visible” disparities with regards to the health status of Native Americans and the rest of the American population (26).
The risk of exposure to health related problems is very high. Native Americans are 300 % more likely to suffer from a myriad of health related problem such as TB, Flu, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, poor mental health, among others. This increases the mortality rates for Native Americans while lowering life expectancy by five years (Steeler 2001, p45).
A study conducted by The United States Commission on Civil Rights, describes a number of causes that sustain such disparities. These include inadequate federal funding for IHS, inaccessibility to healthcare services outside the IHS, very poor quality healthcare provided by IHS and limited access to medical insurance.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights (2004, p 23) adds that this is manifestation of overt racial discrimination. For many years, Native Americans have received inappropriate healthcare services outside IHS. For instance, Native Americans receive inadequate treatment and diagnostic care in government hospitals. This continues unabated despite many years of protests to the Federal Government.
The dispute over land
Hann (2003, p52) explains that traditionally, Native Americans are farmers. As such land ownership gives them a sense of belonging. In the 19th century, the Federal Government convinced Native Americans to surrender much of their land in exchange of protection and provision of vital services. Kidwell and Velie (2005, p71) explain that the Federal Government has continuously reneged on its promise to protect and provide sufficient services to Native Americans.
According to the United States Commission on Civil Rights (2004, p 23), the removal of Native Americans from their land by the Federal Government has had negative impacts on the Native Americans’ social economic welfare. Removal from matrimonial land denies Native Americans their sovereignty, thus relegating them to second class citizens (Kidwell and Velie 2005, p74). In addition to this, since Native Americans are farmers, removal from their matrimonial land denies them means of improving their social economic welfare.
Besides the attempts to buy back their land, Native Americans have for many years protested taking away of their land. On the other hand, the Federal Government has complicated the process through which Native Americans can reclaim their land by progressively altering land holding policies. This implies that Native Americans can only own land through inheritance. Additionally the Federal Government has fragmented reserve land thus reducing its agricultural productivity. This has aggravated disaffection with the federal government.
Poor education services
Other than denying Native Americans adequate means of earning basic livelihood, lack of land ownership rights has had severe effects on Native Americans. As stated earlier, this is not only a manifestation of overt racial discrimination but has also relegated Native Americans to second class citizens. As such, Native Americans have for years experienced limited access to basic services including education.
A study conducted by the Native American State Legislators indicates that there is a link between racial discrimination and poor educational outcomes (National American State Legislators 2008, p2). In the study, it is found out that Native American children perform below their capability, especially in the 3Rs. This can be attributed to their dislike for education, which emanates from challenges associated with their poor economic status (Johansen and Pritzker 2007, p23).
According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2004), Native Americans have “struggled for survival since they relinquished their land to the Federal Government” (25). This has not only denied Native Americans of the sovereignty but also worsened their socioeconomic conditions. Numerous policy measures, such as alteration of the curriculum, aimed at accommodating unique educational needs of the Native Americans have been instituted.
Despite this, poor social economic conditions coupled with provision of poor education services have continued to precipitate the widening of the educational achievement gap between Native American students and students from non-native communities (National American State Legislators 2008, p3).
The relationship between the Federal Government and the Native Americans has remained strained for more than 300 years. There are numerous factors which have over time exacerbated ties between the Native American communities and the Federal Government. Three of these are found to have withstood the test of time and are as important today as they were 300 years ago. The removal of Native American communities from their land by the Federal Government is perceived as an act of good faith.
However, it is evident that the Federal Government intended to use land as a tool to gain control over Native Americans. Over the years the Federal Government has tightened the grip over land previously held by Native Americans, thus relegating them to second class citizens. Denial of land ownership rights took away their sovereign status and with it a significant bargaining tool. As a result, Native Americans have over time received poor services from the Federal Government.
For instance, healthcare services offered to Native Americans varies in quality with what is offered to other Americans. This creates “real and highly visible” disparities with regards to the health status of Native Americans and the rest of the American population. Other than poor healthcare services, Native Americans portray an aversion to education.
This can be associated with poor economic status which emanates from denial of rights to land ownership. Combined, the three factors seem to increase disaffection with the Federal Government, and continue to strain the ties between Native American communities and the Federal Government.
Anderson, Kat. “Native American Land-Use Practices and Ecological Impacts.” University of California Center for Water and Wildland Resources, Last modified April 8, 1996. https://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-43/VOL_II/VII_C09.PDF
Bolt, Christine. American Indian Policy and American Reform. London: Allen and Unwin Press, 1999.
Eggers, Paul. “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Hospitalization Rates Among Aged Medicare Beneficiaries.” Health Care Financing Review , Last modified May 8, 1998. Web.
Hann, John. Indians of Central and South Florida: 1513-1763. Florida: University Press of Florida, 2003.
Johansen, Elliott, and Barry Pritzker. Encyclopedia of American Indian History: Volume 1. London: ABC CLIO, 2007.
Kidwell, Sue and Alan Velie. Native American studies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
National American State Legislators. “Helping Native American Students Succeed.” National Caucus of State Legislatures Review. Last modified December 8, 2008. http://www.ncsl.org/print/statetribe/strivingtoachieve.pdf
National Library of Medicine. “Reservation and Hospital Health Care under the Office of Indian Affairs”. National Library of Medicine, Last modified June 5, 2003. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/
Steeler, William. Improving American Indian Health Care: The Western Cherokee Experience. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001.
United States Commission on Civil Rights. “Native American Health Care Disparities Briefing”. Commission On Civil Rights, Last modified August 8, 2004. https://www.law.umaryland.edu/