Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Native Lives Matter, Too

Today in the New York Times, Lydia Millet crafted an Op-Ed that shines a harsh light on police killing of American Indians in the United States.  At a time when #BlackLivesMatter is driving media attention and conversation, Millet writes in "Native Lives Matter, Too" that American Indians are virtually invisible when it comes to loss of life at the hands of law enforcement when per capita, American Indians suffer a higher percentage of killing at the hands of law enforcement than any other race. The Op-Ed states:

"American Indians are more likely than any other racial group to be killed by the police, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which studied police killings from 1999 to 2011 (the rate was determined as a percentage of total population). But apart from media outlets like Indian Country Today, almost no attention is paid to this pattern of violence against already devastated peoples. When it comes to American Indians, mainstream America suffers from willful blindness."

She further writes:  "Economic and health statistics, as well as police-violence statistics, shed light on the pressures on American Indian communities and individuals: Indian youths have the highest suicide rate of any United States ethnic group. Adolescent women have suicide rates four times the rate of white women in the same age group. Indians suffer from an infant mortality rate 60 percent higher than that of Caucasians, a 50 percent higher AIDS rate, and a rate of accidental death (including car crashes) more than twice that of the general population.  At the root of much of this is economic inequality: Indians are the poorest people in the United States, with a poverty rate in 2013 that was about twice the national average at 29.2 percent — meaning almost one in three Indians lives in poverty."


  1. After reading Ms. Millet's New York Times article, I am left with further questions. Specifically, what are the factors leading these injustices? Native Americans have long been treated as second class citizens at best. While America seemingly is working towards better relations between Caucasians and African Americans, the disconnect and disrespect towards Native Americans seems to be of little to no concern. In a nation that used to pride itself on being the melting pot of the world, we have found ourselves in a combative and divided society today. These issue of police brutality, while important, is just one factor contributing to this disconnect. The pure lack of resources towards minorities of any and all backgrounds breeds a future of struggle to meet or surpass the starting point for others who naturally find themselves in a better position due to either their race, their wealth, or some other factor. The part that is the most disturbing, is that it isn't only the Native Americans finding themselves in these situations. Its inevitably most if not all minorities. Latino, Burmese, the list goes on.

  2. Having lived in Oklahoma more often than not, I saw two very different groups of American Indians. Some fit the description in the article where things were desolate and alcohol was of paramount importance. Others were proud of their heritage and expressed a strong identification with their roots. Every year Red Earth Festival is held downtown Oklahoma City and throngs of Indians gather for food, music, and dancing. Indian dances are the primary focus, where contestants are judged based on their level of skill, and the uniqueness of their costumes and headdresses, among other things. I find it interesting that the Indians in Oklahoma seem to be on either end of the spectrum without a lot in the middle ground.