POOREST PLACE IN AMERICA
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, four of the five poorest counties in the United States fall either wholly or partly within American Indian Reservations. The American Psychological Association (2013) reports that living in poverty has a wide range of physical and mental health effects on our nation’s children as follows:
- Children and teens are at a greater risk for poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and social problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays.
- Chronic stress associated with living in poverty has been shown to adversely affect children’s concentration and memory, which impacts their ability to learn.
- Emotional problems include depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem;
- Physical health problems include either hunger from food insecurity or obesity due to lack of access to healthy foods; chronic conditions such as asthma, anemia, and pneumonia.
Most American Indian people live in remote areas that several hours or more from the nearest grocery store. The lack of reliable, economic transportation is yet another barrier for accessing grocery stores and in gaining employment. American Indian people have inequitable access to basic human rights—access to healthcare, living-wage jobs, safe and affordable housing, clean air and water, healthy food options—which are all conditions that limit their abilities to live happy, healthy lives.
Not All Tribes Have Casinos
Contrary to popular beliefs, not all tribes have casinos. There are 566 federally recognized tribes and around 220 have casinos/gamming on their tribal lands with 65% of all revenue being generated by 12% of casinos/gaming on tribal land. The fact is most tribes have very little.
Native American poverty continues under Obama
43% of American Indian children under the age of 5 are living in poverty
About 40% of on-reservation housing is considered inadequate; 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and less than 50% of it is connected to a public sewer
Approximately 13% of homes in Indian Country lack safe drinking water
Death rates for members of the Indian Reservations suffering under severe poverty are shockingly 533% higher than their non-Indian U.S. counterparts
According to the 2009 Census, nearly 90% of Native people live below the federal poverty line
Approximately 90,000 Native families are homeless or under housed
There are 5.2 million American Indians residing in the United States and about 25% live on reservations. The disparities confronting these people are the most extreme of any ethnic group in the United States Information received from U.S. Senate on Indian Affairs Committee, U.S. Department of Health, Indian Health Services, and U.S. National Library of Medicine.
June 13, 2014
One-in-four Native Americans and Alaska Natives are living in poverty
By Jens Manuel Krogstad1 comment
Standing Rock Sioux demographics on his visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota today, President Obama is using his first stop at a Native American reservation while in office to highlight the challenges Native Americans face. In an op-ed published in Indian Country Today, Obama called the poverty and high school dropout rates among Native Americans “a moral call to action.”
The poverty rate at Standing Rock Reservation is 43.2%, nearly triple the national average, according to Census Bureau data. The reservation, which straddles North Dakota and South Dakota, has a population of 8,956, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Native American & Alaska Native demographics Native Americans have a higher poverty and unemployment rate when compared with the national average, but the rates are comparable to those of blacks and Hispanics. About one-in-four American Indians and Alaska Natives were living in poverty in 2012. Among those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native as their only race, the poverty rate was 29.1% in 2012.
Some 5.2 million people (1.7% of the total U.S. population) identify as Native American or Alaska Native, with 44% identifying as at least one other race, according to 2010 Census Bureau data, the most recent data available. And census officials have said that the number of people who self-identify as such has been growing, for reasons they don’t fully understand.
There were 170,110 people nationwide who identified as Sioux in the 2010 census. The largest tribal group, Cherokee, has 819,105 people. Of those who identify as Native American or Alaska Native as their only race, one-in-three (33%) live on reservations or tribal lands. Among all American Indians and Alaska Natives, about one-in-five (22%) live on reservations or tribal lands.
The facts presented are important realities about the living conditions faced by many Native Americans in this country — facts that every non-Native American needs to know.
About 22% of our country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands (2010 U.S. Census). Living conditions on the reservations have been cited as “comparable to Third World,” (Gallup Independent). It is impossible to succinctly describe the many factors that have contributed to the challenges that Native America faces today, but the following facts about the most pressing issues of economics, health, and housing give a hint of what life is like for many first Americans.
Typically, Tribal and Federal governments are the largest employers on the reservations. Many households are overcrowded and earn only social security, disability or veteran’s income. The scarcity of jobs and lack of economic opportunity mean that, depending on the reservation, four to eight out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed. Among American Indians who are employed, many are earning below poverty wages (BIA American Indian Population & Labor Force Report).
The overall percentage of American Indians living below the federal poverty line is 28.2% (2008, American Indians Census Facts). The disparity for American Indians living below poverty on the reservations is even greater, reaching 38% to 63% in our service area (National Center for Education Statistics, and other sources).
Often, heads of household are forced to leave the reservation to seek work, and grandparents take on the role of raising their grandchildren. In order to survive, extended families pool their meager resources as a way to meet basic needs. The relative poverty still experienced by these blended families is best understood as the gap between the overall need and the need that goes unmet.
There is a housing crisis in Indian country. Despite the Indian Housing Authority’s (IHAs) recent efforts, the need for adequate housing on reservations remains acute. One legislator deplored the fact that “there are 90,000 homeless or under housed Indian families, and that 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and less than 50% of it is connected to a public sewer.” (Indian Country Today).
In addition, many American Indians are living in substandard housing. About 40% of on-reservation housing is considered inadequate (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights). The waiting list for tribal housing is long; the wait is often three years or more, and overcrowding is inevitable. Most families will not turn away family members or anyone who needs a place to stay. It is not uncommon for 3 or more generations to live in a two-bedroom home with inadequate plumbing, kitchen facilities, cooling, and heating.
Further increasing the concerns with reservation housing is the noticeable absence of utilities. While most Americans take running water, telephones, and electricity for granted, many reservation families live without these amenities. On a seriously stretched budget, utilities are viewed as luxuries compared to food and transportation. Overcrowding, substandard dwellings, and lack of utilities all increase the potential for health risk, especially in rural and remote areas where there is a lack of accessible healthcare.
“The average life expectancy for Native Americans has improved yet still trails that of other Americans by almost 5 years” (HHS Indian Health Disparities Fact Sheet). About 55% of American Indians rely on the Indian Health Service for medical care (Indian Health Facts). Yet, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act only meets about 60% of their health needs (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights).
Due to underfunding, Indian Health Service facilities are crisis-driven and leave a wide gap in adequate and preventative health care for many Native Americans on the reservations. Pharmacies and doctor’s offices outside of hospitals are completely non-existent in some communities.
The pressures to shift from a traditional way of life toward a Western lifestyle has dramatically impacted the health and welfare of the Native peoples and created a terrible epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and cancer. The statistics are alarming.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American Indians (Center for Disease Control).
- Due to the link between heart disease, diabetes, poverty, and quality of nutrition and health care, 36% of Natives with heart disease will die before age 65 compared to 15% of Caucasians (HHS Office of Minority Health).
- American Indians are 177% more likely to die from diabetes (Indian Health Disparities).
- 500% are more likely to die from tuberculosis (Indian Health Disparities).
- 82% are more likely to die from suicide (Indian Health Disparities).
- Cancer rates and disparities related to cancer treatment are higher than for other Americans (Native People for Cancer Control).
- Infant death rates are 60% higher than for Caucasians (HHS Office of Minority Health).
NATIVE AMERICAN POVERTY CONTINUES UNDER OBAMA
The answers are complex and tied to the ongoing curse of global indigenous invisibility.
While deaths from cold temperatures are hard to track accurately, each year hypothermia deaths are reported on the Reservation. “Each winter, reservation Elders are found dead from hypothermia,”
Although many hypothermia deaths are related to alcohol abuse, conditions leading to hypothermia in Elder Lakota women often occur due to poor health, poverty and lack of resources.
“Climate change hits poor people hardest – especially poor women,” says Oxfam’s current 2010, ‘Sisters on the Planet’ initiative campaign.
With little to no winter heat, numerous mobile trailers, homes that are commonly used by the Lakota, don’t meet current building standards.
Temperatures inside a thin walled trailer, with little to no heat, can drop to levels below freezing as outside winter temperatures reach 10 below zero (Fahrenheit) or colder.
– U.S. Senator Hon. Byron L. Dorgan from South Dakota,
Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, on the floor of the Senate
(Congressional Record, February 25, 1999)
- An estimated 200,000 housing units are needed immediately in Indian country. *
- Homeless: Approximately 90,000 Native families are homeless or under-housed. *
* (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country,” 2003)
Overcrowded and Substandard Conditions
- In tribal areas, 14.7% of homes are overcrowded, compared to 5.7% of homes of the general U.S. population. (Census Bureau, 2000)
- Lack of Plumbing: On Native American lands, 11.7% of residents lack complete plumbing facilities, compared to 1.2% of the general U.S. population. (Census Bureau, 2000)
- Lack of Telephone Service: 16.9%, compared to 2.4%. (Census Bureau, 2000)
- Lack of Kitchen Facilities: 11%, compared to 1% (Government Accounting Office, 2005)
- Lack of Utility Gas: 72%, compared to 49% (Government Accounting Office, 2005) Read more