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  • Writer's picturejoannaafaith

Challenges Faced by Native American Communities: social, economic, and health difficulties

Native Americans face many extraordinary challenges, collectively and individually. This blog educates you all to understand historical trauma for families, the struggle for property rights, and the health disparities they face.

Historical Trauma

Indigenous peoples have faced 500 years of genocide, dislocation, and variations of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Policies in the 19th century banned cultural and spiritual expressions of Native life. That led to children being forcibly taken from their tribal homes and sent far away to boarding school. Native Americans are still dealing with the generations that have to endure this trauma. This trauma has shown itself in many forms with high rates of addiction, abusive violence, and sexual abuse. Being sent to the boarding school had the effect of losing their identity. After returning to their families, it was often, if not always, difficult to form bonds with their relatives. Then when they started families of their own, the unhealthy "parenting" skills and habits of abuse were passed down to their children--creating a cycle of broken family bonds.

The Struggle for Property Rights

The tensions over Native American property rights have been alive for decades. Tribal nations and the federal government have established a relationship that is presented as a federal trust. The relationship is the federal government taking all the responsibility for Native American lands while acting as a legal owner. It's based on the idea that tribal nations can't manage their own land; robbing them of that right. As a result, these tribes are excluded from important conversations; many of which are in regard to their own land.

Health Disparities

On average, Native Americans die 12-13 years earlier than white Americans. Native Americans have high-risk factors for mental health and suicide, obesity, substance use, liver disease, and diabetes. As of 2020, they currently have a life expectancy of 77 years of age. Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death for Native Americans. As of 2018, about 48% of the population are obese Native Americans. About 10% of Native Americans have a substance use disorder. Native Americans are 2.2 times as likely to be diagnosed with chronic liver disease, and about 17% of Native Americans are to be diagnosed with diabetes.

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