This is a great topic we haven’t done before. Thanks to Carl for suggesting it.
I know very, very little about Native American social and political interests and issues. According to Wiki, the last U.S. Census counted just under 3 million Native Americans in this country, plus another 2.2 million people that claimed partial native heritage. There are close to 600 recognized tribes, each with a formal nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government.
That sounds like a lot of people, but their numbers are small by America political standards, and several other factors combine to weaken Native American influence. For one, they are the most rural of all U.S. ethnic/racial groups. About 1 million live on reservations, often far removed from the centers of state power. In most states, Native American votes are a rounding error: They comprise less than 1 percent of the population in most states and more than 5% percent of the population in only 6 states (AK, NM, SD, OK, MT, ND). It also doesn’t help, I imagine, that many American think casino gaming has made all tribes rich. It hasn’t – not even close.
The social and economic problems affecting Native American communities are legion, of course. From poverty to poor schools to environmental degradation. Governments at all levels have proven indifferent to and incompetent at handling Native affairs.
President Obama has a very strong record on issues of importance to Native American communities, according to accounts I’ve read. You can read the details below and I’ll summarize them quickly to open our meeting. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton made it a point to court Native American votes. Donald Trump…well, loves to call Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” while the crowd makes mock war woops. But, there is a conservative POV that Native Americans are too dependent on the federal government for their own good. I think this is an idea worth discussing, as is the notion of whether progressives have (and should have) abandoned the belief that cultural and economic assimilation is a positive good for minorities like Native Americans.
On Monday night I’ll open our meeting with a little basic information about Native Americans in the United States and some issues that (I’ve read) are of major concern to those communities. Then, I’ll turn to Carl for his thoughts.
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
- Wiki entry: “Native Americans in the United States.”
- Part-Native Americans are the largest multi-racial group in the USA, but they don’t think of themselves that way! Recommended.
- “13 issues facing native people beyond mascots and casinos.” Recommended. Or: Wiki has a list.
- Youth: Native young people especially face terrible conditions, few opportunities.
- Casinos: The myth of Indian casino wealth. Many tribes are looking beyond casinos for new sources of wealth.
- Obama: He’s been a great president for Native Americans, doing “more for tribes than the last five presidents combined.” Recommended.
- George W. Bush deserves some credit, too.
- Voting rights: Native people are particularly outraged by the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and GOP efforts to make it harder for them to vote. Recommended.
- (Here for more legal details + history of Native citizenship/voting rights.)
- Donald Trump’s long record of racism towards Native Americans, including the “Pocahontas” thing.
- Conservative POV: “
Freeing Indians from Obama’s grip.” WSJ.
[Update: It’s gated and I’m having trouble finding another one.]
Next Week: GOP convention wrap-up –
Trump, Trumpism, and the
Doomed Grand Old Party