It is brutally clear that Native Americans have beared terrible oppression in America.

Economics–and practically all endeavors–have always trumped the needs and lives of Native American tribes within the United States since the beginning of European colonization. Now is the time to change this reality.

With forced migrations, high numbers of death due to disease, and the involuntary schooling of their children, it is brutally clear that Native Americans have beared terrible oppression in America. Yet, besides brief chapters in high school history books about colonization, reservations, and The Trail of Tears, the majority of White Americans–or even the 98.8% of Americans who are not Native American–can live the majority of their lives without hearing much about the plight of Native Americans across the United States.

This fact is no one’s fault. Issues facing Native Americans are not commonly reported; the last article I can find published in The New York Times mentioning Native Americans deals with a protest over a new pipeline being built through ancestral lands. It seems that economic problems dealing with Native Americans are the only issue that white America cares about. While the article is some coverage on Native American rights, it is nothing like the extensive reporting on Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump or the Black Lives Matter movement that has dominated news outlets recent months (and for a good reason).

Native Americans are still suffering

Yet, while the Black Lives Matter is spreading a well-needed wake up call across America about the true issues facing black Americans, Native Americans are still suffering. According to an article from 2012, the violent crime rate in America’s 310 reservations is two and half times higher than the national average. Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered and four times more likely to be assaulted than the average American woman is. If this was not tragic enough, in one-half of all murder cases and two-thirds of all sexual assaults that take place on reservation land, no charges are filed. How can we live in a country that treats the people who truly belong here so poorly and offhandedly?

There is an opinion among many people that Native Americans are profiting from White-American intervention and the money that stems from the creation of casinos in Indian Country. That too is far from the truth. The Native American Rights Fund states that 15% of adult Native Americans are unemployed–roughly three times the national average–and that the per capita income among Native Americans is nearly half of the average: they are the poorest people in the United States.

This comes in a country whose Declaration of Independence demands that all people be treated equal with “certain unalienable rights.” While in 1776, these words might have meant something different–that men is limited purely to ‘men’ and property-owning white men at that–as the world changes so must the American government’s understanding of Thomas Jefferson’s words. During this time that we are fighting for the rights of anyone who does not fall into Jefferson’s 18th-century view of politics, we must also remember the Native Americans.

They have suffered too many abuses at the hands of power to be ignored any longer and have been dictated to the sidelines of world history as their ancestral lands are destroyed for oil pipelines or uranium mines as occurred in the 1940s. If we wait just one moment longer, the time will be gone to save societies and lands that never wanted to battle alcoholism, murder, or disease in the first place. We must finally understand that all we can do is try to be a voice for people who are being ignored at every level of American government and demand that change occur.

Hadley Copeland

Yale Young Global Scholar, Hadley Copeland focuses on the North America, Middle East, and Europe.

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