Saturday, January 22, 2011

Native American Unemployment

R.M. Arrieta has an important article on the (still) most forgotten about people in this country, Native Americans:

  • By the first half of 2010, the unemployment rate for Alaska Natives jumped 6.3 percentage points to 21.3%—the highest regional unemployment rate for American Indians.
  • Since the start of the recession, American Indians in the Midwest experienced the greatest increase in unemployment, growing by 10.3 percentage points to 19.3%.
  • By the first half of this year, slightly more than half—51.5%—of American Indians nationally were working, down from 58.3% in the first half of 2007.
  • In the first half of this year, only 44% of American Indians in the Northern Plains were working, the worst employment rate for Native Americans regionally.
  • The employment situation is the worst for American Indians in some of the same regions where it is best for whites: Alaska and the Northern Plains.
Truthfully, in this history of this country, Native Americans have never had as much power and money as they do now. But most of that comes from casinos, which means that it is extremely unevenly distributed. Some tribes, usually near large metropolitan areas and on interstate highways, have gotten rich. But the rest are mostly still stuck in long-term poverty.

What's remarkable about this is that we as a society still ignore Native Americans. After 1890, they disappear from our national narrative, only to reappear in the 1960s as idealized people in harmony with nature and in the 1990s as purveyors of gambling. But despite the national realization that we screwed over Indians, we have not followed up with any sort of national anti-poverty programs designed give Native Americans opportunities. Part of this is the general selfish attitude of early 21st century America which has led to cuts across the board, but Native Americans aren't even part of the national conversation.

And that's really screwed up.