Thursday, July 27, 2006

Report Cites BIA in Death of Teenager

Report Cites BIA in Death of Teenager - Washington Post

“While a few dozen tribes lucky enough to own reservation land near major population centers make headlines with gambling casinos generating mind-boggling wealth, the vast majority of America's Indians remain mired in poverty, victimized by ill-conceived federal policies and a gathering backlash spurred by the myth that Native Americans everywhere are cashing in.”
The Boston Globe(2002)

The death of a sixteen-year old Native American girl in 2003, along with the headline above succinctly sums up the plight of America’s indigenous people. The judge, in the case of the girl, recently found the failures of the authorities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a significant factor in her death from alcohol poisoning.

But other than reviewing what most of us already know, that Native Americans continue their top spot as America’s ‘most abused’, what else is to be gleaned from this tragedy that draws so little attention from the greater public?

Whether or not we agree that Native Americans ‘owned’ the land of the Americas, before others arrived, is an argument of limited real consequence. What is clear, however, is that segregating them, first by force, and later by remedy, has been much more the devastating blow to their plight. The assimilation that needed to occur so that they could have a chance to survive side-by-side with the rest of the country makes them the ‘truly forgotten people’.

Inasmuch as any group attempts to live apart and/or at odds physically and socially with the leading edge of technology and advancing methods, they inevitably become victims of the disparity itself, regardless of who is wielding it. Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans cannot continue to underutilized and underperform the education and skills development requirements of this country without the disastrous impacts on their groups that we see. No policy or program, however devised, will ever negate this truth.

The plight of this young Native American girl, along with that of her people, tell this story most eloquently, if we let it.

James C. Collier


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