Serious issues plague Native American communities

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:19 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Across the United States, sports teams and high schools are changing their Native-American-themed mascots. Last week in Mason City Iowa, the city’s main high school got rid of its mascot, the Mohawks, but native-themed mascots are not the only challenge the community faces.

According to the U.S. Census data, approximately 27 percent of Native Americans suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment. Native women are three-point five times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted in their life than women of other races. Nearly one in three indigenous Americans don’t have health insurance.

“We have a number of health disparities that can be traced back to health disparities. As part of treaty agreements, our health care was supposed to be provided for by the United States government, and they have failed in this,” Greater Rochester Area Dakota Supporters founder Valerie DeCora-Guimaraes said.

Access to clean drinking water is also a pressing issue. Many Tribal groups find this is especially relevant in Minnesota with the recent installation of Enbridge’s Line 3 Pipeline.

“I don’t think that the founding fathers of this nation realized that they were placing Native Americans on reservations which they thought were poor lands, but just so happens that we consider ourselves stewards of these precious resources,” DeCora-Guimaraes said.

Generally, Native Americans face large achievement gaps across many different areas.

“Graduation rates, with home ownership, with college graduation, poverty. So there’s a lot of things that still beset us,” DeCora-Guimaraes said.

While people on reservations receive government funds, Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council President Shelley Buck says this money is not enough

“I would like to know what money people think we should use from the government to do that with, because I know for us we don’t get a lot of money from the federal government, and the money we do get it’s not for anything to help with these issues,” Buck said.

So when these large, serious issues are plaguing the Native American community, what do indigenous people think of addressing mascot name changes?

“Because of that systematic mentality, I think the mascot I think the mascots play a big part in dehumanizing us,” Buck said.

“Those are all beginning steps, that they need to occur, but I take some hope in that there is some realization, recognition, and we need to start somewhere,” DeCora-Guimaraes said.

With Thanksgiving this week, Decora-Guimaraes and Buck say while it may uncomfortable to acknowledge the truth behind the holiday, it’s important to bring awareness to the real history.

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