According to a study, roughly 22% of Native Americans currently live on tribal lands or reservations. What most people do not know living conditions on Native American reservations resemble that of third world conditions or more recently referred to as a fourth world. The term fourth world came into use in 1974 and is used to refer to Indigenous or cultural entities living within or across a states boundaries. There are many factors that contribute to the poor living conditions of Native Americans on tribal lands such as, economics, health and housing.
Typically, tribal and federal governments are the largest source of employment among Native Americans living on tribal lands. However, these jobs are coveted and hard to come by. Many households succumb to over-crowding and most families typically rely on social security. The scarcity of jobs along with harsh economic conditions mean that between four to eight out of ten Native Americans are unemployed. For those who are fortunate enough to have a job are usually underemployed. According to the Bureau of labor and statistics, the percentage of Native Americans living below the poverty line is 28.2%. However, when it comes to Native Americans living on tribal lands that number increases to 38% for smaller reservations to 68% for larger reservations.
Typically the head of the household leaves the tribal land to seek employment in larger cities and leave the grandparents to raise children. Generally, families pool their resources together to meet basic needs.
The boarding school system which got its start back in 1860 was a tool used to assimilate Indian tribes into the mainstream way of American life. According to the idealogy of the 19th century these boarding schools would teach Native Americans the importance of private property, material wealth, and magnanimous nuclear families. The reformers believed it was important to civilize the Native Americans into American culture.
However, the boarding school system had a negative effect of inadequately educating Native American youth. Western education quickly became synonymous with the destruction of Native American culture. Ever since the abolition of boarding schools, educational attainment remains very low. In general only half, the adult population on reservations received a high school diploma. On reservations, it isn't common for most individuals
Believe it or not, there is a housing crisis on Native American tribal lands. Despite all efforts, the housing situation still remains sub par. It has been noted on recent occasions that there are 90,000 homeless or under housed families on tribal lands. According to the Indian Housing Authority, 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded. To make matters worse the waiting list for tribal lands is long sometimes several years long. It is not uncommon for several generations of families to live together in a single home with inadequate plumbing and electricity. While most Americans take running water, electricity and other utilities for granted it is a luxury among reservations.
According to the Indian Health Disparities Fact Sheet, the average life expectancy for Native Americans have improved slightly over the years but still trails behind the national average. Another major health issue on Native American tribal lands is under funding of health services. As a result these health facilities are crisis driven and leave a growing inadequate gap in health care. Some common issues include:
Diabetes: Native Americans on average tend to have the highest
According to the Center for disease Control, cite heart disease for the leading cause of death among Native Americans.
Suicide is another issue that is prevalent among Native American tribal lands. In more recent decades suicide among Native American youth has become an epidemic. Native American teens and young adults are currently ending their lives three times as often as their peers.
These harsh facts are important yet unfortunate realities among the Native American community and need to come to light.