Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Native Americans and rural education 
Distinguishing by race is a sensitive and complex endeavor. Race has long been a foremost consideration in the history of our nation. Rural America is growing in racial diversity. Rural and small town areas have traditionally not been as racially or ethnically diverse as the nation overall. The 2010 Census reports that approximately 78 percent of the population in rural and small town-communities are white and non-Hispanic, compared to 64 percent of the population in the nation as a whole.

Less than two percent of the population in rural and small town areas identifies as Native American. Native Americans may seems like the minority in rural areas, however, as a percentage within the race, more than half of all Native Americans live in rural areas or small town area. This concentration of rural living has led to many hardships. One of the more apparent hardships of rural life and poverty is education.

In 2013, 78.8% of single-race American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 and older, had at least a high school diploma, GED certificate or some type of credential in 2012. Only 13.5 percent obtained a bachelor's degree or beyond. Why is this? Historical poverty and social constructs aside, a rural quality of living is a large factor.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-third of American Indians live on reservations.  American Indians living on rural removed reservations have limited access to education. Efforts are made by the government: there are federally funding options, grants, and some schools extend scholarships to Native American children, however, options for small rural tribes are still lacking. This is even truer when it comes to higher education, as there are only 33 accredited Tribal Colleges in the United States and the cost to attend, though low, is beyond what many at the poverty level can afford. 

Higher education within the tribal communities is scarce. However, high education is not the only concern; it is in the early educational years where Native American students are most negatively impacted. Rural impoverished Native Americans are a minority within the minority. Xenophobia and sometimes blatant racism has created yet another hurdle that rural Native Americans have to overcome. This struggle has been evidenced in the classroom student-teacher interaction.

One such case that occurred earlier this year is that of the Northern Californian Bear River Band and the Wiyot tribe. The Wiyot’s reside is in rural Humboldt County and recently, there have been allegations that the Native American students of the district have been subject to harassment by faculty, staff and student based on their race. An investigation into the claim resulted in racial epithets and an allegation of physical abuse. California Indian Legal Services, the National Center for Youth Law, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a complaint on the matter.

In July, President Obama acknowledged that there was a “crisis” in Native American education and announced that he planned to improve the Bureau of Indian Education via additional federal funding.  Federal funding is the key in moving these rural impoverished tribes into a 'competitive' position, that would be comparable to that of other national student. If the children are the future of the tribes, their education is absolutely crucial and they need the support of our government. America needs to recognize that we are one unit, and that to marginalize one group hurts the nation as a whole.


Charlie said...

Davis is home to two universities. One of them, as you may guess, is UC Davis. Can you guess the other one?

It's D-Q University. This is a tribal college that was founded in 1971, but closed its doors in 2005 after the school lost accreditation. Although classes are not taught at the school anymore, the campus still exists on 33250 County Road 31, which is about 10 miles west of Highway 113.

Two years ago, the university board of trustees came to an agreement with the Inter-Tribal Council of California to restart the university with accreditation. According to the website, D-Q University was the only tribal college in California.

Furthermore, the college campus has a lot of potential. The campus still has its library, science lab, and a computer lab. It appears that nothing has been torn down. Indeed, various events occur on campus each year, such as pow wows.

Since only 13.5% of Native Americans attaining a college degree, the accreditation agencies should help get this school running again.

Charlie said...

Here is the link to the D-Q University website:


Damon Alimouri said...

It is quite sad that after centuries of one form of genocide or another, Native-Americans face all sorts of economic and social marginalization. Point blank, they are still violently oppressed.

The best way to understand the oppression of Native-Americans is not through a lens which mythologizes the colonization of this nation as some form of democratic or progressive expansion. This sort of understanding transforms Indigenous genocide and African enslavement into aberrational (and even self-congratulatory because they have been "overcome"!!) features of American life, when in actuality they are essential features of what we know as America and the American way of life.

Ahva said...

When I was 12, my family traveled to northeastern Arizona to visit friends who lived on the Navajo Nation Reservation and to volunteer with some of the locals for two weeks. While there, my sister and I taught an informal children's class to a group of young children in the evenings and on weekends. We played games, sang songs, and taught them about the importance of virtues like kindness and honesty. On one of the days, my family and I helped a local Navajo farmer work his farmland. The farmer had suffered an arm injury and over time, a large portion of his farm had overgrown with thistles. We spent the day digging them out. I don't know if my experience at this portion of the Navajo Nation Reservation was representative of life on reservations generally, and maybe things have changed somewhat in the past 14 years since I visited. But I remember feeling like I walked into a third world country on entering the reservation. Many of the families we visited lived in single-room mud-huts that had no running water. The lack of accessible healthcare was very apparent -- I remember one woman complaining of a leg wound that was not bandaged and was obviously infected. Speaking more directly to the subject your blog post, children on the reservation did not appear to attend school regularly. As I mentioned, the informal children's class that my sister and I taught was meant to be held only on evenings and weekends, but we probably could have held it during school hours, given the fact that many of the children skipped school, or perhaps did not have access to transportation. The extreme poverty, shortage of medical care, and lack of regular school attendance on the reservation are only some of many factors (including alcoholism and abuse) that plague these communities and that require more immediate assistance on the part of the government and non-profit groups.