Native Americans and the Struggle for Rights

These concepts are socially constructed and have been given much weight. What are your thoughts?
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Christina Marie
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Native Americans and the Struggle for Rights

Unread post by Christina Marie » November 19th, 2005, 9:28 pm

Native Americans and the Struggle for Rights
From Susan Pizarro-Eckert,


The battle continues
Native Americans, the original inhabitants of American land prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, consisted of hundreds of different tribes. Over five hundred and fifty Native American tribal governments are currently recognized by the United States. There are approximately 300 reservations and 2.5 million Native Americans.

The fight to preserve tribal sovereignty (tribal sovereignty - a tribes' right to govern themselves, define their membership, manage tribal property, and regulate tribal business and domestic relations) and treaty rights remains at the heart of the Native American civil rights struggle. There is an uneasy relationship between tribal government and the federal government - which is obligated to protect tribal lands and resources, tribal rights to self-government, and to provide services that will support tribal survival and advancement.

In the U.S., Native Americans are a "minority" racial group, and as such, they continue to face discrimination. In fact, prior to the civil rights laws, once could find three separate drinking fountains labeled "Whites," "Colored" and "Indian" in certain states. Movie theaters were similarly split into three separate sections.

As a result of their history, Native Americans suffer from many of the same social and economic challenges as other victims of long-term bias and discrimination. Such challenges poverty and unemployment, overrepresentation in state jails and federal prisons, and low education levels, and while some have overcome the obstacles and become successful, most Native Americans have been left behind. For the most part, however, Native Americans are very much separate and unequal members of society. 'Despair' characterizes the emotional state of many Native Americans who believe they live in a hostile environment.

Of central concern for many Native American activists is the ability to carry on traditional practices - religious beliefs, languages and other customs - free from discrimination. In response, they continue to fight to protect their rights and religious freedoms, both of which have repeatedly been threatened over the years through denial of access to religious sites, prohibitions on the use or possession of sacred objects, and restrictions on their ability to worship through ceremonial and traditional means.

Specific rulings that have threatened them include:


The Supreme Court, in 1998, allowed the construction of a Forest Service road through an ancient site held sacred by several tribes.

The Supreme Court, in 1991, ruled that states and localities no longer had to show a "compelling governmental interest" to justify laws that limited or infringed upon religious exercise. (The case involved two Oregon men who were denied unemployment benefits after taking peyote as part of a worship ceremony of the Native American Church).

Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, which would have restored the "compelling interest" standards that limited government's ability to enforce legislation that infringes upon religious freedom. However, the Supreme Court soon struck down RFRA as an unconstitutional exercise of Congressional powers.

1994 - A law signed by President Clinton exempted the religious use of peyote from federal and state controlled substance laws and prohibited discrimination against those who engage in the use of peyote for religious purposes. Although this protected Native Americans' use of peyote, the fight to protect other areas of religious freedom continues.

The Struggle Goes On
Other Civil Rights priorities include:
the ongoing battles for voting rights

the elimination of mascots by schools and professional sports teams considered offensive as they reflect outdated stereotypes and perpetuate racism against Native Americans

the absence of civil rights organizations to address grievances involving police misconduct and other criminal justice discrimination

under-representation in the employment at all levels of all institutions involved in the administration of justice, at the federal, state, and local levels in some states

lack of participation in local, state, and federal elections, which results in a lack of political representation at all levels of government, and ensures the continued neglect and inattention to issues of disparity and inequality in the Native American community

insufficient training, technical assistance and funding for tribal court systems and tribal law enforcement agencies

limited legal resources; victims of discrimination often find it difficult to secure legal representation and public defender programs are felt to be inadequate due to inexperience, lack of funding, and conflicts of interest

inadequate hate crime legislation prevent adequate response to crimes involving racial bigotry; tribal governments have not established civil rights offices to assist their constituents in seeking redress


A Case Example
For example, many Native Americans in South Dakota have little or no confidence in the criminal justice system and believe that the justice system at both federal and state levels is permeated by racism.

There is a strong belief that the justice system is biased, and that race is a critical factor in determining how law enforcement and justice functions are carried out. Native American advocates cite huge disparities in the numbers of unsolved murders as well as those reported by the FBI. This perception of injustice includes a belief that violent crimes involving

Native Americans are handled differently from those involving whites. Crimes perpetrated by whites against Indians are investigated and prosecuted with seemingly less vigor than those committed by Indians against whites. This suspicion, it turns out may be rather accurate. See my article on Death Penalty Use Statistics.


The Native American Rights Fund
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a non-profit organization that provides legal representation and assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide. NARF focuses on applying existing laws and treaties to guarantee that national and state governments live up to their obligations.

Over the past twenty-nine years, NARF has become a respected resource for policy makers and others engaged in drafting legislation. NARF continues to work with religious, civil rights, and other Native American organizations to ensure the civil and religious rights of all Native Americans are upheld.

Throughout its history, NARF has impacted tens of thousands of Indian people in its work for more than 250 tribes. Some examples of the results include:


Protecting and establishing tribal sovereignty
Obtaining official tribal recognition for numerous tribes
Helping tribes continue their ancient traditions, by protecting their rights to hunt, fish and use the water on their lands
Helping to uphold Native American religious freedoms
Assuring the return of remains and burial goods from museums and historical societies for proper re-burial
Protecting voting rights of Native Americans

http://racerelations.about.com/od/thehi ... cans_2.htm

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Unread post by A Ghost » November 19th, 2005, 10:40 pm

This is one group that tends to get left out of civil rights equality for some reason. That's f#cked up.

Ever been to a Reservation? No running water (no plumbing), no electricity, no gas ect. It's bad.

And I'm not talking about utilities being shut off, I'm talking about zero utilities period.

No sewage lines going to any houses. No electricity wires going anywhere.

Nothing.

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Christina Marie
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Unread post by Christina Marie » November 20th, 2005, 1:13 am

A Ghost wrote:This is one group that tends to get left out of civil rights equality for some reason. That's f#cked up.

Ever been to a Reservation? No running water (no plumbing), no electricity, no gas ect. It's bad.

And I'm not talking about utilities being shut off, I'm talking about zero utilities period.

No sewage lines going to any houses. No electricity wires going anywhere.

Nothing.
No I havent been to one...but I understand that they are sadly lacking in many areas. I dont even WANT to get into how I feel about the way our government has treated native americans...thats a whole nother rant.

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