Native American Oppression

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  • Topic: Native Americans in the United States, Sociology, United States
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  • Published : October 10, 2012
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Native American Oppression
Santucee Bell
Case Western Reserve University

Native American Oppression
Introduction & Focal Population
Imagine living in a world that consistently devalues your existence and is heavily populated with individuals who are quick to use and abuse your resources, but are slow to share the wealth that is accumulated from those resources. How would you feel? Unfortunately, certain populations do not have to visualize the disparity that is pictured above. This is because inequity is one of the most demoralizing social issues that plague America today. The worst thing about inequity is the fact that it continues to disproportionately burden individuals who are categorize as being minority in today’s society. This is especially true for the American Indian/Alaska Native population.

This population continues to be one of the most vulnerable minority groups. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010 (2011), “American Indian or Alaska Native refer to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central American) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment” (Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011, p. 3). 2,475,956 out of 308, 745,538 people that live in America are believed to be American Indian/Alaska Native, including those who report affiliations with tribes and South and Central American Indian groups (Humes et. al,, 2011, p. 4). This number is questionable because of the controversy about American Indian/Alaska Native citizenship, which will be explained in the latter part of this paper.

As social workers, it is important to be knowledgeable about the American Indian/Alaska Native population. Thoroughly examining the origins and history of oppression that this group has, and continues to, endure is one of the best ways to learn about American Indian/Alaska Native injustice. This paper will guide you through experiences of social inequity that this population has dealt with. Attitudes and values, theories of oppression, and effects of discrimination will be used to provide a more holistic picture of the victimization of American Indians/Alaska Natives. Past and plausible efforts of resistance to discrimination will be offered. For purposes of simplicity, American Indians/Alaska Natives will be referred to as Native Americans. It is hoped that those who read this paper will fully understand the complexities of Native American oppression and will be motivated to join the fight for the rights of this population. Origins & History

The oppression of Native Americans is not a new phenomenon. This disparity has been going on for decades and decades. The history of discrimination that Native Americans fell victim to is multi-layered and therefore, can be best explained through the “five faces of oppression” (Young, as cited in Perry, 2002, p. 232). According to Young (1990), the five faces of oppression are “inter-related faces of oppression by which we might characterize the experiences of minority groups” (Young, as cited in Perry, 2002, p. 232). These faces include exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence (Young et. al., 2002, p. 232).

Webster’s New World Dictionary (1988) categorizes exploitation as any act that unethically uses individuals to benefit others (Neufeldt & Buralnik, 1998, p. 479). “Cheap labor” is one of the most detrimental ways that Native Americans have been exploited. Studies conclude that there is a correlation between tribal characteristics, the availability of jobs, and the distribution of income (Huyser, Sakamoto, & Takei, 2010, p. 543). As a result, Native Americans have been underrepresented in well-paying jobs and overrepresented in low-income jobs (Perry, 2002, p 232). Those who strictly adhere to their cultural norms are amongst the most underrepresented Native Americans in the labor market. This is...
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