The Lakota Community.
Research Question: What are the challenges currently facing the Lakota Community?
Prior to the “Discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus during 1492, it was not an unoccupied landmass but there were communities who were already leading their lives there. These communities which later came to be referred to as Native Americans were complex people who lived as communities that had kingdoms that were sovereign (Smith, 2015). However, with the colonization of America by Britain to settle her excess population and to further bolster her productivity as a nation, these communities became displaced and were forced into reservations by the signing of treaties with the colonizers. The treaties however allowed the nations to be recognized as sovereign nations though under America (Smith, 2015). They did not give up their freedom; they rather became more like wards of the United States government. The community that will be the subject of the discourse is one among the 500 communities that consisted of the Native Americans; the Lakota People (Smith, 2015). At present, the Sioux people are recognized as a sovereign nation by the Federal government; however there are still challenges that threaten the existence of the Sioux people presently and threaten their existence and continual of their culture.
History of the Lakota People.
Also referred to as the people of the Standing Rock, the Lakota people are among the first Native American tribes that inhabited the North Americas prior to the arrival of the colonizers. They are referred to as members of the Great Sioux Nation and are divided into 3 distinct groups that are dependent the dialect that they communicate with and the places that they occupied. Etymologically, the name of the tribe, Lakota, implied friendship or allies (Smith, 2015). These people were a founding group of the seven council fires that were made up of seven tribal bands. Further, The Lakota were considered to be the largest division of the people who made up the Great Sioux nation and they consisted of seven sub-divisions (Gibbon, 2018). Each of the subdivisions was marked out by differences in their languages, the cultures that they observed, political differences and territorial differences.
During the late 17th century, the Lakota people were occupying the upper regions of the Mississippi region but were forced to the plains that are found to the West of the region as a result of the tribal wars over the trade of fur (Gibbon, 2018). Native Americans were renowned buffalo hunters and as a result, war between the tribes concerning buffalo fur was inevitable. Around the year 1730, horses were introduced to the tribes and as a result, they became fierce buffalo hunters. The Lakota were a strong and fierce tribes and the warriors that made up their ranks were nothing short of legendary (Gibbon, 2018). Before entering into a treaty with the U.S government, the Lakota and other tribes attacked and burnt down their lodges and were also wont to attack emigrant trains. These attacks in turn prompted responses from the U.S government and resulted in casualties to both sides of the battle. However, in a battle waged over the rights to mine in what the Lakota regarded as their sacred grounds, the U.S army lost and it resulted in the signing if a treaty (Gibbon, 2018). Presently, the Lakota occupy five major reservations that are found in the western Dakota Region.
Challenges facing the Lakota People.
Mass incarceration and policing.
The Black Lives matter movement has in a large part resulted in the creation of awareness concerning the mistreatment of Black People in America and managed to garner support as well as make national headlines. While the brutalization of Black people has resulted in an uproar, similar instances of brutalization that are done against Native Americans go by unnoticed. According to a report, Paul Castaway, a mentally unstable member of the Lakota people was shot and killed by cops in Denver (Harrington & Harrington, 2017). The death of Paul led to a number of protests that were against the Mistreatment by the police and it also shed light on such incidences against the Native people that go by unnoticed. According to data compiled by the Center of Disease Control, the percentage of Native Americans that are killed by Police make up 2% of the total deaths by police while the tribes are only 1% of the total population of the country (Harrington & Harrington, 2017). Further, Native Americans are also prone to mass incarceration especially in areas where they significantly represented in the population. In South Dakota, Native Americans make up nine percent of the entire population but in the prisons, they are 29% of total inmates (Harrington & Harrington, 2017). The issue of mass incarceration is however as a result of overlapping and unresolved conflicts between tribal, federal and state jurisdictions. There is no clear cut rule defining who should punish crimes committed and at times, Native Americans may find themselves punished more than once for offences that are committed.
Impoverishment and joblessness.
For almost all the nations of Native Americans, they are faced by the challenge of high poverty rates as well as unemployment. Seventeen percent of Native Americans that reside in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands and 27% of Naïve Americans were fund to live in poverty (Harrington & Harrington, 2017). This is in accordance ti data that was collected by the U.S Census Bureau. The national figures are however said to distort the prevalence of cases of poverty on the Indian Reservations a d also in the native communities that are found in Alaska. According to reports that were published during the year 2012, the three poorest counties that are in the U.S encompassed Sioux Reservations that are found in North and South Dakota and that are popularly made up of the Lakota people. The poverty rate in these regions is estimated at 43.2% which is thrice the national poverty average (Harrington & Harrington, 2017). Further, the unemployment rate stands at 60% as of the year 2014.
Exploitation of Natural resources.
All throughout the history of the Americas, the Natives land was grabbed so that natural resources could be effectively exploited. Indians clashed with miners as they attempted to enter into their lands in the search of gold. At present, the exploitation of natural resources still continue to pose a threat to the Indians. A case study was the construction of an Oil pipeline to transport Oil from the Bakkhen Oil Fields. The Dakota Access Pipeline Protest was a movement that was begun in early 2016 and was a reaction to the approval of construction of Energy Transfer’s Partner’s Dakota Access pipeline. It was designated to pass through Bakkhen Oil Fields in western North Dakota and would cross beneath the river Missouri and Mississippi and under Lake Oahe that borders the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The protest against the pipeline was as a result of the threat it posed to the waters of the region and was also a threat to tribal burial grounds and historically significant cultural sites (Marshall, 2017).
When compared to the general populations, the quality of health that is received by Native Americans is below par. There are massive health disparities that are experienced by the Native Americans when compared to the other populations. As a result, these tribes are prone to higher rates of mortality when infected with such conditions as obesity, substance abuse and STDs. Though Native Americans are eligible to receiving healthcare under the Indian Health Service Act, it is only an estimated one pout of every three people that are insured. Just like a majority of the programs that are supposed to cater for the welfare of Indian People, The Indian Health service is underfunded and as a result, it is unable to cater out health services as would be required. Basic services such as emergency contraception are often unavailable thus forcing the Indians to travel for hundreds of miles in an attempt to locate healthcare services.
Government responses to challenges facing the Lakota People
The government has attempted to come up with solutions to some of the challenges that face Native Americans. Among one of the moves by the government is the construction of educational and health facilities in Indian Reservations such that they can be easily accessed. Further, the government has enacted policies that are aimed at prevention of exploitation of resources at areas that are considered to be important to the history of Indians (McKenzie & Hudson, 2016). However, in spite of the attempts by the government, the plight of the great Sioux People still, remain apparent. The funds that are directed by the government towards the enacting of the said policies are at most times inadequate. Further, there is still issues such as mass incarceration that can only be resolved by resolution of the roles of the Indian governments, the state and the federal governments (Marshall, 2017).
At present, the Sioux people are recognized as a sovereign nation by the Federal government; however there are still challenges that threaten the existence of the Sioux people presently and threaten their existence and continual of their culture. The people who were once renowned as a great and fierce warriors have been reduced to communities that are plagued by poverty and that ever becoming more reliant on the government to continue preserving their culture.
Smith, A. (2015). Native American feminism, sovereignty, and social change. Feminist Studies, 31(1), 116-132.
McKenzie, B., & Hudson, P. (2016). Native children, child welfare, and the colonization of Native people. The challenge of child welfare, 125-141.
Harrington, C. F., & Harrington, B. G. (2017). Fighting a different battle: Challenges facing American Indians in higher education. Journal of Indigenous Research, 1(1), 4.
Gibbon, G. (2018). The Sioux: The Dakota and Lakota Nations (Vol. 6). John Wiley & Sons.
Marshall III, J. M. (2017). Walking with grandfather: The wisdom of Lakota elders. Sounds True.