Clegg: A cry for help

BY CHRIS CLEGG | JUNE 30, 2015 5:00 AM

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On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court cast its voice in favor of equality as it unshackled any chains still left on the institution of marriage involving a same-sex couple. Whether you agree with President Obama that the decision is “… a victory for America” or with Chief Justice John Roberts that it is “… deeply disheartening,” there is no denying that the ruling certainly does break down the walls of inequality that were surrounding same-sex couples for so long. However, while the country celebrates the newfound equality of one demographic, another is struggling to even be noticed.

Historically speaking, the relationship between the U.S. government and the native people of this land has been incredulously poor. One needs simply to open any history textbook to scroll through the litany of injustices done to native peoples by our government. Granted, our president is not spearheading a mass-relocation campaign for our current native inhabitants (you can thank the guy on the $20 bill for that), but Native Americans in the modern era are not so different from past generations in that they currently occupy a frighteningly frantic state.

A report released by the Department of Justice in November 2014 found that “with the convergence of exceptionally high crime rates, jurisdictional limitations, vastly under-resourced programs, and poverty, service providers and policymakers should assume that all American Indian/Alaska Native children have been exposed to violence.” This finding was then reinforced by a White House report released a month later that laid out the “… myriad social, economic, and educational problems” facing the Standing Rock Reservation and “many others” like it.

The issues facing our country’s native people are important because they have escalated from problems into tragedies.

Take the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, for example. According to the Huffington Post, 14 Native American school-age children have killed themselves in the past year alone while attending Pine Ridge School, yet the facility only employs a measly two counselors. The lack of manpower assigned to help with these outstanding issues in the Native American community, and the various other obstacles that these people face, can be drawn back to one central issue: a lack of capital to fix the problems that have been in place for decades.

Because the system of compensating Native Americans is widely misunderstood, misapplied, and, in some cases, outright ignored, new bipartisan legislation must be drawn up to restore an essential part of American history and ensure that that part of history becomes self-sufficient in surviving.

While the fight for marriage equality never started out as the most popular debate, it quickly became the centerpiece of America’s political landscape because people decided to talk about it.
The same must happen for the myriad issues surrounding our native tribes and the people who occupy them.

In order for any change to occur, first a discussion must take place. Then the persistent neglect experienced by American Indians can begin to change not because that certain demographic deserves more attention than another but because, as our Constitution very bluntly lays out, and as our Supreme Court (reluctantly) decided June 26, “all men are created equal.”

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