In our interview with Asia Evans, she pointed out that some of the top issues facing Native communities today involve struggles with federal and state governments, as well as with private entities. Issues involving land claims, sovereignty, fishing rights, environmental concerns, and various treaty rights are among the greatest concerns for many tribes. While many of these stories do not make the mainstream news sources, Asia believes the “constant fight that is survival” warrants more attention.
The largest numbers of American Indians and Alaskan Natives live in the West – 43 percent – while 31 percent live in the South, 17 percent in the Midwest and 9 percent in the Northeast.*
One excellent source for new stories on these topics is the Native-owned newspaper Indian Country Today. Each issue reveals the depth and breadth of these struggles across the nation. At the time of this writing, the current issue contains stories about such diverse issues as:
- How the Bureau of Indian Affairs, charged with converting land into trust, sometimes takes years to process each request, often with inaccurate results;
- How after nearly two decades of deliberations, the Yakama Nation has signed a deal with the public utility district that runs dams on the Columbia River to protect migrating salmon, steelhead and other species;
- How the Navajo Nation exercised its sovereignty by entering into a trade agreement with Cuba;
- How the Kumeyaay in California are facing the threat of construction disturbing tribal gravesites, despite laws to protect them;
- and the efforts of the Bush administration to nullify a treaty that recognizes the right of border passage to indigenous peoples at the northern border.
These stories are good examples of the kinds of struggles going on daily for many tribes. New England includes many tribes that are now or have recently been embroiled in struggles for the return of tribal homelands, and for federal and/or state recognition. The only tribe in Massachusetts to be successful in gaining federal recognition is the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. The Mashpee Wampanoag were recently granted preliminary federal recognition after decades of efforts. Federal recognition makes tribes eligible for federal dollars for health provisions, education, and housing, and gives them leverage in legal struggles. But tribal members point out that they’ve always known their identity and history regardless of the opinion of the federal government.
O’Neill Library has a wide variety of resources that deal with contemporary struggles with the government. A bibliography on this topic is available via PDF.
|*Photo by Paul Corbit Brown. Data Source: Census 2000 Brief: The American Indian and Alaska Native Population