[1] NATIVE AMERICAN : a member of any of the aboriginal peoples of the western hemisphere; especially : a Native American of North America and especially the United States.[2]

Native Americans have a long history of inequality in North America. This wikipage will examine how inequality for them has developed since the coming of Europeans to the continent, how it has been reinforced and sustained, and what can been done to fight inequality for this group which has had to deal such great inequality for so long.

There are currently 2.5 million people, of one race, of Native American Descent in the United States.[3] The defining of Native Americans can be slippery. There are hundreds of different groups and tribes distributed unevenly all over the country.
1"History of Native American Gaming." Welcome to the Official Website of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, 2009. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. < http://www.santaynezchumash.org/gaming_history.html >.

2Merriam-Webster, Incorperated. Merriam-Webster.com. 2011. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/native%20american (accessed September 25, 2011).

U.S. Census Bureau. American Fact Finder. 2010. //http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_10_1YR_S0201&prodType=table// (accessed September 25, 2011)//
Native Americans in Iowa (The History) "IOWA The Middle Land" by: Dorothy Schwieder

Indian Removal

In 1802 Georgia legislature signed a compact giving all of its claims of western lands to the federal government in exchange for the government’s pledge to discredit all Indian titles that land within the state. Several tribes such as the Cherokees, Seminole and Creeks had substantial land in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

In 1830 Andrew Jackson argued to move all of the tribes to Oklahoma. When Jackson came into power Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. In one of Jackson’s speeches he stated that this would, “separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way under their own rude institutions… and cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.

Overall it is believed that about 70,000 Native Americans were forced to leave their lands and Journey to Oklahoma. During the journey many died as a result of famine and disease. The journey became known as the “Trail of Tears”.[4]

Trail of Tears


In September 1830 Congress initiated the Indian Removal Act. The Act was passed as another way to further remove the Native Americans from their lands. Due to this Act in 1838 more than 15,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly removed from their lands in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee by the United States Army. After living in removal forts and internment camps under terrible conditions the Cherokee began a forced march to what is present day Oklahoma in September 1838.

They traveled over 1,000 miles during the fall of 1838. They encountered heavy rains which made travel by wagon impossible. During the winter times grew even harder. The Native Americans did not have proper clothing or a sufficient food supply. Many became ill as disease spread throughout the Cherokee.

This forced march became known as the Trail of Tears. During the march more than 4,000 Cherokee perished. The ones that did survive the march reached Oklahoma in 1839 were weak and malnourished.


Indian Wars

Although the majority of Native Americans were removed or displaced from their lands by 1860 without conflict, some resisted and fought back against the United States Army. These conflicts became known as the “Indian Wars”. The fighting occurred on and off from 1811-1890. The Indian Wars most notable conflict was the “Seminole Wars” which consisted of three separate conflicts spanning 1816-1858. Other wars included the Apache, Sioux, Navajo and many other tribes.

The greatest success for the Native Americans during the Indian Wars came in 1876 at the Battle of Little Big Horn in which Col. George A. Custer and 250 men were wiped out by the Sioux warriors. In response to this the US Army followed with its own massacre of Native Americans at the Battle of Wounded Knee, which later became known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. The conflict in 1890 led to the destruction of the Lakota Sioux warriors who were trapped and eliminated by the US Army.[5]

Indian Citizenship Act

In 1924 the US government passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which is also known as the Snyder Act. The act granted full US citizenship to Native Americans. The act granted 125,000-300,000 Native Americans citizenship. Before this act the only ways to become a US citizen was to enter the armed forces, give up tribal affiliations and assimilate into the US mainstream.
Indian Relocation Act

In 1956 the US government passed the Indian Relocation Act. The purpose of the act was intended to encourage Native Americans to leave reservations, acquire job skills, and assimilate into the general population. It played a large part in the increase of Native Americans living in urban areas over the next few decades.
At this time the US government was decreasing subsidies to those Native Americans living on the reservations. The Relocation Act offered to pay moving expenses and for job training.

Native American Film History

In the beginning of cinema, Native Americans have been represented stereotypically as strong, proud and honorable or as blood thirsty savages. Hollywood tended to ignore Native American history and their perspective was rarely shown. This diminished the understanding of Native American identity. Many Native American actors disliked the stereotypical portrayals, however they could either play in these roles or give up their hopes of make a career of acting.
As Hollywood evolved there was a decline in Western films and with it the stereotypical “Indian” was as well. If it were not for films like “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last of the Mohicans” audience interest in Native American culture would have been lost.
Native Americans in the past have faced an uphill battle to make it in the movie industry. In recent years there has been a rise in Native American producers and scriptwriters. However, even today stereotypes are still being portrayed in movies like Twilight or even diminished in movies such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine in which the Native American character Silver Fox was renamed Kayla Silverfox for the movie.
There is some hope for the diminishment of stereotypes. There has been more Native American themed films released staring authentic Native American actors such as “The New World” and “Windtalkers”.

Affirmative Action Policies


This image expresses the percentage of state populations defined within the scope as Native American. The majority of these regions have large concentrations of reservations. They are mainly located on "wastelands" where the soil is not fertile, making agricultural attempts nearly impossible. There is little prospect for financial or educational gain in these regions of densely concentrated Native American population.


Affirmative action remains a pertinent issue, particularly in states where the Native American population is contained within reservations. California, Washington and Michigan have already banned Affirmative Action policy being used in both the workplace and in academic institutions. Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska all had 2008 referendums to ban all forms of this policy.[i]

Affirmative Action policy emerged from the path laid down by the Civil Rights movement. During the movement, President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925 in 1961, which made references to affirmative action as a means of ending discrimination. Affirmative Action policy was also molded by complementary acts, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, established under the LBJ administration.

Native Americans seeking the benefits of Affirmative Action policies face an even heavier obstacle because their group lives in a completely separate squalor, the Indian Reservation.”[ii] The "condition of life on Indian Reservations is completely incomparable to the average American standard of living." Their unemployment rate is 49% (four times that of the national rate); 1 in 5 age 25 or older in tribes without casino operations have received less than a 9th grade education. Tribe members who live in communities with gambling operations only had a college graduation rate of 16% (half of the national rate).”[iii] This problem stems from the issue of Native Americans often being forgotten on national - scale discussions of affirmative action because their numbers are so few in comparison to others aided by Affirmative Action policies. Exclusion or dismissal of the indigenous population is not new; since early Europeans arrived to the Americas, the Native Americans have been forgotten and mistreated. This is evident in the extreme levels of poverty throughout most Reservations. There is also a lack of attention and funding for the Native American community outside the realm of Affirmative Action, making inequality between them and other Americans continue to flourish.

Affirmative Action does play a role in providing aid and attempting to uplift the Native American population but does not meet the specific needs of the majority of the community. For one to qualify for Affirmative Action he/she must be proficient enough to meet the requirements of the educational institution or employment opportunity that the other people competing for the position must meet. Because Native Americans do not get the level of education most other Americans receive in primary and secondary institutions, most are unable to compete with the outside world and somewhat incompetent when faced with competing against their peers in less demanding educational institutions or employment opportunities.

There has been a small group of well-educated elites who have been able to break this cycle. A clear "example of its most visible affect on the community has been the growth of Indian casinos."[iv] They are an important part of the community's infrastructure that they "provide seed money used to launch various other small businesses that can produce millions in revenue, thus alleviating tribal poverty from within the tribe."[v] An indirect effect from Affirmative Action in the Native American community has been casinos. There are some educated Native American elites that are "returning to their communities to build a foundation for better education and financial stability that will allow future generations to gain entry into college and better job opportunities, thus creating a cycle of community improvement."[vi]

There are policies set in place which are aimed at giving federal grants to Native American institutions of secondary education but these secondary institutions also enroll roughly 20 percent of non-Indian students into Tribal Colleges and Universities[vii]. Because of this, federal funds are also aiding non-Native American students and because these programs are not able to isolate the tribal from the non-tribal when counting there students, “there is no practical or legal way of isolating federal program funds going to improve education opportunities for Native Americans within state institutions and therefore, no means for measuring the program’s (Title III-A grants) effect on Native American students.”[viii] This becomes a problem because the aid is in much more need by the Native American students yet other students are benefitting from these grants, thus detracting from further aid that would greatly help members of the Native American community.

Positive effects of Affirmative Action in the Native American community have been on the rise in recent years. Between 1981 and 2001, the total number of degrees awarded to Native Americans rose by 151.9% because of the Affirmative Action policies set in place.[ix]

Ways in Which Native Americans are Still Discriminated Against Today

Many professional and non-professional sports teams still reference Native Americans within their logos or team names. Examples of this can be found in a wide plethora of sports, which include professional football, baseball, and hockey teams as well as non-professional sports teams in lacrosse and rugby. Some examples include:

  • Professional American football with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Redskins.
  • Professional American baseball with the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves as well as within many minor league MLB affiliates such as the Indianapolis Indians, the Peoria Chiefs, the Spokane Indians, and the Syracuse Chiefs.
  • Professional American basketball, with the Golden State Warriors.
  • Professional American hockey with the Chicago Blackhawks, a team voted best logo in the NHL in 2008 by Hockey News.
  • Lacrosse with the Brooklyn Redmen, the Burlington Chiefs, the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves, the Elora Mohawks, the Six Nations Chiefs and Six Nation Arrows, as well as the St. Regis Indians.
  • Rugby with the New Zealand Warriors, and the rugby union team, the Chiefs. Here are some of logos to view:

- This is the Chicago Blackhawk logo, which was voted best NHL logo in 2008.
This Washington Redskins logo is from 1983. They have begun using alternative logos but will still use this on occasion.
This is a junior Lacrosse team from Ontario, Canada, this is just one variation of their logo.

Since the 70s and 80s many sports teams have either tweaked their logo or mascot so that it does not reflect or allude to Native Americans. Other teams went through complete transformations of changing their team name all together. In the future, it seems necessary for teams to eliminate mascots and logos that reflect the Native American population so that equality among all nationalities and ethnicities can be shared.
Causes of Inequality
The story of inequality in the relationship between Native Americans and Europeans dates back to when the first smallpox virus from the colonizers started to multiply and spread among the population of approximately 10 million. This process would become by far the most devastating thing to come from Europe for the native peoples.1From that point on it would be a continual story of murder, betrayal, and manipulation.

While being deposed from their land any attempts at working with the system to gain a foothold in their changing world would be thwarted by the economic dependencies that developed. When the Europeans brought new hunting traps, weapons, and tools the natives peoples quickly took them up and became dependent on them as they lacked the infrastructure to create them themselves.

Over time, and much conflict the native populations dwindled and were pushed on to reservations. At the turn of the twentieth century there were roughly 250,000 Native Americans remaining in the U.S. [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-12|2 ]]More or less, this was the process that lead to the current situation we face today; Native Americans with extreme poverty , very high mortality rates, and some of the worst alcoholism in the nation. [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-13|3] ]]The population has grown rapidly since then and now rests at about 2.2 million. Since the 1980s half of the population has lived in an urban environment, and the general trend of urbanization has continued since then.4

Reservation specific causes:
A large number of Native Americans still live on reservations though, most of which reside in the western half of the country. The problems residents of reservations face are legion. Poor health care facilities, poor education, high crime rates, and an extreme lack of job opportunities; all of which require a solution if people living on reservations are going to be able to lift themselves out of poverty. The knee jerk solution to the problem is government assistance. However, TANF and reformed welfare focus on behavioral modification, holding a job and being a part of the work force is a requirement. Attempting to solve poverty issues by pushing people to get jobs in an area that doesn't have jobs is not a logical solution. The result is continued poverty and inequality among Native Americans.

The economic situation on reservations is one of economic dependency . [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-15|5]]Reservation economies have very little sustainability, casinos fill that role for many tribes, but many do not have casinos and they are not always profitable. It is a "situation in which the economy of certain countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy to which the former is subjected." [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-16|6 ]]The reservations do not produce, and have very few resources with which to develop any means of production, creating a cycle of dependency on outside sources. This position makes them very vulnerable to manipulation. The natural resources of many reservations are often extracted by outside developers; developers who do not use Native American labor. [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-17|7]]This is not a case where Reservations are benefiting from the sale of their resources, but are being taken advantage, of perpetuating inequality.

Urban Life specific causes
Not all Native Americans live on reservations though; over half now live in cities. Yet the high poverty rates and poor health remain consistent. The push to move to cities has come from several different places: the chance to leave the reservation and its attendant poverty, federal relocation programs, and the Native Americans who fought in WWII and moved to cities afterwards. At the same time things such as language barriers, family who remain on the reservation, and a dislike for city life have held many on the reservation.

These factors can be seen played out in the difficulty many had in adjusting to urban life; assimilation into Euro-American culture has been much slower for Native Americans than it has been for other minorities. 8This can leave a Native American living in the city in a state of anomie. Without family ties and familiar social structures life can be very difficult. This could be one significant reason why many turn to alcoholism, which is a leading killer of American Indians; encounters with the law and mental health problems follow shortly after. [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-19|9]]

Education/Workforce problems:
Education is critical for developing the human capital necessary for competing in the job market, there are no substitutes for it. On all levels of the educational ladder Native Americans suffer. As of 1970 22% of Native Americans had completed High school, whereas 55% of white students did: a 33% difference. The disparities between wages of Native Americans and White Americans "are primarily attributable to large differences in human capital." [[../diff/Native%20Americansb?v1=283049180&v2=283049362#cite_note-20|10]]Without the skills and knowledge gained from a basic education and without being able to compete for jobs, Native Americans are not able to bring new life into the reservations or to help the next generation build up its human capital; perpetuating the problem for Native Americans as a whole.

Snipp, Matthew "Sociological perspectives on Native Americans," Annual Reciew of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992): 354.

Boxer, Andrew "Native Americans and the Federal Govenment," History Review , Sep2009, Issue 64: p7-12.
3 Boyum, William "Health Care: An Overview of the Indian Health Service," American Indian Law Review , Vol. 14, No. 2 (1988/1989): 242.
4 Snipp, Matthew "Sociological perspectives on Native Americans," Annual Reciew of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992): 357.

Snipp, Matthew "Sociological perspectives on Native Americans," Annual Reciew of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992): 365.
6 Dos Santos, Theotonio quoted in Richard White, The Roots of Dependency (1983), xvii.
7 Snipp, Matthew "Sociological perspectives on Native Americans," Annual Reciew of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992): 366.

Snipp, Matthew "Sociological perspectives on Native Americans," Annual Reciew of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992): 358
9 Snipp, Matthew "Sociological perspectives on Native Americans," Annual Reciew of Sociology, Vol. 18 (1992): 360.

Waters & Eschbach, "Immigration and Ethnic and Racial Inequality in the United States," Annual Review of Sociology , Vol. 21 (1995): 430.

Native Americans in Iowa
Native Americans were the first to settle and own lands in Iowa, but faced many hardships when Europeans settlers started to take over. In 1830, the federal government passed the Indian Removal Act because of the demand for more land for the white settlers. This caused for relocation of all these Indian people.

The Ioway, which the state of Iowa is named after, was a tribe that remained for several years. The Ioway were located close to the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes and there was evidence of tension that developed between them.

Later on, President Jefferson ordered William Henry Harrison to conduct treaties with Native Americans in the territory in anticipation of eventual white settlement. And when Black Hawk and his people of the Sauk tribe reached Iowa, they faced great hardship such as lack of food and land.

The Indians had lost nearly all of their land, but Governor Chambers placed another offer: In exchange for their remaining land, the Indians would receive $1 million in annuities and the government would assume the tribes’ debts to traders of $350,000. The Meskwaki chief stated why they did not want to accept this offer. He said, “We were once a powerful, but now small nation…. We are few and melting away.”

Not only were the Native Americans being relocated and losing all their land, but they also faced more inequalities. Beginning in 1804, the federal government had regarded the two tribes as one. They used the term “united Sac and Fox tribe.” The Meskwaki explained why they desired to be recognized as a separate tribe, and hoped this separation would lead to separate annuities.” These two tribes were grouped as one and could not even have their own identities.

Sadly, for the Native Americans, by 1851 all their lands in Iowa were now in the hands of the federal government. The only reminders of the Indians’ presence here in Iowa are limited to the naming of some Iowa counties after Indian tribes and chiefs. The name Iowa would remain, but there was very little other evidence of the long habitation of Native Americans in this middle land.

Native Americans in Iowa (Statistics)
2,881- number in 2009 of Native American families who reside in Iowa

10.3%- Unemployment rate for Native Americans in 2000
The rate for Iowa as a whole at this time was only 4.2%

$29,039- The median income of Iowa American Indian households
The median for the whole state of Iowa is 48,044

39.0%- The poverty rate for Iowa Native American families in 2009
The corresponding rate for Iowa is only 11.8%

"The US Census Bureau" Native Americans in Iowa: 2011

Native American Gaming

Definition of Native American Gaming: “It is conducted by Native American governments as a way to carry out their natural self-governing rights as independent nations” (Schaap).
Native American Gaming is also known as Indian Gaming or Tribal Gaming

Gaming has been apart of the Native American culture since the beginning of time. Large-scale gaming started in the 1980s and was sponsored by the tribal governments. “As state lotteries began to proliferate, several tribes in Florida and California began raising revenues by operating bingo games offering larger prizes than those allowed under state law. When the states threatened to close the operations, the tribes sued in federal court - Seminole Tribe vs. Butterworth (1979) and California vs. Cabazon Band (1987).” (Santaynezchumash.org) Courts decided that they are allowed to partake in gaming as long as it is on their land.

‘"The Indian gaming industry has grown significantly and steadily throughout the past decade," said Chairman Hogen. "This growth has allowed tribes to create jobs, develop economically, build infrastructure within their communities and provide services for tribal members."’


[i] Robotham, Margaret, and Raymond A. Smith. Issue Brief: Native American Affirmative Action Policy in the United States. Rep. 2010. Columbia University: Academic Commons. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10952>.
[ii] Robotham, Margaret, and Raymond A. Smith. Issue Brief: Native American Affirmative Action Policy in the United States. Rep. 2010. Columbia University: Academic Commons. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10952>.
[iii] Robotham, Margaret, and Raymond A. Smith. Issue Brief: Native American Affirmative Action Policy in the United States. Rep. 2010. Columbia University: Academic Commons. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10952>.
[iv] Robotham, Margaret, and Raymond A. Smith. Issue Brief: Native American Affirmative Action Policy in the United States. Rep. 2010. Columbia University: Academic Commons. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10952>.
[v] Robotham, Margaret, and Raymond A. Smith. Issue Brief: Native American Affirmative Action Policy in the United States. Rep. 2010. Columbia University: Academic Commons. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10952>.
[vi] Robotham, Margaret, and Raymond A. Smith. Issue Brief: Native American Affirmative Action Policy in the United States. Rep. 2010. Columbia University: Academic Commons. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://hdl.handle.net/10022/AC:P:10952>.
[vii] Proc. of Opposition to the Higher Education Act Title III-A Grants Program for Native American Serving Institutions - Non-Tribal, John Ascuaga's Nugget Hotel Ad Casino, Reno, Nevada. June 1-4. 2008. Web. <www.ncai.org/ncai/resolutions/doc/REN-08-027.pdf>.
[viii] Proc. of Opposition to the Higher Education Act Title III-A Grants Program for Native American Serving Institutions - Non-Tribal, John Ascuaga's Nugget Hotel Ad Casino, Reno, Nevada. June 1-4. 2008. Web. <www.ncai.org/ncai/resolutions/doc/REN-08-027.pdf>.
[ix] http://www.dosomething.org

Practical Solutions to Inequality among Native Americans
Ethnic Enterprises
Ethnic enterprises of Native American communities often center on the unique legal situation of reservations. The most often cited example of this is the gambling industry. Casinos however, many times, are not actually successful profit making ventures, but ones that barely stay afloat. On top of that there are moral issues to consider with casinos as well. Another solution of questionable morality is that of toxic waste sites on being placed on reservations due to the different regulations there.

A better solution might be to combat the economically disadvantageous state of the reservations with greater legal support; this way the residents of the reservations will be better able to take advantage of the natural and cultural resources there.

-Community Development
Strengthening community solidarity and developing resources is a potential route to improving the inequality Native Americans face. Without community support and resources any individual would struggle.
Transformative Justice:
Native American communities, especially Native American women, have a poor relationship with law enforcement. Often, when crimes are reported, there is no investigation that follows. A potential solution for this is transformative justice. Transformative justice as compared to restorative justice seeks to work outside the criminal justice system. It uses a systematic approach that focuses on the root causes of the problem, not just the beginning of the crime itself. One of the primary differences between it and restorative justice is that it does not seek to bring the victim and perpetrator together. In fact, the victim is not normally a part of the process, the majority of the focus is on the perpetrator themselves.1
The Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, is “a collective of radical lawyers, social workers, activists, and community organizers who are deeply committed to prison abolition, transformative justice, and gender self-determination,” who mainly focus on providing legal services for gender non-conforming people who they feel have been unduly targeted by the state legal system. This exact model of course would not cover all of the needs of the reservations. However, the principle of justice not through traditional means, but community based could be very effective in Native American communities and reservations where the state legal system is not very present and is not effectively handling the situation.2
Health Clinics:
Dealing with the challenges of health care is one of the biggest hurdles for achieving equality. One solution would be to provide more public free health clinics. These facilities would not be designed to provide advanced medical care such as surgery but rather would provide preventative medicine so that fewer conditions get to the state in which advanced care would be necessary.
After School Programs:
After school programs can provide another learning opportunity for students after the school day ends when perhaps parents would be unavailable. These programs can work on kids’ behaviors, improve school attendance, and help them develop aspirations for higher education.3 This way the extreme inequality found in education for Native Americans can be worked on from an early age.
Government Reparations
It is the opinion of many that the federal government has not paid what it owes the Native American peoples. According to the Poverty & Race Research Action Council “The federal government paid $5 million in 1975 for lands worth $5 million in 1865.” The distribution of this money was done poorly as well, in many cases a tradition of payments was created which stalled community development.According to the same group “Recognition of tribal sovereignty and the implementation of self-government have achieved the most significant results.”4 Giving the Native American communities proper reparations and recognition would be a big step towards improving inequality and dispelling economic dependency.
1. Firstname Lastname, “Title of Web Page,” Publishing Organization or Name of Website in Italics, publication date and/or access date if available, URL.
1 “Wikipedia.com,” 30 September 2010, accessed on December 11, 2010, Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformative_justice
2 “tjlp.org” Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, accessed on December 11, 2010, http://www.tjlp.org/aboutwhat.html
3 “afterschoolalliance.org” accessed on December 11, 2010, http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/documents/factsResearch/2011_Outcomes.pdf
4 “prrac.org” accessed on December 11, 2010, http://www.prrac.org/full_text.php?%20text_id=649&item_id=6623&newsletter_id=17&header=Symposium:%20Reparations