With Firsthand Reporting, Author Chronicles a Largely Ignored Calamity — a 21st Century “Trail of Tears”
Published July 17, 2016
WASHINGTON – Today, American Indians have the highest poverty rates of any racial group in the United States; suicide is the leading cause of death among American Indian males aged 10 to 14; American Indian women face a higher-than-average risk of rape; and gang violence affects American Indian youth more than any other group.
These are just some of the findings revealed in The New Trail of Tears, (Encounter Books, July 26, 2016), by former Wall Street Journal Editor Naomi Schaefer Riley. And, Riley asserts, they are the result of decades of misguided federal policies that have deprived Native American communities of autonomy, property rights and individual freedom. It’s no wonder that Conrad Stewart, a legislator of the Crow Nation, laments of his people: “We are the highest regulated race in the world.”
“Americans might try to comfort themselves thinking that the deplorable state of Indian reservations is the result of things our ancestors did a century or two ago. It’s not,” says Naomi Schaefer Riley. “This national disgrace is a direct result of policies that bureaucrats and politicians in Washington are promoting right now.”
White settlers devastated Indian communities in the 19th, and early 20th centuries, but it is U.S. government policies today—denying Indians ownership of their land, refusing them access to the free market and failing to provide the police and legal protections due to them as American citizens—that have turned reservations into small third-world countries in the middle of the richest and freest nation on earth.
The New Trail of Tears offers readers unprecedented insight into the despondent state of Native American affairs today. Riley takes the reader on her journey through different reservations to highlight common issues among the Native population. Among her revelations:
Only 51 percent of American Indian students received a high school diploma in 2010 (down from 54% in 2008).
The violent crime rate on the country’s 310 reservations is on average about 2.5 times higher than the national average.
An estimated one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys in “Indian country” is molested before the age of 18.
The suicide rate for Native American men ages 15–24 was 57 percent higher than for the general population.
Freedom of the press on reservations is often limited to the whims of the tribal executive, silencing critics and public opinion.
Due to a failure of some reservations to pay back federal loans to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal government is refusing to build any more homes until the money is paid back. On one reservation, no homes are being repaired or constructed, with the result that 75% of tribal members between ages 18-40 do not own homes.
Because American Indians don’t own their land or their homes, they are unable to get credit, making it extraordinarily difficult for them to set up a small business.