Today's Challenges
Native American man

These are exciting as well as threatening times in Indian Country. There are opportunities available to Native Americans that have never before been possible. Yet there are challenges that could upset the whole enterprise.

In this section of the web site, you will explore in more detail many of the challenges raised in the two documentaries, Indian Country Diaries. You will also compare and contrast life for urban Indians in Los Angeles with life on the Qualla Boundary Reservation for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.

Identity and Assimilation

Identity and assimilation have been critical challenges for Native Americans since first contact and are serious questions today. These are questions faced by every Native American — Do I decide to live traditionally and identify with the centuries-old culture of my tribe? Or, do I decide to move to the city and adopt or accept a more modern, pan-Indian identity? How much of the dominant American culture do I want to let into my life? Will my erstwhile white friends or co-workers accept me? Will my tribe think I'm no longer a "real tribal person?" Can I live with the stereotypes of Indians in American society? And, who do I root for during the Thanksgiving Day football game, the Redskins or the Cowboys?

Other stories about Identity and Assimilation:

Tribal Sovereignty

Sovereignty, for many observers, is one of the key challenges facing tribes today. Since the 1960s, the federal government has been gradually encouraging tribes to take a larger and larger part in self-administering programs for their members. Some tribes have newfound funds from gaming to help in the process. Many tribes are now going beyond the arguments about sovereignty to implementing "nation building." But challenges still remain as the tribes and government work out how a sovereign nation within the U.S. faces a host of legal and social issues.

Other stories about Tribal Sovereignty:

Revitalizing Native Cultures

Revitalizing native cultures is critical to the process of nation building, and revitalizing native languages is key to process. In this section, you take a look at each of the major tribes featured in Indian Country Diaries, as well as education and the emerging "pow wow culture" that is both urban and pan-Indian. You also get tips on etiquette for non-Natives and Natives who may be attending a pow wow for the first time.

Other stories about Revitalizing Native Cultures:

Preserving Families

Preserving families has become a challenge for Native people as almost two-thirds of Native Americans are now living in cities. In general, these urban Indians are cut off from their extended families and tribal support systems.

Economic Development

Economic development issues go beyond gaming. Casinos have helped a few tribes become relatively well off, especially those who have land near the big cities. But most tribes were put on reservations in the mostly remote, rural areas of the country. Some of those tribes have developed innovative businesses that rely on their unique advantages and new technologies to build brighter economic futures.

Other stories about Economic Development:


Health challenges for Native Americans are literally killing many before their time. Substance abuse is still a major challenge as drugs like meth are devastating for some Indian tribes. Yet, alcohol remains the drug of choice for too many. Diabetes is a major killer at rates far exceeding the non-Native population. But new research is suggesting that historic trauma, passed down from generation to generation, may be a root cause of many of the health problems facing Indian Country. Innovative treatment plans borrowed from the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder offer new hope. And a return to spirituality — both Christianity and native belief systems — offers hope as well.

Other stories about Health:

The cliché is that challenges are opportunities in disguise. In Indian Country, that cliché is true.

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