Preserving Families
A Native family in full regalia at the LA pow wowA Native family in full regalia at the LA pow wow

Native American families today are at risk. Indian children are twice as likely to be living in poverty than the general population, less likely to finish high school or have parents who did, and much more prone to experience violence, either in the home or outside of it.

  • The 2000 Census showed that 27 percent of American Indian families were living below the poverty line, while only 13.6 percent of families as a whole lived in poverty. The median income for Indian families was around $35,000; the income for the average non-Hispanic white family was $54,698.

  • Native American families are, on average, younger. About 34 percent of the Indian population is under the age of 18, while only 23 percent of the total U.S. population is under 18. The median age of American Indians is 28.7 years old; the white population median age is ten years older.

  • There have been significant improvements in the education of American Indians. During the Depression of the 1930s, the federal government tried to increase enrollment for Native American children in schools with little success. Even after World War II, fewer than half of the school age Indian children were attending school. Today, around 92 percent of children attend school.

  • However, attendance doesn't always translate into a high school diploma. Graduation rates for Native American students are improving. But, according to a Manhattan Institute report, as late as 2000, only 57 percent of Indians were graduating from high school. The rate for whites was 76 percent, for Asians 79 percent, for African Americans 55 percent and for Hispanics 53 percent. As you see in Indian Country Diaries, drop out rates for Natives can be even higher in urban areas and on some reservations.

  • Census figures also show that Native American children are much more likely to be living in a single-parent household or with grandparents. Over 75 percent of white children live with married parents compared to only 53 percent of Indian children who do. About 10 percent of Native American children live with their grandparents, compared with 5 percent of white children.

  • Native American women suffer violent crime at a rate three-and-a-half times higher than the national average. Domestic violence and abuse is rampant among Native populations. Six out of ten Native women will be physically assaulted during their lifetimes.

There are many reasons for these frightening statistics. Research into the lingering effects of historic trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder suggests possible causes. Poverty, lack of education and difficult economic conditions on Indian reservations are all symptoms of the historic trauma and factors that cause the trauma to be passed down through the generations.

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