April 23rd, 2009
Joe Garica, the President of the National Congress of American Indians gave his annual State of Indian Nations speech in February. He “declared the state of Indian nations to be more hopeful than they have ever been.”
He focused on four main areas.
– Establishing a place at the table in the countryâ€™s economic recovery. Garcia citied the high unemployment rates in Indian country, 22% overall versus the national average of around 7% (during the Great Depression U.S. unemployment was 25%). Garcia pointed out that that the federal government has a more than $50 billion backlog in tribal projects, including road, home, jails and school construction.
– Addressing the health care crisis in Indian country and the failure of the last Congress to authorize the American Indian Health Care Act. When the federal government fails to honor one of the earliest treaty provisions, Garcia stressed, American Indians have nowhere else to turn for health care.
–Increasing public safety, now almost non-existent on many reservations. Reservation citizens are twice as likely as the average U.S. citizen to fall victim to violent crime. Federal authorities decline to prosecute 65% of reservation crimes due to complex jurisdictional concerns.
– Providing educational opportunities in Indian country. Native Americans, of all ethnic groups, have the highest high school drop out rate in the country. (In the compromise version of the economic stimulus bill, there were deep funding cuts for education and Head Start programs.)”