Friday, February 03, 2006

Joe's Four Steps

If you missed the State of the Indian Nations Address today, you can read the transcript here .

I had a few thoughts about the speech overall, and then a few issues I would like to highlight that I feel are important for the non-Native American population to know.

First, the good news:

Gov. Garcia is a strong speaker and I feel confident that he can represent Indian Country and the issues facing Native peoples. He seemed to have concrete goals and concrete ways to begin to address the major problems facing Native America today.

I particularly enjoyed that he turned to an indigenous paradigm to present his issues and used the Four Directions in Tewa tradition as a framework for his speech, which might be best understood as the Four Steps. He said the four major issues facing Indian Country are Law Enforcement, Health Care, Education and the Economy, and the Trust Settlement.

Now the bad news, which is just a small sampling of how important the issues he outlines in his Four Steps are:

- Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native women. Seventy percent of American Indians who are the victims of violent crimes are victimized by someone of a different race.

- Healthcare expenditures for Indian are less than half what America spends for federal prisoners.

- Only half of Indian students complete high school. Only 13 percent of American Indians hold bachelors or graduate degrees, less than half the national average.

- More than one in eight Indians lack access to safe drinking water. More than one in twelve lack access to basic sanitation. This is humiliating, degrading, and medically unconscionable. It is wrong, and it has to be brought to an end.

Even those these statistics and the reality they suggest are staggering, Garcia boldy called to task the federal government and the Bush administration to pass and approve the funding for feasible, concrete legislation that is already on the table and could aid Indians here and now: the provision in No Child Left Behind that would allow for charter schools that operate under a indigenous methodology, the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act that is up for a vote in this session of Congress, the settlement the Corbell Trust Case.

Garcia emphasized that Native America is strong, is growing. However, he also acknowledged that the future of Indian Country is somewhat dependent on the federal government living up to its historic agreements and long relationship with the Indians and a future of enthusiastic support of sovereignty and self-determination.

And, well, for that last part, I won't hold my breath.