Surmounting Native American Conflicts

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Throughout the semester, we have discussed the difficulties imposed on Native American tribes throughout the western United States.  As we have seen, Native Americans suffer disproportionately to other ethnic groups in the United States due to the reservation system, unscrupulous entities who would use their land, through climate change, and through stereotype and prejudice.   Though the reservation system may be Native American's only current option following the United States government taking their lands, these other problem areas can be improved on for the benefit of native people and American society as a whole.  It will take a combined effort to address these issues, but remediation will be key toward a progressive American culture comprised of coexisting ethnicities and nationalities. 

In researching some of the conflicts facing Native American tribes, I came across some articles that provide additional information about the problem of dumping on reservation lands and climate change's effect in general on reservation land.  David Kelly of the Los Angeles Times reports that in California, Nevada, and Arizona, illegal dumping contributes to pollution and residents fear their health is at risk.  Kelly inspected the illegal dump of George Auclair, a Torres Martinez tribal member, who has recently been fined millions for the site.  Auclair apologized for his actions, but Kelly notes that illegal dumping has been a source of revenue for many in the area.  Kelly interviewed Lt. Mark Barfknecht of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department who remarked, "People who have objected to the running of an illegal dump have had their families threatened...As recently as 18 months ago there was a school project where kids living in and around the reservation filmed the burning in the illegal dumps and were chased off by armed men. (David, 2007)"

In addition to this manmade environmental problem, there is the growing problem of climate change and its effect on this country.  According to John Broder of the New York Times, Native Americans feel the effects of climate change disproportionately to other groups within the United States.  Broder cites a recent study by the National Wildlife Federation which states, "American Indians and Alaska natives are more dependent than most other Americans on natural resources and on the bounty of oceans and rivers and thus are particularly at risk from the effects of a warming planet... (Broder, 2011)" Clearly, something must be done to assist Native American people adapt to a changing planet.  Native Americans need to be assisted with increased federal funding to adapt their lands to the changing climate.  Additionally, the United States needs to make greater use of solar, hydro, and wind power to accommodate America's vast energy needs while limiting the effect of its consumption on the delicate environment. 

Though Native Americans struggle to an unfair extent, this injustice can be corrected with some simple behavior by us all.  Just by thinking twice about where your refuse will end up is one way of helping these people.  Also, being mindful of your own carbon footprint can slow down your impact on climate change.  Finally, one must be culturally sensitive to the needs of others and mindful of the fact that we are all different parts of a whole who must work together to maintain a good stewardship of our planet. 

Works Cited

Broder, John. "Climate Change an Extra Burden for Native Americans, Study Says." New York Times on the Web 3 Aug. 2011. 30 Apr. 2012 <>.

Kelly, David. "Reservation's Toxic umps a Multilayered Nightmare." Los Angeles Times 2 Jun. 2007. 30 Apr. 20012 < >.

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1 Comment

The struggles of Native peoples sometimes seem like a hopeless tragedy that simply won’t end. I have never really thought that there was any clear solution to the problem, aside from giving tribes their land back and giving them free, unhindered reign over it. Once I read this blog post I realized that at our current rate of climate change, there essentially won’t be any land to give back. When even my fantastical solution that would probably be a legislative nightmare would be ineffectual, the problems are becoming overwhelmingly serious. It’s unbelievable, but for all of the lessons learned in regard to native rights, the tribes still might face the extinction of their culture. Fortunately, this blog post also pointed out that reversing these crimes can start small. Being mindful of your trash, your carbon footprint really will go a long way if everyone does their part. I’ve heard about “carbon offsets” where people will pay to have a tree planted somewhere, therefor balancing out the damage there do in their lifetime. I am usually all for taking the easy way out, but something like this is just lazy. We need to be active in our efforts to preserve the planet and remember that it effects much more than just ourselves.

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