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The Rant: A Monday Morning View - Native Americans and Mainstream Media

Updated on September 20, 2014
Chief Sharon Bryant - First Woman Chief of the Monacan Indian Nation
Chief Sharon Bryant - First Woman Chief of the Monacan Indian Nation | Source

The Rant: A Monday Morning View is a series about things that just get under my skin and won’t leave me alone. I have put this one off for a long time because I felt that writing about Native Americans in this series might have potentially offend some other cultures. So, let’s get my apologies and explanation out of the way now.

My Apologies

To anyone who has immigrated to this country, I want to apologize now for anything I might say here that hurts your feelings or offends you. I want you to know that I respect you for choosing to make a life in a country where you have more opportunity than in your home country. I am honored that you chose my country to raise your children or to start your business. You bring color and culture and experience to my country. I am genuinely happy that you are here and my life is richer for having friends from many countries around the world.

Mainstream Media and Native Americans? Really?

My problem is that immigrants and the dominant white society get all the media and government attention while the true Native Americans, those that were here first, get ignored. It bothers me that there are so many social and economic struggles in Indian Country in the United States but mainstream media turns a blind eye. A quick survey this morning of the major news outlets proved my point.

The proof in black and white

You can do your own searches and find the same shameful results as I did. News from Indian Country doesn't make headlines. It doesn't make the front page of any major news outlet. Occasionally you can find a story if your search the entire site but they are rarely the stories that tell the real story of the racism and oppression that still exists for Native Americans in the United States. And you will certainly never see the stories of the successes achieved through the determination of our First People. We are a society that only enjoys bad news and though there is plenty of that in Indian Country, it doesn't make headlines. I guess it doesn't sell news and so it isn't newsworthy.

Check out these news outlets and see for yourself.

  • CNN: 100+ stories on the main web page
  • MSNBC: 35+ stories on the main web page
  • Fox News: 90+ stories on the main web page
  • ABC News: 100+ stories on the main web page

How many stories did you find about the First People of the United States on these sites?

Does anyone else think there is something wrong here? Can you do this little experiment and still wonder why Native Americans feel like the forgotten race?

Native News Outlets

Would you like to know what is really going on in Indian Country? It's not a secret. There are plenty of Native American news outlets if you know where to find them. So why doesn't mainstream media follow them and report the news? It's a good question, isn't it?

Now, let’s look at some of the resources for getting news from the Native American community. Bookmark them or add them to your Favorites list. You just might be surprised at how much is going on and some of it is remarkable considering how hard the dominant society has tried to keep it in the closet.

This is only a sampling. Many tribal nations and governments have their own websites where current news can be found. The news from Indian country is available. So why doesn’t it get reported in the mainstream outlets? Out of sight, out of mind? Is this country so ashamed of it’s history of stealing land and identities from the American Indian that it refuses to acknowledge their presence in our current structure? One has to wonder.

What the media doesn't tell you

  • 5.2 million people in the United States identified as American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Incidence of diabetes among Native Americans is 2.6 times the national average.
  • Alcohol addiction among Native Americans is 3 times the national average. 20% of all Native American deaths are alcohol related, compared to 5% of the general population.
  • Native Americans make up only 2% of the country’s population yet they make up 8% of the homeless population.
  • The average life expectancy for Native Americans is 65 years. This is 8 years less than the average population.
  • Native Americans experience the same limitations in daily living at age 45 as the dominant society does at age 65.
  • Infant mortality rates among Native Americans is 60% higher than the dominant society.

Lakota Sioux children - the Future Generations
Lakota Sioux children - the Future Generations | Source

The United States has a debt to be repaid

I could go on, but I think you can see that the United States has neglected its responsibility to its First People. This country sends billions of dollars around the world to help with hunger and medicine while Native Americans are dying early deaths and suffering debilitating illness. Substandard health care is provided by the US government agency under the title of Indian Health Services (IHS). The United States opens its arms to immigrants from all over the world and encourages them to become citizens. Meanwhile, the country turns it’s back on its oldest and most dedicated citizens, the Native American.

Why do I say they are brave? For many reasons, not the least of which is their service to this country. Did you know that Native Americans have the highest record of military service per capita than any other ethnic group in America? 90% of the Native American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War were volunteers. It’s true. They were not drafted, they volunteered.

Bravery didn't end with the wars

No article about military service can be written without mentioning the brave Navajo soldiers who served during World War II. These brave warriors created a secret code from their Native language so that the military could communicate without the enemy intercepting the messages. The Navajo Code Talkers are heroes.

Bravery didn't stop with the soldiers. We cannot overlook the the average folks, the ones who got pushed onto reservations and continue to live in squalor. They live in remote areas where one or two small grocery stores serve a population covering approximately 3500 square miles; where the average per capita income is $6,295 and the unemployment rate is 80%. But we don’t want to talk about that do we? Of course not. We don’t have time because we’ve got a truck to load to send food to some third world country. Hello America. Our First People are living here in the United States in conditions worse than many of those third world countries.

Ballad of Ira Hayes

Robbie Robertson - Show Down at Big Sky

The problems in Indian Country are not new and they will not be fixed quickly, even if all of us cared. It will take time and diligence and…media coverage. There is a lot of truth to the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind”. Until the media starts including Native Americans in the regular news cycle, they will continue to be the forgotten ones.

But, it’s not all bad. There are some remarkable Native People who have had great achievement and made significant contributions to this country. There is Ira Hayes, a Pima who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima, Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Olympian, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Cheyenne and United States Senator, Robbie Robertson, a Mohawk and rocking musician, Billy Mills, a Sioux and Olympic Gold Medal runner. There is N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa and Cherokee) and a poet, Wes Studi (Cherokee) and an actor, Paula Gunn-Allen (Pueblo Sioux) and a writer and critic, and Graham Greene (Onieda) and an actor. This list doesn’t scratch the surface but I doubt you’ve heard of most of them. Why, because the media doesn’t cover them.

Complaining without offering a solution is futile

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I never like to complain without offering a solution, so here I go.

There is always something we can do to create change. If you care about the First People of America, the true Native Americans, then add Native American news to your Google searches once in a while. Read about what is happening in Indian Country and then… (drum roll please), email the story to the major news outlets. That’s one thing you can do.

Another solution is to contact your local newspaper and ask why they don’t cover Native American news. There are more than 14 states in the U.S with Native American populations of over 100,000 people. There are over 500 federally recognized Indian Nations in this cuontry and hundreds more that are recognized by State governments. Surely, they can find something to report, don’t you think?

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.


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