I’ve always loved learning about Native American tribes and cultures, but most of that learning was about the past, rather than the present. The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe remained in my thoughts long after the protest came to an end, and I wanted to learn more about the modern-day struggles of the various Tribes—not an easy task, given the lack of adequate (if any) media coverage on anything of importance related to Native Americans. So when I saw this book, I was eager for the opportunity to learn more about the issues faced by the Tribes, and began reading it as soon as possible.
The book consists of six chapters, focusing on a selection of issues. These issues include:
- poverty and the lack of economic opportunity on reservations
- voting rights (including easy access to polling places, translators, etc.)
- land rights (including the preservation of sacred sites), and the way Native concerns for the land are typically ignored in favor of money-making opportunities that benefit non-Natives
- police shootings resulting in the deaths of Natives, and unfair justice practices applied only to Natives
- the removal of Native children from their parents and the devastating effects it continues to have (from boarding schools to foster home placements and adoptions to non-Native families)
- the importance of traditional ways, their connection to the land/water, and passing their traditional ways on to younger generations
I was expecting to learn things that were disheartening (to say the least), but I couldn’t have foreseen the level of outrage I felt upon reading this book. I was well aware of the way the federal government often disregards what is in the best interests of the Tribes, but the lengths officials were willing to go to in order to do what they wanted, and to hinder the Tribes when something became a legal matter, was staggering.
Much of the information in this book was upsetting to me, particularly having to do with Native children who were forcibly taken from their families for no reason. As a mother myself, I can’t imagine such a horrific thing happening. It was equally difficult to read about the men and women who were killed by police (again, without reason), and the devastation their loved ones were forced to endure as a result. A particularly distressing story was about Jeanette Riley, a 36 year old pregnant woman who was mentally ill and threatening suicide. The police were called, and shortly after they arrived, she was shot and killed. (The shooting was later ruled as “justified” in this case.)
Distressing portions aside, reading about the connection Natives feel with the land and water was beautiful. I was particularly interested in reading about the ancestral Pueblo gardens in New Mexico, which were constructed in such a way as to preserve moisture in the soil—which is quite important in an arid climate. Another enjoyable story was about a Shoshone grandfather teaching his seven-year-old grandson about flintknapping (shaping stone into a useful object) as they sit in an area located in their ancestral homelands.
This review cannot begin to detail everything in this book. What I’ve shared above is but a snippet from the wealth of information it contains.
If you’re interested in current social issues regarding Native American tribes, I’m sure you’ll find this book as fascinating as I did. I feel this is an important work that will enable people to learn about and understand the struggles Tribes are still dealing with in the 21st century, and I highly recommend it!
Author: Stephanie Woodard
Title: American Apartheid: The Native American Struggle for Self-Determination and Inclusion
Genre: Politics & Current Affairs
To Be Published: June 5, 2018 by Ig Publishing
Rating: 5 stars
About the Book
In recent years, events such as the siege at Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline have thrust the plight of Native Americans into the public consciousness.
Taking us beyond the headlines, American Apartheid offers the most comprehensive and compelling account of the issues and threats that Native Americans face today, as well as their heroic battle to overcome them.
Stephanie Woodard details the ways in which the government curtails Native voting rights, which, in turn, keeps tribal members from participating in policy-making surrounding education, employment, rural transportation, infrastructure projects, and other critical issues affecting their communities. This system of apartheid has staggering consequences, as Natives are, per capita, the population group that is most likely to be shot by police, suffer violent victimization by outsiders, be incarcerated, and have their children taken away. On top of this, indigenous people must also fight constantly to protect the sacred sites and landscapes that hold their cultural memories and connect their spirituality to the nation’s mountains, plains, waterways, and coastlines. Despite these many obstacles, American Apartheid offers vivid pictures of diverse Native American communities that embody resilience, integrity, and the survival of ancient cultures.