Most of my life I didn’t think about Native American Reservations. In fact, if I did, it was probably regarding casinos and how much money is being made by Native American Tribes from casino revenue.
The truth is a vast majority of Reservations do not have casinos. And many that do are not profitable enough to sustain the communities. At one point, just eight tribes made more than 50% of Indian gaming income nationwide (Reservation “Capitalism”: Economic Development in Indian Country, by Robert J. MIller.) The Reservations were purposely located in out of the way places and continue to be outside metropolitan areas. Without people coming to the casinos to gamble it is very difficult for them to be profitable.
This is a prime example of many economic issues on Native American Reservations – a lack of opportunity exists and has existed for decades. Whether it is because of location, the system in which Reservations were created or many other examples, this lack of opportunity is a significant factor in why many modern day Reservations are broken.
By broken, I mean that in many, many ways, Reservations are not sustainable. Reservation economies are not functioning. Basic utilities and infrastructure are oftentimes not present. The schools are failing if measured by graduation rates and drop out rates. The family unit is often non-existent. In 1999, President Bill Clinton compared three reservations that he visited to third-world countries.
Here are 9 illustrations of this point:
1. 382% more Yakama Native Americans live in poverty compared to non-Tribal families in Washington. (Page 1 of this document.)
2. The unemployment rate of the Yakama Nation is as high as 73%. The broader U.S. unemployment rate is considered terrible when it gets to 10%. The average unemployment rate of all Reservations is 50%. (See the above referenced document.)
3. Sixty-six percent of reservation roads are unimproved earth and gravel. Up to 35% of Native American homes lack adequate water.
4. Nearly 60% of Native Americans who live outside of metropolitan areas live in high poverty counties. (See page 6 of First Nations Development Institute (2015). Building Assets and Building Lives: Financial Capability in Native Communities. Longmont, CO: First Nations Development Institute.)
5. Approximately 40% of Native Americans have taken out a payday loan (access to capital is a significant problem in Native America.) One third travel at least 30 miles to reach an ATM or bank. (See page 8 of First Nations Development Institute (2015). Building Assets and Building Lives: Financial Capability in Native Communities. Longmont, CO: First Nations Development Institute.)
6. The drop-out rate in any given year of kids that don’t finish the school year in the Mt Adams School District (on the Yakama Reservation) is 12.5% (650% the National average.) (See this data on the schools in the town of White Swan, WA).
7. Violent deaths account for 75% of deaths for youth aged 12-20. (See page 3 of this document.)
8. Native American women are twice as likely to be abused than the average woman. (See the above referenced document.)
9. Native teens have the highest rate of suicide of any population group. (See the above referenced document.)
I personally know individuals on the Yakama Reservation that live on approximately $1,000 per month. They are living the reality of these statistics. We see it every day.
There are many things that could be done to impact life on the Yakama Reservation. Right now, Sacred Road is moving forward with a project to impact the level of income individuals can earn. By increasing income by just a fraction, a person’s ability to provide for oneself and their family is vastly improved.
We at Sacred Road believe we have come up with a way to help some on the Yakama Reservation increase their income using their God given skills.
The Sacred Road Store is an attempt to help individuals provide for themselves, use their talents and abilities and provide a way for individuals to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Help spread the word about the Sacred Road Store and its mission.