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American Indian Unemployment - From Bad to Worse in Recession

Society & Culture  (tags: American Indians, Native Americans, Recession, Finances, culture, society, politics, ethics, americans )

- 3505 days ago -
Already grappling with historically high rates of unemployment, American Indians, on and off reservations, are seeing even higher rates due to the country's two-year long economic downturn, according to a new survey. In the last half of 2007, just ...


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kat yazzie (400)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 11:57 am
Already grappling with historically high rates of unemployment, American Indians, on and off reservations, are seeing even higher rates due to the country’s two-year long economic downturn, according to a new survey.

In the last half of 2007, just before the economy began its downward spiral, unemployment averaged 7.8 percent for Native Americans. In the first half of 2009, it had climbed to 13.6 percent, an average that masks even sharper differences in various regions of the country.

“A big deal was made a couple of months ago when the unemployment rate reached double digits. But Native Americans reached double digits last year,” said Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

The report Austin authored, “American Indians and the Great Recession: Economic Disparities Growing Larger,” is the first of its kind because it is based on the Current Population Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most data on Native unemployment derives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that is collected every two years and only counts those living on or near reservations.

“Our numbers are quite different from the BIA,” he said. “We’re looking at a much larger population, including multiracial people.”

Unemployment rates are assessed by region in the report and give a more nuanced look at the widespread problem among American Indians, for whom joblessness is deeply entrenched. The southern plains region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, had the lowest unemployment rate for Native Americans at 8.9 percent in the first half of 2009. That reflected just a 2.4 percent rise during the recession.

The southeast region--Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia--had the second lowest rate at 10.9 percent, a 3.5 percent rise.

But the western region, encompassing Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington, went from lowest to highest unemployment among American Indians, soaring from 6.4 percent to 18.7 percent in the same time period.

Meanwhile, Alaska, with proportionally the largest population of Native Americans, has seen little change in its unemployment rate, which was already the highest of any region at 14.8 percent. It was 15 percent in the first half of this year.

That isn’t news to Alaskan Native organizations.

“The story with Alaska in the recession is that we are lagging the rest of the United States,” said Kristin English, chief operating officer of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, which provides social services and job training programs. “Our overall unemployment spike-up was about a year after the lower 48 spike, so it’s fair to say we don’t know the impact yet. Our economy is a little bit isolated, so we’re really expecting that number to go up.”

English said that the recession is stressing an already stressed population of Natives, especially in remote villages where fuel prices are going up and the heat is on all the time. “It’s a hardship that sends people to Anchorage looking for a cheaper cost of living,” she said. “We’re finding a lot of people underestimate what it takes to get the first and last month rent.”

While the report is a grim accounting of endemic joblessness among American Indians, it also provides critical data just as the Obama administration is preparing new strategies for creating jobs. Having regional profiles of American Indians’ employment status will help direct federal funding to those areas most in need, says Jackie Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group.

Pata’s group encouraged the Economic Policy Institute to undertake its survey of unemployment among American Indians to make sure they are included in emerging federal jobs policies.

“This report is a valuable contribution on a very timely issue for Native communities,” Pata said. “It is a first step in addressing the lack of reliable unemployment data to guide tribal and federal policymaking. By shining a light on the urgent need for jobs in Indian country, this data demonstrates the need for significant investments in tribal governments as a part of the jobs bill.”

In California, part of the region with highest Native unemployment, the Sustainable Nations Development Project is undaunted by the current downturn. It sees possibilities in federally funded job creation in its work with the Yurok and Pomo tribes in the northern part of the state. The Yurok tribe recently invested in a sustainable fishing project and cannery and is evaluating new renewable energy projects, said PennElys GoodShield, director of the organization, located in Trinidad, Humboldt County.

“We’ve had unemployment for a long time,” said GoodShield. “This is a great opportunity with stimulus funding coming down. It’s an opportunity for tribes to do development in line with their traditions.”

pam M (98)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 4:48 pm
This is a long standing situation for the Native American and it's so sad that now it worse. I responded to a poster on this site that went into a rant because he was passed over for a job by a black man. In all probability he was either lying or the minority was indeed more qualified than him. According to the white media those of us with brown or black skin are the last ones hired. I told him now he has a taste of what we people of color must face everyday, 24/7, 365 days a year. It's not easy for any of us. My prayers are with my Indian brothers and sisters.

Sheryl G (359)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 5:00 pm
It is always like this, those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder are always the worse hit. Those who have a little set aside in the savings account can at least try to ride out the storm, but people living pay check to pay check, or who have been faced with staggering high unemployment to begin with, there is no nest egg to tap into.

greenplanet e (155)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 6:50 pm
I like the idea about renewable energy projects and empowerment in line with traditions.

Mandi T (367)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 7:17 pm
I agree with Koo. If it were possible and employed our Native Amiericans.,
Tks Kat

. (0)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 7:58 pm
noted thank you

. (0)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 8:00 pm
i clicked on the note they owe you a gold star

Debra L (34)
Thursday December 10, 2009, 9:37 pm
We have alway's had this problem but, this year is 50 times worse than before? I guess this situation has hit everyone harder than exspected to. I hope that things will change soon, cause I am not sure how much longer we can hold on to our homes and our things that we worked so hard to get. Things are in a very dire situation, we need help ASAP. I pray help comes!

Richard N (1)
Friday December 11, 2009, 5:40 am

Deborah O (98)
Friday December 11, 2009, 6:57 am
All over the world, indigenous people are the hardest hit by unemployment, shortages of essential services and food, and almost all the other ills that can be thrown their way. China's ethnic minorities have much in common with America's--both nations spout endless rhetoric about equality and both nations then proceed to treat their indigenous people like second class citizens (they wouldn't treat them like citizens at all, but they have to for tax purposes).The hypocrisy is stunning.

Simon Wood (207)
Friday December 11, 2009, 6:58 am
If you give American Indians back even a fraction of the wealthy land in the USA, they will not have unemployment problems.

Past Member (0)
Friday December 11, 2009, 11:59 am
Noted with a sad heart

Barbara Tomlinson (431)
Friday December 11, 2009, 1:40 pm
Far be it from me to tell others what to do: but, rather than getting "jobs" working for "The Man"; jobs which usually are MAKING "STUFF" THAT IS EITHER USELESS, OR WORSE-THAN-USELESS, RAPING THE ENVIRONMENT AND CHEATING HUMANS;
rather than THOSE kinds of jobs, Communities, INCLUDING Native American ones, should aim for AS MUCH SELF-SUFFICIENCY AS POSSIBLE: growing as much of their own food as possible {like WWII "Victory Gardens", which I well remember!}; supplying as much of their own energy needs as possible {solar panels, solar stoves, and windmills like they used to have on farms}; supplying their own social services from among people who actually LIVE in the community {so they don't have to go elsewhere for them}; supplying their own ENTERTAINMENT instead of "canned entertainment" that among other things, uses up energy resources; manufacturing a LOT of what they need, from handcrafting and from repairing and recycling; growing healing herbs and relying on traditional healing methods that work, when high-tech medicine is out-of-reach because of cost; etc. etc.

Indigenous Peoples may know how to do this, BETTER than the rest of us; they are often FEWER GENERATIONS AWAY from doing things that way, than non-indigenous people.

I know this sounds simplistic and doesn't solve EVERYTHING. Nevertheless, it strikes me, that it could be seen as a form of BRAINWASHING, ESPECIALLY of Indigenous People, that they HAVE TO "have a job", or else they are UNWORTHY somehow. Making them FEEL BAD, if they DON'T have a job "working for The Man", just to slave their lives away to make The Man even wealthier.

It seems to me, in News Stories such as this, there is a meta-message that "these unfortunate people" OUGHT to have "jobs", no matter what kind of jobs, because otherwise they OUGHT TO feel bad about not having them. "Jobs" cutting down trees? "Jobs" slaughtering animals? "Jobs" working for the military, KILLING PEOPLE? "Jobs" making useless plastic junk from oil, "jobs" making artificial foods in factories that POISON you, or "jobs" serving such nasty foods in fast-food places or junk-food convenience stores??? These are the kinds of "jobs" we are talking about! The "jobs" our Consumerist, wasteful, NON-SUSTAINABLE economy is built on!!!

I would love to see Native American thinkers and theorists and scientists and Wise Elders, get AWAY from this focus on "boo-hoo, no destructive "jobs"!; and start thinking, and SETTING AN EXAMPLE FOR THE REST OF US, on how to build SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES.
In SPITE of the OPPOSITION this will arouse, in those Capitalists and Corporations that BENEFIT from too few "jobs" THEY create, and too many needy "job" applicants, setting race against race, minority against minority, all to their OWN benefit!!!

WE ALL NEED TO START THINKING "OUTSIDE THE BOX". The answers do NOT, repeat, NOT, lie within our PRESENT ECONOMIC SYSTEM; a system that BEGAN with the conquest of indigenous peoples and setting them to work in a regimented way they had never worked before, on plantations, in mines, and in factories EXPLOITING their labor and REMOVING from them their life-sustaining Natural Resources!!!

And I don't mean to belittle or pooh-pooh the SUFFERING undergone by a family or community or individual TRAPPED IN THIS ARTIFICIAL UN-NATURAL "JOBS" SYSTEM, who run out of the miserly-grudgingly-doled-out-small-enough-resources of the system........

BRAIN-WASHING of Native Americans the last two centuries, was DELIBERATELY DESIGNED to ERADICATE their self-sustaining CULTURAL NORMS; and INTEGRATE them into the Whites' "jobs" system. In the Native American schools run by White Catholic and Protestant organizations, those notorious places where child abuse and sexual abuse took place, THE CHILDREN WERE TO BE TRAINED TO BE SERVANTS TO THE WHITES -- did you know that???!!! Trained, in those schools, to think that, if you didn't have a "job", you were entirely worthless.......that working FOR THE USURPERS OF THE LAND, was your ONLY reason for existing on this Earth...... no wonder, then, that so many products of these brainwashing religious schools, committed suicide!

Native Americans {and other Indigenous Peoples} could LEAD in this. That is why they are DANGEROUS {to the Profit-taking Capitalists and Corporations}; and have to be kept under control!

Shari G (27)
Friday December 11, 2009, 6:46 pm
Seems to me there was a farm on Crow Creek land, and a store with employees. Somehow they became in arrears of payroll taxes of more than 3 million dollars. Thats a lot of money for payroll taxes - people be rich if they owed that much, wouldn't you think? They wanted to add a wind farm on that land. Whoa!! Not so fast. Maybe oil, or uranium, gold or some other valuable there. Besides, can't let the Natives have a wind farm. Sounds llike a viable business, can't let that happen. I'm ranting again but this is all so ludicrous. Thanks Kat.

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 12, 2009, 8:13 am

Winefred M (88)
Wednesday December 16, 2009, 3:36 pm
Noted and TY again Kat for the interesting news..
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