Native American Indian Cultural Risk Factors - Contact to Termination

By Mato Topa
Robert A. Ryan, EdD, LPC, MAC

October 1996

There is current research on risk factors in the general population. This research was conducted by Hawkins and Catalano at the University of Washington. Those risk factors are relevant for most groups of people. We must also consider those factors that confound those risk factors for Native American Indian young people. This is a description of the psycho-social-historical events that affect the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by American Indian people today. Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) use varies from 0% to 98% depending on the tribe, group, region and distance from rest of American society. These numbers are reported in the Indian Health Service research that has been conducted with Indian tribes. These factors are basis for the Native American Indian cultural understanding in chemical dependency and mental health treatment. This is an attempt to conceptualize the impact of the historical events experienced by Native American Indian people has had an effect on the substance dependence and abuse over the years. The impact of historical events on the social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual life areas of Indian people is paramount to the positive change and recovery for Native people in the United States of American. This is an abridged story of the cultural risk factors for Native American Indian use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and mental health problems of today.

The following are objectives for those who read this information. The readers will be able to:

1. Identify events in American Indian history that affects

ATOD use today.

2. Identify the impact of historical events on social-emotional-

physical-intellectual-spiritual life areas of Native American Indian


3. Know the cultural risk factors for Native American Indian ATOD use.

Many cultural risk factors can affect an Amerindian person's response to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. These factors relate to historical, social/cultural and psychological events that have occurred. The factors are very important in understanding approaches that are necessary in treatment programs if we are to have an impact on American Indian people. These are almost universal events for cultural people attempting to exist in U.S. society today.









->Indian Wars







->Self Concept





->Boarding Schools



->Allotment Act



->World wars








▲ Alcohol and Other Drug Use ▲

▼Change-the Red Road▼






->Self Governance



->Self Sufficiency

The following is filtered through the eyes of one who, lived on the reservation, is an Indian person, and suffered from the effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, as well as mental and emotional life difficulties. The effects were felt and have changed the person who writes this information.


TRADING: The first contacts begin to tell the story of how Indian people would be treated and the trade ethics that influenced the contacts for many years. Alcohol in the form of rum was an early trade item and it carried over to Native dealings. Alcohol allowed many trades to be in the favor of the European. A drunken Indian with furs to trade could be fooled out of their entire lot of pelts for some cheap alcohol mixture of gunpowder and pepper. It became so bad that the US government passed a law in 1803, Indian Intercourse Act that outlawed trading or selling alcohol to the Native American Indian people. It was not until 1953 that it became legal for Indian people to buy alcohol or possess alcohol. The early frontier style of heavy binge drinking and the illegal aspect of alcohol for Native people established a drinking pattern of, drink it quick to get drunk or to get rid of the evidence. Social drinking for most American Indian people was a drunken mess right from the early contact with the European by Native American people. Some Indian people escaped this type of dilemma and were not negatively affected by the use of alcohol and other drugs. These individuals are usually the exception and have adapted to the American society.

INDIAN WARS: The Europeans who came to this country fought each other and the Indian Tribes became involved in those wars. The Native Tribes had their wars before the Europeans arrived to maintain boundaries and hunting rights. The French-Indian war had the effect of choosing sides to protect territory in this continent. This type of warfare pushed Indian tribes from their usual homelands to different parts of the country and kept the killing, fighting and drinking going strong in those early years. The wars affected each Tribal group in unique ways, but the effect was usually the same. Indian tribes lost land and moved to different parts of the country. The ultimate aspect of the Indian wars was the Native American Indian people were put on reservations and were not permitted to leave without papers to prove they could travel. The treaties that were part of this reservation process gave large tracts of land to the government in exchange for education, healthcare and rations. Each tribe has its own stories of the reservation years. The consistent aspect was defeat by a better equipped and larger ARMY of US troops; who then kept the Indian people contained and concentrated on the various identified reservations. The breakdown and the breaking up of Indian people were on a road of hurt, death and destruction. This was also the time when Indians fought Indians and there are many dislikes between tribes today that began because of who scouted for whom or who worked for the US Army in the many and long-lasting Indian wars. A small example is the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, and the 1968 killings in Wounded Knee in South Dakota. The war may have stopped in 1890, but it was still very much alive twenty years ago. The negative feelings have not gone away, but only suppressed. There are Indian people today who easily say the WAR is not yet over, because the Indian people still have to fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This keeps many Tribes and individuals in turmoil as they attempt to assert their rights and sovereignty.

REMOVAL: The policy of the government through the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was to remove the Indian from land that was desired by the early settlers. The use of force was the usual process and there were many skirmishes between the Europeans and the Native American Indian people that resulted in death to both sides. The Indian people gave up more and more land, and were removed to places further and further West. This caused continued friction between tribes as they then removed their neighbors from their territory and usual hunting and living areas. The Europeans had no concept that there was a system of ownership and boundaries did exist between tribes of people. The lack of written deeds and warrants was reason for Europeans to think and act as if the land was not owned and used by tribal people. The lack of a written language was the evidence used by Europeans that Native American Indian people had no right to the land of the North or South American continent. This error was, and still recognized by the U.S. courts today in much land claim litigation. The facts here are that Native American Indian people were removed, usually by force, from their ancestral lands. There were many Trails of Tears for Native people in this country.

TREATIES: The number of treaties is many. The changes in treaties are well known. The ignoring of treaties existed. The illegal aspects of treaties are proven. The treaties covered hunting rights, fishing rights, mineral rights, human rights, sovereignty rights and land rights. The use and misuse of treaties with Native American Indian people are still being argued in law courts throughout the country today. The broken treaties are issues that has not been forgotten or ignored by Indian people. The lack of knowledge of the written language gave the advantage to the treaty writers and the Indian people were victims of not knowing what they marked as an agreement for their people. Some tribes did not, and would not, sign treaties with the Europeans and have lost their tribal rights until 1997. The Cowlitz tribe was recognized in 1997, and they had difficulty proving their ancestry because they would not sign a treaty with the U.S. government.

RESERVATION: Native American Indian people were imprisoned on reservations in the 1800's and are still on those same reservations today. The reservation life changed the way Indian people obtained food, traveled and related to each another and their family members. Some Indian scholars and activists call the reservations concentration camps that only lacked the barbed wire and stockades to be the same. Many Indian people died physical and spiritual deaths in that environment. The rulers of those camps were the ԉndian agentsԠwho were assigned to look after the Native people and control their movement and their rations. The rations became real issues, because it was a way of controlling behaviors among hungry people. You follow the rules and that will make sure your family gets enough food to just survive. This created pseudo leaders who cooperated with the Agent and then assigned to be leaders and chiefs among the Indian people. Survival from starvation for your children is a powerful motivator for many parents, even today. The jealousy and distrust among Indian people had started and continued throughout the generations to the present time. The difference between bands and clans can many times are traced back to the early reservation days when people did what they had to do to live. Can we not know this and forgive our own people and our parents for helping us all to be alive today? Put away the old hatreds and realize what was done, had to be done, to let us live. The effects of reservation life also established a negative view of half-breeds and mixed bloods. It was easier at times to be married to an interpreter or to a trader. The offspring occurred because there were no other women on the frontier or on the reservations where those men worked. Later when land was opened for railroads and churches, many other Indian women married white people because it seemed to be better for their children. Survival is a strong motivator for behavior. The reservation system was a historical event that changed the lives of many Native American Indian people. The break down of the Native family system had started and would continue.

BOARDING SCHOOLS: The treaties with the US Government included education. This was a good thing if the Native American Indian people were to change their lives and be able to survive in a drastically changed world. Many Indian people embraced this concept and wanted their children to learn to live and work in the White Manӳ World. It was written in the documents establishing the boarding schools that they were to separate children and families. The fact was that the schools were set up to get the children away from the parents. This would lessen the impact of parents on their children and make it easier to change the language, behavior and culture of the young. They will become like white people and live a good life. The schools were then set up as military models and marching around campus was a very ԧoodԠactivity. The parents would not see their children for months or years at a time. Some Indian children went to boarding schools at age six, and did not return ԨomeԠuntil they were eighteen. They were fully educated and experienced the shame and guilt of turning their backs on their parents, their cultural beliefs and their values. The churches also became part of the boarding school system, and churches were given land to build schools to educate the heathens and remove their pagan customs from their worship and language. The Christian abuse is well documented by Indian people who suffered sexual and physical abuse in the church boarding schools. This type of behavior is well documented in the book titled Wounded Warriors by Doyle Abergast. These are the real life stories of those individuals who personally experienced the abuse. The boarding school did serve a function. Many Indian children had lost their families to disease, war, and alcohol abuse. They needed a place to live and eat. Most families were so destitute at this time that they were unable to care for their relatives as they had in the past. Many of these young people lived, learned to survive and had successful lives as stereotypical Ԩang around the fort Indians. These individuals are those who seemed to cooperate with the reservation or school officials and turned away from their own people to gain benefits for cooperation. Some of these became the bureaucrats and token Indians in the governmental system of trying to hire some Indians in Indian agentsҠoffices. The tokens were the more modern versions of the Ԉang around the fort Indians. The young people grew up without the benefit of seeing how a family lived loved and worked together. There were forty children to each adult on that shift and little attention could be paid to individuals. The children learned to survive with each other in the best way they could. This involved a peer hierarchy where fighting was the norm, and self-protection was the key to survival. They also were severely punished if they happened to be caught speaking their own Native American Indian language. This was a tough life. Many survived in a physical sense, but were disabled in an emotional sense. They did not see parents and had few social models learning to be fathers and mothers. They were separated from the generational collection of childcare principles and practices. They learned the discipline method the military model, and the punishment of the Christian thought, ԓpare the rod and spoil the child. It is no wonder there are such high incidences of child neglect and abuse on our Indian reservations today. The family was deliberately torn apart and an extreme attempt to remove the children from the parental unit and influence was the goal of the boarding school system. It is good that some Indian people were able to escape this system and maintain a sense family values, language and culture. The purpose was good. The process was inhumane. The result was harmful. The victims were young. The effects were continuous. The parental skills were damaged. The languages demeaned and forgotten. The abuse was well known. The results were predictable. The boarding school still exists today, and usually serves as a dumping ground for Indian children that are problems to someone somewhere. These children make the rounds of jails and boarding schools.

1887-89 DAWES ALLOTMENT ACT: This was the beginning of reservation shrinkage. Lands that were already small were further reduced because Native American Indian people were not using the lands properly. They were not farming or ranching they way no one taught them to do it like white people. The US government passed the law to let others (Europeans) use the land in the right way. The land that was supposed to stay with Indian people as outlined in many treaties was removed and redistributed. Some of this land was actually bought by the federal government for a sum that was usually less than market value. This has created anger at the Federal Government and at the Europeans who came in to take the land. The American Indian people lost land and pride at the same time. There is an ongoing sense of loss that has grief as a byproduct that turns to anger of unresolved grief and loss. It seems that much of the land was stolen from the Indian people. It has been told to the young people over the years. A lot of resentment still exists for the taking of the land that was guaranteed by federally recognized treaties to the Tribal reservation people for the rest of time or as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow. This was another economic blow to the people as it was not possible to support themselves and their families on the land that was left for the Indian people. Sacred and special land was not identified in the land taking. Some of this land became national forest land to be managed by the federal government. Land was also given to railroads, churches and schools if they could use it for their own purposes. This also encouraged people to move onto the reservations and take up more land through delinquent tax sales, leases and outright theft by Europeans or White people.

WORLD WARS: Native American Indian people participated on behalf of American people since there have been wars under the Continental Army and later the United States Army. The Revolutionary War found Indian people fighting and scouting for the Army and it has continued to the Desert Storm War. The world famous Code Talkers came from many tribes in World War II, notably the Sioux (Lakota language) and the Navajo (DineҠlanguage). The Indians fought in World War I for the American armies and were seen as exceptional soldiers and valued for their courage and valor under fire. This showing as fighters for freedom encouraged the US government to have them actually be recognized as citizens of the US in 1924. This then led to the Native American Indian being drafted into the Armed Forces of the United States in World War II. It should also be noted that most of the Indian people did not have to be drafted because they volunteered to defend their country. It was their country by birthright, occupation and finally by Citizenship of the US. The real difficulty that became apparent doing this time was related to draft exempt status for some people and not others. Some individuals were allowed draft exempt status to help in the war effort by raising crops and livestock. These individuals were not drafted, but allowed to be exempt from the draft to raise food for the Army. Most of the Indian people were drafted and had no exempt status. This was because, it is alleged, that White people were on the draft boards and would not allow the Indian person to be approved as draft exempt. The Indian went to War and the Whites stayed home. This was the subject of a paper by Vine Deloria Sr. He called this time when racism in this home area really became bad after the war. The Indian men came home to find that the draft exempt Whites had taken their land through sale, lease or theft. The Whites were now farming and ranching on the land that they needed to support themselves and their families after the War. This created a lot of hard feelings, many drunken fights and some deaths by beating and shooting. This was when the Whites and Indians really turned on each other in a racist way. Mr. Deloria thought it was a very bad thing and the situations that were created could have been avoided. The racial spilt had occurred and have not mended to this day. The Korean War was similar but there was little land left to be lost during this war. It was during this time Indian people were allowed to drink alcohol in the army. The US Government finally passed a law allowing Indian people the right to drink and buy alcohol in 1953. Alcohol was a small reward for their participation in the War effort and a death warrant for many Native American Indian people.

RELOCATION: This policy was designed to help the Native American Indian person learn a trade, leave the reservation and become less of a burden on the taxpayers of the US. In actuality it has created more of a tax burden to the people, by allowing more Indians to be on the welfare rolls in many large cities of the country. It was a program designed to reduce the cost of supporting Indian people on the reservation, get them to work and assimilate into the American population. This would also reduce the reservations to zero over time, because nobody would be living on the reservation. It was a noble scheme that created more hardships, broke up more families, and created more alcoholics for the skid roads of our major cities such as Oakland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis and others. The program moved the people to the city, put them through a quickie training program, got them a cheap apartment, a short term job and left them stranded and alone in the worst parts of town. The ԓkinԠbars in those cities became famous and were the most troubled businesses of that type. It broke up family units and did get quite a few Indian people into Urban areas to live and die on the streets. It was successful because the majority of Indian people live in the Urban areas of this country today. It didnӴ really work because the Indian people lost again. They lost family, children, language, ceremonies, land and a way of life. It worked for a few, but hurt many.

TERMINATION ACT OF 1953: The ultimate and most hurtful policy to hit Indian country and violate the treaties and pride of Native American Indian people. It eliminated the reservations and homeland of many tribes and killed more people. It was an extension of the relocation act, and was designed to remove a place for Indian people to go back too after the horrors of the city life they encountered. It was written in Indians & Other Americans that there were reasons for the termination policy. If the Congress did not get rid of the reservations the Indian people will just go back there and the US government would have to support them all over again. They, Indian people, just have to learn to live as if Whites do and work for a living. It sounded great but didnӴ work. The States had to pick up the welfare slack and resentment toward Indian people from the social systems exists yet today. Ill prepared and ill advised the Indian people were forced to be nothing and die as nothing on the streets of nowhere of a disease called alcoholism or chemical dependence in the modern words. The destruction of THE people continued by far sighted views of politicians and great bureaucrats of their own race. It was a negative act that was repealed by President Nixon in 1970. A great act by a politician who could not save his own presidency! There were twenty million Native people in this country, and today there are only two million Indian people in this country. A terminal loss of human lives occurred.


LANGUAGE: The most lasting cultural loss for Native American Indian people was the loss of language use when they went to boarding schools. The Indian children were not allowed to speak their Native language. They were severely punished by the staff if they were caught speaking their language. This included whipping with sticks, kneeling in the corner, being put through a whipping line where their peers had to hit them and isolation. The young Indian children knew no other way of talking except their Native language. It was very traumatic for most of them to have to speak English when they did not know the language. This meant a loss of communication for these people and a loss of the language over the 100+ years that the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the Department of Interior has operated the boarding schools for Indian people. The young people, long separated from their parents, forgot how to speak their own language and could not communicate adequately with their parents and grandparents when they did have a chance to see them. The parents were not taught English in any manner or were there any efforts to have bilingual people as a possible goal. The separation from families had to be complete and was certainly the expected goal in Indian affairs. The loss of language usage also meant a loss of cultural concepts, thoughts, customs and traditions. This also was an intended outcome of the deliberate and systematic stoppage of Native American Indian languages in the United States. English as a trade language would have been acceptable, but as the only ԧoodԠlanguage, it became a punishing and isolating process. Many Indian children did not speak and became the silent people we hear about as a stereotype of Indian people. English was not an acceptable alternative to use to communicate. The captors in charge could not accept their captives using their own language to create subversion and dissent in the reservation controlled islands of humanity in this country. All people lost when Native languages were the objects of concentrated attempts to eliminate such uncivilized utterances. It was partially successful because there are whole generations who have little, if any, knowledge of their language today. The language was saved in some areas, but did not continue to adapt to the new concepts in the world around them. Language is underdeveloped now and Native languages are trying to catch up as they are now being taught to children. It is still a controversial issue among Indian people. Some are still afraid to teach or speak their Native language from fear of past negative treatment. A common statement from many Indian parents is, I don't want my kids punished for speaking their Native language, and they have to learn to get along (succeed) in the White man's world. Parents knew how hard it was to succeed, and were laughed at for talking broken English. They wanted to best for their children. Some felt that knowing their Indian language would hinder their success.

CEREMONIES: The active process of ceremonies among Indian people helped to show a person what to do and how to act in the world. Ceremonies helped to define the role of each individual and gave them some guidelines to follow in their life. This part of Indian life was also stopped by government action on reservations, and ceremonies were made illegal in many areas of the country. Indian people were not allowed to conduct any ceremonies and more culture and a life purpose was lost. More culture was eliminated from the Indian way of life. The social structure of a culture was eliminated from the living pattern of Indian people. The aspects of identity were now being lost, and the suffering would be felt for many generations. The Indian person was forced to use other ceremonies told to them by the White man. The Christian churches were also brought onto the reservations and church ceremonies began to be a part of Indian life. It was good in some cases, but still inadequate to meets the ceremonial needs of the people. What they were familiar with was condemned by the churches as heathen and unworthy. This was another blow to the pride and knowledge of the ancestors of THE PEOPLE. Christianity replaced an ingrained value and belief system passed down for generations of spiritual people. It eroded a system that worked and replaced it with a punishing religious attitude. It also denied the powers of generations of healers and spiritual leaders who had always been there for the Indian person. It is fortunate that some Indian people kept the knowledge and passed it along to today. Much was lost in the process, and will never be found again to be a useful part of a powerful lifestyle. There are books written today and statements by religious groups that apologize to Native American Indian people for not understanding or accepting that their belief system and ceremonies were and are deeply and profoundly religious. The loss of spiritual beliefs still hurt Indian people today as they struggle to fit into the imposed system of ceremonies that were little understood and barely tolerated.

TRADITIONS: Many traditions of Indian people were lost because it was illegal in reservation areas to practice Amerindian ceremonies. The traditions that had been followed for many years began to change. The changed traditions began to incorporate the Christian and White traditions. It became a tradition in some areas to celebrate Christmas where this had never been done before. The annual Sundance was a tradition that stopped, and only in last twenty years became popular again. There are probably traditions practiced by Indian people that will never be seen again because it has been lost in time. It was lamented in the early 1900's that the Modern Indian had already lost knowledge of Native language and ways of the Old Ones. We have no way of knowing for sure what traditions are now lost from our traditions of today. Native American Indian people have adapted to the many changes in traditional ways. The traditions gave order to life and there was loss when traditions were not followed. There are generations of people who were not properly named by their relatives. Many young people did not go through traditional puberty ceremonies that brought them into adult life in their family and tribal group. The traditional ways of searching for a vision and praying with a pipe stopped for many years for the majority of Indian people who followed those traditions. The Christian churches tried hard to change traditions, and they succeeded. The Indian people followed the new traditions because they needed something that would show the way to a better life. It might help them move from one stage of life development to another. There was also resistance from Indian people because they didnӴ want to follow the military orders of White people. This caused disruption in families where one of the parents would not go to the new traditional activities sponsored by the local churches. They refused the traditions of Christianity and lost as people because they then did not practice any traditional ways. Traditions are a part of culture, and some people lost from both cultures, White and Indian, because they were not able to participate in either tradition.

CULTURE: The cultural aspects of life were intentional changed for Native American Indian people. When the language was forbidden, many cultural activities were also stopped. The Indian was expected to take the culture of the European and learn to live in that cultural milieu. Very little credibility was given to culture for Native people. The American culture was seen by Europeans as superior and everyone was to follow the American culture. This disrupted individual growth and many people tried to cling to a disapproved culture and way of life. The way of life was lost to the cultural impact of European invaders.

BELIEFS: When the culture is dying the belief of the people is challenged. Native American Indian people had their beliefs challenged and discounted. The Indian person began to change beliefs as they experienced new religions and social rules. The Indian tried to change and the confusion of beliefs had a devastating effect on the value system of the Indian person and family. Old beliefs no longer applied and new beliefs were not present to fit the new circumstances they were forced to live in on a daily basis. The beliefs changed over the years to where some Indian people could no longer believe in their own people and culture. This created further problems between Indian people and created rifts between individuals, families and tribes today.

ROLES: The roles of Native American Indian people changed drastically when the reservation system was fully enforced. It was a process over time that shifted the roles of family members, and changed the roles of the male and female in the family system The Indian male was most hurtfully affected because of the change of roles. The male was no longer able to be the hunter and protector for the family. They had no role in the family unit because they were unable to do ceremonies and do the usual activities as they did before the reservation system began. They were supposed to do farm work or other occupations that they had no experience or training to accomplish. The boarding school was to help them learn this new occupations and roles for their new society. The Native American Indian female essentially maintained their roles as home-helpers. They raised the children and keeping the home in order. The female kept the same role and did not have to change occupations overnight. This was less disruptive to them and had less negative effect on their personality development in the next several years. In fact, the Indian females have maintained more personal strength and purpose over the years then has the male Indian person. This has had a very negative effect on families and could account for much of the divorce, spouse abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and family dysfunction. The Indian male today is still searching for a meaningful role in the society, and the Indian female has expanded their role in the same time frame. There is much work to be done with male groups and meetings that had already started for the Indian female

STRUCTURE: The structure of the family and tribal groups was changed by the reservation system of controlling the Indian people. The social structure that existed before and during pre-reservation contact was altered. The family structure was a relationship process that could not exist under the reservation systems. The ceremonies and traditions were not allowed and the values were then lost. The internal structure of values that was reinforced by ceremony and tradition was changed for many people. In many cases the value system was based on survival and had less to do with respect and dignity. The structure of the Indian people changed from an internal process to an external process. It made a difference how the military commander and later the Indian Agents wanted things done. The external forces controlled the structure of the Tribal system. The Indian person had learned to look to external forces that had to be obeyed. The Indian person was increasingly unable to act on Tribal structure, but had to listen to the external structure. This process causes people to become dependent on others, and unable to be independent in thought, values or direction. The federal policy was a success as it put the Native American Indian under the structural control of the US governmental agencies. The Indian person became a ward of the government, and a dependent person. It was the opposite of the constitutional intention and an aberration of a successful social structure that was systematically destroyed by law and policy.

LEADERSHIP: The reality of leadership for Native American Indian people was that it was radically changed by the military approach to removing leaders. A logical military approach removed the threat of the strong leaders of a defeated people. The real Indian leaders had to be removed so that uprising and rebellion would stop on the reservations. The military or Indian agents selected those people who followed their orders and cooperated. The Indian people responded because of survival needs. When the selected leader conformed externally, they would receive food and other favors. This way of selecting chiefs was not accepted between Indian people and created many fights, dislikes and jealousies. These factional jealousies still exist today. Indian people forgot how it really was started by White people. The leadership was furthered disrupted when the concept elected leaders was introduced in 1936. The tribes on reservations were reorganized and leaders then became elected instead of inherited or earned through great deeds of bravery and service to their people. The chairman and tribal council became elected bureaucrats, and they followed the model of political promises and vote buying through food and jobs for relatives and friends. This form of tribal government was an extension of a corrupt system established by Indian agents in the past. The final say was retained by the government and they approved or disapproved all actions of the tribal councils. The appearance was one of elected leadership making decisions; it was not the case. The leadership was still manipulated by external rules and regulations of the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the US Department of Interior. A corrupted system made worse by poverty and isolation of the reservations. The strong leadership of Indian people was pushed to the background and political leadership took over. It became a system of government that is still seen as ԉndian PoliticsԮ The system is viewed as corrupted and dishonest in most cases. It was a constant source of jealousies, accusations, fights and sometimes death.

ECONOMICS: The economic system for the Native American Indian people was totally changed over the last two hundred years. The economy was one of hunting, gathering food and trading what was available for other things needed. It is a cash economy with people who work at jobs having money at times. The Indian people were told to farm and ranch on the land that was available on the reservations. They were also given rations as part of the early treaties because they were not allowed to hunt. There was also a lot less to hunt on the limited land base of the reservation. Some Indian people were hired as scouts or interpreters for the military. When schools were built on the reservations more, Indian people went to work. Usually the female was hired to look after the children in the schools. The reality was that the Indian people were not prepared to work in the way that the White people had been doing for centuries. The economic system changed overnight, and the majority of Indian people did not have the training or skills to work. The local offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs were staffed by White people who knew how to do the work needed. The economic system for Indian people was and is still poor for most tribes. The education of the Indian people helped some individuals, but it is still far behind any national averages in any profession. The land base was not large enough to support the number of farmers and ranchers that were available to start such enterprises. Some have been successful, but the majority failed. The economics of Native people changed and the Native people lost. Poverty is the norm on Indian reservations throughout the United States of America.

RACISM: The "Only good Indian is a dead Indian" is still being said today. The color of a person's skin still determines how White people treat them. It is a fact that exists and must be recognized as a fact of life today. There is a history of racial destruction that stills erupts today. It was only 100 years ago that Indian people were still being murdered by soldiers of the US government. The old Wounded Knee Massacre occurred in December 1890. The modern Wounded Knee Massacre occurred in 1971. There were people killed on both sides in the name of racism during both fights. Native American Indian people experience racism on a regular if not a daily basis. This is difficult to deal with and causes a lot of anger and resentment. Most Indian people can tell you of The Look when you go into the stores on or near the reservations. People are watched in a different and degrading way because they are Indian people. There are other types of racism that radically affects Indian people that are not seen or acknowledged. It is termed institutional racism and shows why Indians are not hired in many jobs where they are very well qualified. Racism exists in this country and Native

American Indian Tribal descendants know and feel this today.


EMOTIONS: The psychological expression of self is in the human emotions. Human beings have emotions that are expressed according to culture, traditions and values. The effects of the information written previously are expressed through the emotions of Indian people. There are stereotypical statements about Indian people. These statements are stoic, shows no emotions, stone face, silent, no feelings and other such remarks. Perhaps we can also make some statements about this seemingly lack of expressive emotions from some Indian people. It could be learned behavior to hide the true self from Indian people. It is best not to show emotions to those who may use the information in a negative way. It also reflects in the courageous approach to life where one must be brave in the face of the enemy. There are also those cases where caregivers do not respond to emotions of children in boarding schools. They are taught that the show of emotion can bring on more punishment. When they show no emotional response, they can escape from the staff easier. The social norms becomes, do not feel. When you do feel then hide the real feelings. When you show real feelings you will be laughed at, ridiculed, punished, isolated and hurt. To avoid external hurt Indian people learned not to express emotions in healthy ways. Obviously, not all Indian people fall into the unhealthy emotional response arena. It is also known that Indian young people have the highest suicide rate of any group in the United States today. This is unhealthy emotional response to the world. The rate of chemical dependence is also higher than any other group of people. High rates of sexual abuse and physical abuse are an expression of unhealthy emotional responses among Indian people. The historical, social and cultural risk factors have extracted a heavy emotional price from Native American Indian people.

SHAME/GUILT: The loss of language was one way that shame and guilt began in Indian people. The process could have been something like this description. The child goes to school and speaks only English. They go home and their parents speak only Indian language. They have a hard time communicating with each other. The child feels guilty because they canӴ speak in their Native language to their parents. They then feel shame because their parents canӴ speak English with them. The parents feel guilt because they allowed their children to be forced into schools where they speak only English, and then shame that they could do nothing to stop the taking of their children. The shame and guilt go back and forth between parent and child. The ultimate result is little communication and a lot of shame and guilt. This process hurts the self-esteem of the individual and further isolation from family and society. Shamed and guilty people do not function well in any world.

IDENTITY: Identity is an important aspect of psychological development. The search for identity is important to the growth and development of human beings. We want to know who we are and what we can become in this world. We seek information about self and feel better when we can identify with positive and useful concepts and ideas. It has been in the past few years when the identity as an Indian person was positive. Indian people were taught to appear White, and do those things that would identify you as NOT an Indian. Young Native women were taught to use light (White) colored powder on their faces so they could look less Indian. Young Native men were told to cut their hair to look more acceptable. There were many other messages given to Indian people that would cause them to question their identity, and avoid their real identity as an Indian person. It was not O.K. to be an Indian, and your identity was always in question. There were quite a number of mixed blood Native people who totally denied their heritage. They would tell no one of their Indian blood. It is an identity problem that still affects people today.

SELF-CONCEPT: It seems that if you problems with identity your self-concept suffers. A lack of confidence follows a poor self-concept. We then see a lack of striving for success and negative self-concept that is hurtful to personal growth. The self-concept allows a person to be comfortable in the world and to approach their life and job with the expectation of success. When we donӴ like ourselves, it is easy to engage in self-destructive behaviors. We donӴ matter and no one cares about use anyway. A negative self-concept is a sure sign of problems, addictions, family disruption and a fear of success. The Indian person has a difficult time with self-concept because the identity of being Indian is negative in the general society.

PREJUDICE: The result of racism is prejudice toward self and others. There is a dislike of self because of the racism in society. Racism also creates prejudice toward others. You dislike those who victimize you because of the racist societal attitudes. You also practice horizontal prejudice by your negative attitude toward other groups of people. You hear every Indian joke ever told, and feel the hurt and the prejudice as the butt of the joke. You laugh on the outside but hurt on the inside. You look for others to hurt and perpetuate the cycle of prejudice. You are also associating with the group that is prejudicial and the victims of prejudice. It isnӴ long before you feel the social isolation of prejudice, as you are more and more alone. Prejudice keeps you ever on the alert and distrustful of people. The lack of trust you have affects all of your relationships in the family and community.

FEAR: A lack of trust can turn into fear. The fear can lead mental illness or alienation from the rest of society. The fear is sometimes real. This can be a simple childhood response when you challenged to fight just because you are an Indian child. You begin to feel physical fear and do not trust others. The fear can be for your family, and their survival in the world. If I donӴ get this job, I wonӴ be able to feed my family. I heard them say they donӴ hire Indians because they are all a bunch of drunks. I know I wasnӴ supposed to hear that, but I did hear it. It must be real. I didnӴ get the job. That type of fear is real and comes from the years of seeing it happen repeatedly. The fear of losing and the grief over the loss is a constant companion for some Indian people. Indian children are told not to trust White people because they will cheat you. This creates a generational fear that stays with the person when it is no longer true. The fear takes away the hope of a better life for your children, and leaves angry feelings inside.

HOPELESSNESS: The inability to have food for your family creates hopelessness. The hope for the future is lost in hunger and hurt of today. The repetition of history takes away the hope for a better future. The Christian belief of turning the other cheek no longer works and the reward in another life is more appealing. Hopelessness can be a precursor for suicide and many type of mental illness. Many Native people turned to alcohol to hide from the hopelessness of their existence. It works as longs as the alcohol lasts and the spirit is anesthetized. There is little hope when all you see is rape, fighting, drunkenness, violence, and stealing. Your only escape is to a boarding school to hide from you. Death is the only hope sometimes, and the suicide rates express that type of negative hope and helplessness.

HELPLESSNESS: The inability to respond any longer is helplessness. This can be an induced behavior with a continuous trauma in life. A rat that is electrically shocked rapidly finally gives up and accepts the shocks. Some Indian people have become helpless because of the generational trauma they have experienced. The learned helplessness is a psychological condition that can permeate a whole community and stop healthy functioning. It is easier to give up then to keep trying in the face of overwhelming and traumatic events. The defeat of the Indian people occurred in the war environment and the continued persecution is completing the defeat on an individual basis. There is no need to keep trying when there is no way to stop the hurt. The treaty changes that occur without regard for law and rights are another way that helplessness has occurred.

ANGER: The Native American Indian person has episodes of displaced anger. Anger turned inward is self-destructive behavior and suicide. The Indian person is angry about the known and the unknown events that have occurred over the past several generations. The land loss and the cultural loss are reasons to be angry. The loss of family members in the Indian wars and to the diseases amplified by the stressful environment angers Indian people. Many times this anger is turned to those closest to us. The incest, murders, domestic violence, fights, alcoholism, drug dependence, jealousies and negative behaviors are all anger from the generations of trauma from external sources. When rats are placed in a limited living space, like Indian reservations, the results are the same as just described. It is predictable behavior that has occurred. The anger is real and when we think of all that has happened to Indian people, it is understandable. It needs to know, accepted, acknowledged and validated. The energy of the anger is needed for survival, and turned to positive behaviors. Energy is needed to expand and actualize the hope that is possible.


It seems that one of the most negative aspects of these risk factors is the harmful use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by Native American Indian people. We must continue to look at what has happened and respond to that situation. We now know what created the situation Indian people are in at the present. When we know what the problems are we then can begin to solve the problems. We can change our attitudes and behaviors in a positive direction.



RESTORATION: The tribes that were terminated in the 1950's are almost all restored. In October 1996, the Samish tribe of Washington was restored to federal recognition. There are few if any Tribal groups left that need to be restored to federal recognition. This was an important legal and economic process for the tribes. It fostered home for a future of hope for survival of the people. This is a time of celebration for many Tribes in this part of the world. It has been the change that helps people become healthy and productive.

SELF-GOVERNANCE: The legislative process that provides more autonomy for tribal government has been established. It recognizes that Tribal sovereign nations due exist and have the right and the responsibilities to care for Tribal members. The sovereign nations are able to function within the confines of the US Government, and are a positive force for growth and development for both Nations. This recognition increases the identity and self-concept of Native American Indian people.

SELF-SUFFICIENCY: Independence not dependence can be the result. The ability to care for self is important to the economic structure and enterprise. The goal is now being attained through casinos for a number of Indian Tribes. It may not be the most desirable method, but it is working. The capital earned in this manner creates an economic base that can be diversified to support many tribal and community members through the process of employment. The business knowledge to become as self sufficient as possible is available and being utilized.


CULTURE: The culture of Native people is more valuable than ever, and is being emphasized by Native people. The positive nature of culture is enhancing the self-concept and identity of Indian people throughout the country. The ceremonies and traditions are being brought back to be used to help people grow emotionally and heal old wounds. The spiritual approach has alleviated suicidal behaviors. Medicine people and spiritual leaders are being asked for assistance in having Indian culture used in daily living.

LANGUAGE: The culture has brought language to use again. The teaching of Native languages has increased and preservation of language is important for AmerIndian people throughout the country. There are bilingual schools that now exist on Indian reservations and young people are being rewarded and not punished for speaking a Native language.

FAMILY: There are family preservation projects on reservations now. It is recognized that the family is the unit that must be preserved for all people to be healthy. Boarding schools have been closed, and parents are being trained in the Parenting skills that were lost in the boarding school era. There is training in Positive Indian Parenting that identifies the positive attributes of Indian culture. This shows that Indian families did have a structure that helped children grow and develop good relationships. The family is emphasized in alcohol and drug treatment programs, and the family is a positive force in the cultural development.


HOPE: Hope comes from self-determination of the individual. The hope that lives can be better because old hurts and wounds have been validated. There is a reason for the anger that is felt and the recovery from addiction brings hope to life. Hope because Indian dances still occur, and the younger generations are now proud of their heritage as Indian people. The Native American Indian Tribal people are still alive in spite of efforts to remove them from this life brings great hope for a future of success.

IDENTITY: It is now socially accepted (O.K.) to be an Indian person. In fact, it is a real advantage at times to be a Native person. The identity is easier when it is legal to follow Native religious beliefs, and the Native language is taught in the school you attend. There are heroes among Indian people. Olympic champions are recognized and U.S. Senators are known. Ceremonies are held and supported by society. It is easier to be an Indian person, and seldom are the old jokes told. Tribal governments have recognition and sovereignty is acceptable.

CHOICE: Native American Indian people have choices today. It is legal to practice Indian religion, speak a Native language, participate in a ceremony, have an eagle feather, hunt for food, leave the reservation or be a sovereign nation. There is the choice to do what is needed to succeed in this society with only small amounts of racism and prejudice. The choice to be in the race is all that is asked. Winning will still be for the swift, but the Native American Indian has the choice of being in the race, climb any mountain or be a spiritual leader in the WORLD.