History of Victimization in Native Communities Introduction
There is a prophecy held sacred by Native people which foretold the coming of a different people who would bring disease and sickness to the Great Turtle Island. The story tells that it would be the ancient traditions and teachings of past generations of Native people that would provide the ladder to help Native people climb and regain their heritage as proud and rightful Nations. The Native people hold to the promise of these sacred teachings. This is their promise; this is their hope; this is their heritage.
This prophecy has partially been fulfilled. It is impossible to capture and adequately explain the nature and extent of assaults experienced by Native families. It is even more difficult to give reason to what has happened to the indigenous Nations since the “discovery of the New World” some 500 years ago. Many attempts have been made to understand what happened collectively to Native people and to explain how Native people managed to survive. It has overwhelmingly given the many forms of assaults on Native people.
As recent as forty years ago the situation surrounding Native families was described as a “national tragedy,” (Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, 1961). The tragedy identified for this generation has been a living legacy to Indian people over lifetimes of families. The tragedy remains. Today the situation of Native families continues to be one of deprivation and neglect with a disproportionate amount of crime being committed against them.
The unfair treatment of indigenous tribes, bands, villages, and rancherias is well documented by numerous publications regarding Native people and their well-being or ill-being (Beiser, 1974; BigFoot, 1998; Brandon, 1961; Deloria, 1985: Josephy, 1986; DOJ, 1999; Red Horse, Shattuck, & Hoffman, 1981; Unger, 1977). Yet, despite the deprivation and victimization, the population of Native people is rising rapidly, but paradoxically the average life expectancy is less when compared with the non-Indian population (PHS, 1998). These national statistics also indicate half the population of Native people is less than 20 years of age, while the median age for the non-Native population is approximately 30 years. Consequently, nearly half the Native population are minors who are in need of supervision, guidance, care, shelter, and financial support.