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Indigenous Affairs

Programs dealing with Native American peoples

Indigenous Affairs

Before the Europeans landed in the Americas, Indigenous people (like Native Americans and Native Alaskans) were the primary population group. Over time, the Europeans took over the American lands and forced the Indigenous people to move to different areas.

Today, the United States recognizes 567 tribal entities, with most recognizing national homelands. So, how do the Indigenous people live? What are their cultures like? What kind of Indigenous affairs do they deal with? This article is here to answer these questions and more.

Indigenous Statistics

As of January 2021, the United States recognizes 574 tribal entities, with most recognizing national homelands. 6.6 million people, or two percent of the US population, identify as Native American or Native Alaskan, alone or in combination with another ethnicity. Approximately 2.5 million Americans, or 0.8% of the US population, identify as Native American or Native Alaskan alone.

23% of Native population reside in Native American areas or Native Alaskan villages. California is the state with the largest Native population, while New York City is the place with the largest Native population.

14 states have recognized processes for Native American tribes, primarily through legislative processes. The United States has more than 60 state-recognized tribes in 11 states.

Indigenous Rights

Indigenous people have long fought for their rights, and, much like any other group, they have issues within their groups.

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The poverty rate for Native Americans and Native Alaskans is around 25%. Poverty isn’t the only issue Indigenous people face.

Indigenous people still have issues with the federal government impeding on Native tribes for natural resources. Though President Biden has stopped the operation of some pipelines (Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline), he still let the Line 3 Pipeline operate in Minnesota. The police arrested over 600 people following protests held against the pipeline.

In April 2021, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Brackeen v. Haaland. This ruling asks whether the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is unconstitutional. ICWA governs adoption processes involving children eligible to be enrolled in tribes.

The ruling in April claims the ICWA is constitutional, but a lower court rules that the preference of ICWA for Native foster homes or Native adoptive parents is against equal protection laws. Though this has been brought to the Supreme Court, it has yet to decide on hearing it.

Native women in the United States are exposed to increasing violence. In April 2021, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a new Missing and Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services.

In October, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report stating that the number of missing or murdered Indigenous women were unknown due to the lack of comprehensive data despite four national databases.

The GAO also claims many initiatives and laws haven’t been implemented. From a tribal perspective, the federal agencies seem to be underfunded, uncommunicative, and disinterested. In November, Biden issued an Executive Order telling federal agencies to collaborate with tribes and boost law enforcement capacities.

Haaland and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a new commission studying the issue and making recommendations on addressing it, including tribal, state, and federal representatives.





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