Let’s Talk Graduation, Unemployment and Imprisonment for Natives in Amerikkka

Native inmates at San Quentin perform a Sweat Lodge

Yesterday the Ignite Collective in NYC posted an article for Father’s Day called Fathers Day in Amerikkka. It’s a short but good article on the low graduation and employment rates, and subsequent mass incarceration rates, of African and “Latino” men in the United States, and it got me to thinking about the relative invisibility of Native people in the discussions around these issues. In fact, not only are we invisible much of the time in these discussions, but it’s even quite hard to find the pertinent data, especially when it comes to Natives and the U.S. prison system.

So, being the type of person I am, I searched the internet for some quick, mostly non-gender/sex specific stats on graduation, unemployment and incarceration rates for Indians in Amerikkka (as well as some other stats about Native prisoners as well). I’ve collected them here for your reading (dis)pleasure.

A recent 2010 study conducted by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies  looked at the Native graduation rates in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming. It found that Indians have a graduation average of something like 46.6%, with some of the specific states being as low as 30%. This puts them lower than the average of all other national groups in the country, including Africans (54.7%) and “Latinos” (50.8%).

It’s also not much better on the employment front. From the first half of 2007 to the first half of 2010, the Indian unemployment rate nationally grew to 15.2%. In the Alaska region it’s 21.3%, and in the Midwest its 19.3%. I put up these two region specific rates because the Alaska and the Midwest are two of the BEST regions in the American settler colony right now for whites in terms of employment.

The result of course is little different though than that for of our black and brown brothers. Being “unemployable” and a threat to the white power system by virtue of our very continued existence on our stolen lands the settler state has turned to mass incarceration of our people in order to control them.

Despite being the smallest segment of the U.S. population, by 2005 we have the second largest state prison incarceration rate in the country – 709 per 100,000 (surpassed only by Africans at 1815 per 100,000). This is also the result of a nearly five fold increase in the Native prison population. In 1980 there were 145 Native per 100,000 in the imperialist iron house. Overall today the incarceration rate of Indians is 38% higher than the national rate.

In South Dakota, where Indians make up 8 percent of the state’s population, they compose 22 percent of the state’s male prison population, according to a Dakota-Lakota-Nakota Human Rights Advocacy Coalition Report. The DLN also shows that the rate is even worse for Native women in the state, who comprise some 35% of SD’s female prison population.

As of 2005 we can see similar situations in other states. In Montana 16% of prisoners are Native compared with being just 6% of the population. Likewise, in North Dakota 19% of prisoners are Indian versus an overall state population that is only 5% Native. In Alaska, a state which is 16% Native, 37% of prisoners are Native.

Pig agents also arrest Indians at twice the rate of the greater U.S. population for violent and property crimes. As well, on average, Natives receive longer sentences than non-Indians.

Indians also tend to serve longer time in prison than non-Natives. The suicide rate is higher among Native prisoners than it is for non-Indians.

Now, like I said, admittedly these stats, especially re: Indians and the U.S. prison system, are hard to find, but it’s important nonetheless that we discuss them. Nothing can be worse than taking one of Amerikkka’s most invisible national populations and making them more invisible by removing them from the discussion of how nationally oppressed people suffer under imperialist white power, settler colonialism and parasitic capitalism.

Anyway. just some food for thought.

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Posted on June 20, 2011, in Economics, Indigenous Struggles, Prisons & Prisoner Struggles, State Repression and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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