"This week Americans will imagine an almost mythological scene of pilgrims sharing a meal with the Plymouth natives. This Thanksgiving, however, a more accurate portrayal of Native-settler relations is on display. The Standing Rock standoff regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline reflects the longstanding tension between Native American livelihood and European American ideals of progress and industry. It further reflects the complex relationship between Native American nations and the U.S. government—where tribes have relative sovereignty but are still very much under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
This complex relationship is likewise reflected in healthcare provision for Native Americans. The 1976 Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which was recently reauthorized, aimed at “providing the highest possible health status to Indians and to provide existing Indian health services with all the resources necessary to affect that policy.” The U.S. Government has failed tremendously in these aspirations, as Native Americans have enormous health inequities along with generally inadequate access to needed services. These inequities include much higher rates of tuberculosis (750% higher), diabetes (420%), accidents (280%), and suicides (190%). In addition, alcohol and drug problems are significantly higher than the general population, including 7-8 times higher rates of alcohol-related deaths than the general population and the highest opioid overdose rate among racial/ethnic groups in the nation."
Commentary by Dennis Wendt, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, doing research with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. The comments are based on [his] experiences as a (White) psychologist and addiction researcher working with Native Americans in the context of mental health and substance use considerations.
Read the full article on Public Health Post.