Native Americans and the Criminal Justice System Essay
Native Americans in the United States have reported to come from many different tribes. American Indians are likely to experience violent crimes at more than twice the rate of all other U.
S. residents. The rate of violent crimes committed against Native Americans is substantially higher than any other minority group in the United States. Yet, little or no attention is paid to them. According to information collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), American Indians are likely to experience violent crimes at more than twice the rate of all other U. S. esidents. While Native Americans have a rich cultural history, much of this culture has been destroyed or manipulated to favor the European-descended majority. American Indians were portrayed as vicious, bloodthirsty savages who stubbornly resisted religion, education, and acculturation. Some examples would be the frequent references to the practice of scalping enemies, burning enemy camps, and enslaving enemy women and children. In addition, references to Native Americans’ pagan-like religions and native languages contributed to the demonization by European settlers.
While the federal government has recently made strides in attempting to reconcile a rather suspect relationship with the Indian people, Native Americans remain skeptical. Trust is always easy to lose and extremely difficult to re-establish. In an effort to regain the trust of the tribes and make amends for past transgressions, President Clinton signed an Executive Order in 2000 to renew the government’s commitment to tribal sovereignty (Shusta et al. 2005, 255).
While these statements are broad in scope and promise a great deal concerning the treatment of Native Americans by the criminal justice system, the United States government has not historically demonstrated good faith in maintaining its promises. An unbiased review of the past revealed that gathering of Plain Indians from the Dakotas and their internment on reservations. Tribes were relocated from their lands and reservations across the country to areas deemed more suitable for their habitation.
This was also known as the “Trail of Tears,” and the government viewed this move as a benevolent gesture, and an opportunity for a less fortunate people to be provided for by a paternal authority. The government would provide food, clothing, and housing as well as an education. Yet starvation, isolation, and lack of education have plagued the American Indian. Today, most reservations still suffer from poor educational opportunities, high unemployment, and a proliferation of substance abuse.
There was once a time when the entire Cherokee nation was forcibly moved from Georgia during the middle of winter which resulted in thousands of deaths. They were constantly under threat for their lands. President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Bill which meant that the Indians had to leave their land in Georgia. He wanted to get rid of the Cherokees of their land claiming that they were in the way and they did not belong. For this reason we can clearly see why indeed the Indian nation cease to rebuild their trust in the U. S. government. They were betrayed and mistreated many times in the past.
Despite their weary efforts to keep their land in Georgia, the Cherokees were removed from their lands within only three days after the removal deadline. This was an extremely devastating time for their nation. This place was their home and the government, mistreating them once again, took that away from them. However, despite what seemed to be a series of unfortunate events, the Cherokee nation eventually got back on their feet, accepted their new home, and loved it. Their numbers doubled within a matter of years making them an even larger nation than previously.
The years that followed, John Ross managed to restore his nation, government and population. The Indian Removal Act, though it caused thousands of deaths and resulted in a lot of pain and suffering also caused the Cherokees to grow closer together as a loving nation. Alcoholism is the leading health and social problem of American Indians than any other race. Native Americans who end up leaving the reservation to pursue education or employment opportunities express a high degree of discomfort and anxiety as a result of “feeling caught in two worlds. By leaving the reservation they are abandoning their traditions, however temporarily, and suffering a sense of personal loss and insecurity. In entering a new world, this sense of loss and insecurity is heightened and becomes exacerbated, particularly if they do not experience success or acceptance in the new environment (Major, A. K. A 2003). However, if success and acceptance in the new world occurs, these individuals will still suffer the pangs of abandonment since they can never fully return to the reservation.
In some cases, forced assimilation has extinguished the culture from many Indians as their grandparents and parents were forced to abandon the old ways in order to become more American. Thomas Jefferson, as well as many others believed that Native Americans can be just as ‘White’ Americans. In an attempt to increase local employment opportunities, many tribes have turned to gambling casinos and the collateral business which support these ventures. Illegal activities would certainly increase among Indians because of the simple fact that they need to survive by any means necessary.
This can all be blamed on the government since they are the ones who force the Natives to move all the time and give up their lands and also force them into assimilation. It is understandable why many Indian Americans hate the American culture and dislike the American government. As far back as history goes, they were always mistreated by the government, treating them as though they were not just as human as everyone else. Native Americans are disproportionately represented as offenders in the U. S. criminal justice system, particularly in the southwestern and north-central regions.
Furthermore, there has been little acknowledgement of the positive contributions of Native Americans to the criminal justice system in terms of rehabilitating offenders, aiding victims and supporting service providers. This can be one of the leading reasons for Natives turning into offenders. Another possible explanation may be the frustration felt by young Indians who face a future they believe id filled with a lack of opportunity and hopelessness. Robert Merton came up with the theory that normlessness or anomie was an explanation for delinquent behavior.
He believed that in order to achieve wealth and status, illegal means may be utilized. One manner by which to achieve status is to become a member of a gang. However, most tribal communities surveyed by the OJJDP, “reported no gang related homicides during 2000, and few Indian country comparison sample respondents indicated more than one gang-related homicide” (Major et al. 2004,8). Most violence in tribal communities appears to be the result of individual actions rather than gang action. One infamous crime committed by a Native American individual occurred on March 21, 2005, in Red Lake, Minnesota.
Jeff Weise, a 16-year old tenth grader, killed his grandfather, Red Lake Tribal Police Sergeant Daryl “Dash” Lussier, took his grandfather’s bullet-resistant vest, service weapon, and police cruiser, drove to Red Lake High School, and killed seven of his classmates. This episode was marked as the second-worst school shooting in United States history at the time it took place (O’Driscoll and Kenworthy 2005). Interactions between Native Americans and criminal justice officials ought to be improved.
By making an effort to get to know the community and making positive contact with American Indian organizations and individuals is a good to make such improvements. Furthermore, respecting Native American values and their elderly members of various tribes is another way of making these positive improvements. Whenever possible, do not separate children from their parents because everyone needs their parents in one way or the way. Empathizing with Native Americans who make poor decisions based on certain conditions is also another positive way of making things better between officials/government and the Indian community.
Doing these simple yet significant things may improve communication and trust between a group that themselves marginalized and the government that has historically betrayed them.
Final report of the Executive Committee for Indian Country Law Enforcement Imprvements to the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior. (1997). Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice. In the Margins, special populations and American Justice. Reid C. Toth, Gordon A . Crews, Catherine E. Burton. Major, A. K. A. Egley, Jr. ,J. C. Howell, B. Mendenhall (2004) youth gangs in Indian Country.
Washington DC: Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. O’Driscoll, O and t. Kendworthy. (2005) Nazi web link eyed in killings: Echoes of Columbine emerge: gunman. Perry, S. W. (2004), American Indians and crime. Washington DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Shusta. R. M. D. R Levine, P. R. Harris, and H. Z. Wong (2002) Multicultural law enforcement. Shusta. R. M. D. R Levine, P. R. Harris, and H. Z. Wong (2005) Multicultural law enforcement. Wood, D. S (2000. Officer turnover in the Village Public Saftey Officer Program, Alaska Justice Forum.
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