Sat, 16 Nov 2013

Why Only Less Than 1 Percent of the U.S. Population Are Native American

There was a time in the United States' rich history that the country was mostly occupied by Native Americans or American Indians, as they themselves prefer to be called. It is estimated that the population of Indians in the country was highest around 5,000 years ago.

Nowadays, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population are Native American. Gone are the days when Indians roamed freely in their ancestral lands and the likes of Geronimo, Hiawatha, Sequoyah, Black Hawk, Sitting Bull, Cochise and Pocahontas became legends in their own right.

Lands Were Taken From Native Americans

The influx of people from different races and cultures contributed greatly to the diminishing number of American Indians in the country. About 97 percent of their ancestral lands were taken from them by colonizers and invaders starting the downward trend in their population.

Diseases Caused The Death of Many of the Native American Population

According to a study of genetics, the steep decline of American Indian population started around 500 years ago after they came in contact with Europeans. This is also around the time Christopher Columbus came to what they called the New World.

The drop in the number of Indians is attributed to the spreading of diseases brought by the colonizers. It is noted that the spread of smallpox resulted to the death of half of the population. Aside from that, many Indians perished due to enslavement and warfare.

High Rate of Suicide Among Native American

The events of hundreds of years ago can still be felt today. In modern times, one reason why only less than 1 percent of the U.S. population are Native American is the high rate of suicide especially among those between the ages of 10 and 34. In fact, a study done in 2009 revealed that suicide is the second leading cause of death among that age group. It is also important to note that American Indians have a higher death rate, more prone to diseases and obesity than other Americans.

Many Native Americans Have No Health Or Medical Coverage

Studies also determined that about 35% of Native Americans have no health or medical coverage. Also, 20 percent of Indians over 18 years of age are habitual smokers and that they are 1.6 times more likely to have HIV, both of which may have also contributed to the high mortality rate. There is also a growing problem of substance abuse within the reservation.

Add to that the normal causes of death in the United States like ill health, accidents and homicides and you get a clearer view why less than 1 percent of the U.S. population are Native American.

Famous Native Americans in Different Fields

Even with an extremely small percentage of Native Americans left residing in the country, there are still a few who have made a name for themselves in different fields.

The actor Wes Studi is an award-winning actor and film producer. Some of the movies we have seen him in are Dances with Wolves, The Doors, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Horse Whisperer, Road to Redemption, The New World, and Avatar. He is a full-blood Cherokee.

The late Phillip Martin, who passed away in 2010 from complications of a stroke, was the Tribal Chief of the federally recognized Mssissippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The former member of the US Air Force served for 40 years in the Tribal government and was responsible for various business opportunities that benefited his Tribe. These include the Choctaw Development Enterprise, Choctaw Shopping Center and the Pearl River Resort.

Harvey Pratt is a popular figure in law enforcement having plied his wares as a forensic artist responsible for thousands of composite sketches which has led to a number of arrests and identifications including that of Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer and the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

Former NASA astronaut John Bennett Herrington is also a Native American belonging to the Chickasaw Nation. He is the first Native American to go to space which he did in 2002 aboard Endeavour. For his work, Herrington was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame the same year he reached space.

Mary Kim Titla made a name in television and later in politics. A member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Titla was the first American Indian TV journalist in Arizona. He is also a publisher and a journalist and once ran for the First Congressional seat in Arizona.

Other notable American Indians are the late actor and former presidential candidate Will Rogers, ballerina Maria Tallchief, Wilma Mankiller who was the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, civil rights activist Jamie Oxendine, SPC Lori Piestewa who was the first American Indian woman in the U.S. military to die in combat, former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. and singer-songwriter Robbie Robertson whose mother was from the Mohawk Tribe.