Broken promises to American Indians by the U.S. Government are the subject of retired U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan’s op-ed in the New York Times two weeks ago. While not a new topic of discussion, the context of austerity (aka sequestration) lends it a new focus. Within the general paradigm of wealth transfer through bank bailouts, social and health services cuts, broken promises to American Indians in locations like Pine Ridge, says Dorgan, mean broken communities. As sequestration shreds the social safety net, broken families translates most horrifyingly into broken women and girls, who, in turn, fall prey to human traffickers for the sex industry.
In Garden of Truth, the impact of these broken promises on Native Women in Minnesota documented how the impoverishment, neglect of medical needs and lack of basic services contributed to extreme emotional distress and vulnerability to sexual exploitation. As Dorgan observes in his op-ed, this impoverishment also translates into American Indian youth suicide rates four to ten times the national average. Meanwhile, under sequestration, Indian Health programs — including mental health services — are being cut.
As Dorgan asks, “How can we justify such a thoughtless policy?”
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