Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Lately, I'd find myself being immersed with American Indians. Ah, I'll give credit where credit is due: it was after reading "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver. The more I discover about their culture, lifestyle, history, beliefs, stories... the more the Indians fascinate me. American Indians are the indigenous peoples of our own country, they were here long before us, and loves the American soil better than anyone in history.

Robert Kennedy becoming a honorary member of Sioux tribe.
Bobby called the group he saw as most tragic of all, "First Americans." Much to my dismay, after reading some statistics, .... data proved to be alarming. Get this: facts were based on research that was conducted on the government's behalf. What do they do after seeing facts they chalked up?

What facts you may ask:
  • Native Americans are victims of rape or sexual assault at more than double the rate of other racial groups.
  • According to The National Violence Against Women Survey, 37.5 percent of Native American women are victimized by intimate partner violence in a lifetime, defined by rape, physical assault, or stalking.
  • The stalking rate is so high against Native American and Alaska-native women that 17 percent will be stalked during their lifetimes.
  • A recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice entitled “American Indians and Crime” found that American Indians are the victims of violent crimes at more than twice the rate of all U.S. residents.
  • Cultural norms and practices may force additional constraints on an abused Native American woman, including consequences of being sanctioned within tribal or clan groups. Native American spirituality and the belief of the “interconnectedness of all things” may also be used coercible to keep a woman in an abusive relationship.
  • Historical and societal oppression contribute to many Native Americans’ deep mistrust for white agencies and service providers. This, in turn, often hinders meeting the needs of women from this community.
The sources surfaced from the United States Department of Justice, A Bureau of Justice Statistics Statistical Profile, (with 2006 being the most recent). I can show the list of specific sources if you'd like.

Keep in mind the facts do not define First Americans as a whole. What we are seeing here is the tip of an iceberg. We can't brew assumptions. Below the iceberg, native Americans hold qualities that make them humans. There are successful, hard-working, and influential indigenous people. Native American leaders exist not only today but throughout history, as well (Ben Campbell, Will Rogers, Betty Mae Jumper, Dennis Banks, comedians, politicians, actors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, and the list goes on...). Which is why we must go beyond those facts, beyond the assumptions, and acknowledge them. I want the deaf children to be aware of their own people, to be able to have role models.

As Indians, they once were the "enemy of the government" and then later on became the ward of the government... only to be ignored. So what does that leave those who are deaf? Ward of the Indians as deaf individuals? What about the children?

Truthfully, I have no idea. I wanted to know.

I took the opportunity to do some research on deaf American Indian children, only to be disappointed seeing there weren't much, if not any. I came across plenty of information on other ethnic groups, not the one I was looking for. Where are the deaf children of our indigenous people? This renders me speechless. Perhaps they have mainstreamed almost completely into the modern society, going incognito. Still, I believe there are children with hearing loss living on reservations, and for whom it might not be too late? Are the children receiving proper services? Are they thriving in their environment? Are they aware of their rights? Are the reservations accessible for them?

I got some great answers from reading several great websites. Yes, I am doing my homework; collecting information via books, doing this research paper for class, Google, and going to National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. again... No, not enough for me.

I want you to tell me. I have this desire to do a personal odyssey; traveling across our country, visiting reservations and meeting the deaf children face to face. To hear the stories they have to share. I'm aware of how the families might react. Resentment. Anger. Rejecting me. I understand why. I'm not going to try convincing anyone to think, feel, and/or do otherwise. I know how ignorant I am. This is an overwhelming tragedy that is not my own, but of others; misfortunes I can fight to solve but might never share. Same time, I believe I'd witness small displays of joys in their everyday life. I'd find natural drops of wide-eyed and barefooted innocence, bravery, and curiosity only children bear. That's enough for me. I won't try changing a thing ... I'm not visiting as a social worker, no political justification. Just me, an American born, simply put, visiting the people who were here before us.

I respect them. Deaf or not. I want them to know they have the every right to love their cultural, historical, and linguistic tribal traditions just as much.