More than 20% of the United States’ 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands and living conditions on the reservations are often described as “comparable to the Third World.” There are many factors that have contributed to the challenges that Native America faces today that serve as the basis of our study in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Many households are overcrowded and rely on social security, disability or veteran’s income. The scarcity of jobs and lack of economic opportunity on the reservations means that about six out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed. At the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota the unemployment rate is around 80%.
Parents are forced to leave the reservation to seek work, and grandparents take on the role of raising grandchildren. Additionally, alcohol addiction and suicide have been well- documented as a catastrophic problems on reservations, with family members of all generations falling victim.
Many necessities that Americans take for grated are sorely lacking on reservations. Running water, telephones, and electricity are scarce.
The shift from a traditional way of life toward a Western lifestyle has dramatically impacted the health and welfare of the Native peoples and created an epidemic of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and cancer. Most recently it has been reported that American Indians are 177% more likely to die from diabetes than white Americans and 82% are more likely to die from suicide.
Please click on the links below to view some samples of student work on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Please be advised that in keeping with the original text, there may be some strong and even politically incorrect language associated with particular characters from the novel. It is understood that the language and/or views are those of the fictional characters and are not representative of our personal views and beliefs.
“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shore, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.”
–Martin Luther King Jr.