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Thursday, January 15, 2009

When the great, white father is black

Timothy Egan in The New York Times explains why the inauguration of Barack Obama raises hopes on the Indian reservations and among tlhe native people generally.

He writes of the hopeless despair that seems to have a chance of being dispelled by Obama's message of hope:

The epic struggle for natives has been to avoid getting washed away by the flood of dominant culture, where Indians make up less than 2 percent of more than 300 million Americans.

That, and the physical toll that losing this big land has taken on them. Indians die younger than most other Americans, suffer from higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, debilitating dietary problems.
Obama has paid attention and acknowledged the Native Americans' subjugated status in America. While American Indians are skeptical and cynical of any politician, they are hoping that Obama can deliver on his promise of change:

But beyond the desire for urgent, fundamental infrastructure help, Indians look to Obama as a powerful narrative. People who were subjugated, with near-genocidal brutality, feel a kinship with people who were first brought here in chains, even though Obama is an immigrant’s son.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States