The THINK Team
We have all heard of the old wise saying stating “life is short”, however, most of us never really take into consideration what this really means. As a 15 year old Native girl I recently learned that my life expectancy could be 4.4 years less than that of the average Caucasian American.
This is because of a variety of factors: ● Lack of education ● Poor infrastructure ● Racism ● Poor housing, ● Historical trauma ● Poverty ● Lack of Nutrition ● Poisonous Air ● Little amount of freshwater ● Climate change
Each of these subjects can lead so serious critical illnesses such as diabetes, chronic lower respiratory disease,heart disease, and cancers which can all eventually lead to death.
Lack of Education
School may not be the most fun places in my opinion but I also believe it’s the most beneficial. Without school there would be no teachers, nurses, doctors,lawyers, policemen, etc. However it has been surveyed that only 69% of Native students graduate high school because of factors such as historical trauma, health issues, and a life crisis. As for the Native people who do graduate it is extremely hard for them to be in the workforce because they don’t want to leave their tribal lands and there is little job opportunities in their tribe.
A home is supposed to be a sanctuary place where you should feel comfortable, safe, and happy. So many Natives do not have these basic necessities. Their homes are often lacking heat, running water, and indoor plumbing. Then there are the houses with older broken appliances, dust,and very little space because other family members who can’t afford housing live together.
Lack of Nutrition
A communities survey done in 2010 showed that a lot of native communities were living poverty. Because of this Native Americans may have trouble providing food and this results in starvation and obesity. This is because most tribal communities will give hand outs however these handouts may not be the healthiest food items leading up to obesity.
A Lot of native tribe also don’t understand where exactly they came from or their family culture because in the 1830s President Andrew Jackson passed the Indians Removal Act taking homes, names, clothing,etc away from the Natives resulting in them losing their culture. Because of the Indian Removal Act many present day natives are having an identity crisis causing them to be suicidal and using drugs.
32% or more of the people of native tribes live in poverty according to the American community survey.The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that native people are the largest race that is unemployed and those that do have jobs have trouble managing their money because of little pay and can not afford necessities such as water, food, etc.
Racism can have a huge effect on mental health, social and economic opportunities. Racism is so harmful because no one can say or do ANYTHING to change the color of their skin, culture, or ancestors. The definition of racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. This can be extremely hurtful to those who are feeling left out because of their race.
Little fresh water
The great creator gave us humans, plants, and animals fresh water to drink and live off of. However, many business men and women want to get rid of drinking water on tribal land in search and extraction for natural gas or oil, or other minerals.
“ This could affect and damage our environment” say many Native People who are strongly against the pollution of their waters.
Air is one of the most important resources the human body needs. However, over the past 20 years we as humans have been polluting the air causing cancers, poor immune system, respiratory diseases such as emphysema and asthma,stroke,heart disease,ear infections, and other diseases.
Eventually all of these health issues can affect your work or school effort and in the long run, people will be trapped in poverty.
Over the past few years the climate has been changing due to human activities and overuse of fossil fuels. Because of this, there seem to be more forests fries, lack of food, superstorms, flooding, earthquakes, coastal waters has been rising, and an increase in pests and vector- borne diseases. Climate change can also affect living life, causing the native tribes to eat sickly plants and animals.
In a tribal communities there are spiritual sites to remember the ancestors, ceremonial grounds, fishing grounds, and a space to grow food in order to eat, however some business people are trying to take all these sites away from the native tribes. Because of this many Native are currently depressed, hungry, and losing their culture.
The THINK team is an organisation made by diiverse professionals trying to raise awareness of these problems that you see above and the outcomes that follow. This organization was established in 2011. The THINK team’s main goal is to increase the rate of graduation and job opportunities for future children,provide more advancements in technology for tribal members, gain data equity of the Indian country, and so many other topics that they want to address over the next few years. In order for the THINK team to reach their goals they will have to make each issue publicly noticed by posting the problems on blogs and social media such as Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. The THINK team will also need to encourage tribal members and community, state, and national partners to work with the tribal governments. And finally, the THINK team would like to make series of articles stating all these problems and solutions and post it worldwide.
In conclusion, there are so many issues that many native tribes are currently facing because of the past, present and possibly the future trauma and challenges. Collaborative work such as the THINK team program wants and will make a solution for all these problems in years to come. Although my tribal community has had many successes, I believe that it would be helpful if my tribe had a THINK team. I definitely think with a local THINK team our own tribe could make even more achievements and sustain the people and their culture.
This article was written by MPTN Health Engagement Intern Angel Spears-Johnson who is researching and producing a variety of content and media to engage, educate, and empower her community members to improve their health and wellbeing. She has created this blog post by summarizing the detailed, long article that was originally published by the American Public Health Association.
Setu Vora, MD FCCP