Is Negligence Easier Than Support?

Native American communities in the United States, with a rich history dating back thousands of years, continue to face obvious neglect and inadequate attention from their own government. There has to be a problem that underlies Native American reservations that creates barriers for progress or change, right? Well, there is one that plagues the community daily and has a name: systemic neglect.

This raises a question: How harmful is systemic neglect in Native American communities? To best answer this question, let’s go back in time to the year 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first began.

A Native American health center in Seattle played a crucial role in many lives during the spread of COVID-19. They faced resource limitations, which created a struggle to meet the overwhelming demand for services. The clinic asked the U.S. government for increased funding and assets such as COVID-19 tests in order to fight against this global health crisis. According to Erik Ortiz’s article, ‘Native American Health Center Asked for COVID-19 Supplies… (published on NBC News, May 5th, 2020), “My team turned ghost white,” said Esther Lucero, chief executive officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board. “We asked for tests, and they sent us a box of body bags.”

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the U.S. government’s systemic disinterest in the health of Native Americans as well as inadequate disaster response protocols. The Seattle Indian Health Board’s request for equipment was inappropriately handled in a disgusting way, which brings to light the need for better support and resources for marginalized communities during a time of crisis.

This institutionalized disregard for the well-being of Native Americans doesn’t stop there.

Social and economic difficulties continue to affect Native American reservations. Many Native Americans living on reservations have lost access to basic services such as healthcare, education, and clean water. This portrays how Native Americans are subjected to carelessness by the federal government as they refuse to improve their living conditions. Seeing how “[t]he average life expectancy for Native Americans has improved yet still trails that of other Americans by almost 5 years” (2010, HHS Indian Health Disparities Fact Sheet). Furthermore, a website called ‘’, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency necessities and services, explains how, “due to underfunding, Indian Health Service facilities are crisis-driven and leave a wide gap in adequate and preventative health care… Pharmacies and doctor’s offices outside of hospitals are completely nonexistent in some communities.” The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, with many reservations experiencing high rates of infection and death from an undersupply of medical tools, treatment, or assistance. As a result, people are advocating for greater investment in Native American communities and more fair treatment by the government.

Many Native American children have experienced substandard education due to this persistent negligence. This allowed insufficient materials, aid, and cultural sensitivity to ensue. As reported in an Imprint News article, underfunded schools, a lack of quality teachers, and a curriculum that fails to reflect Native American history and culture all contribute to lower graduation rates and limited access to higher education. This is a systemic issue that has been going on for generations, and it is important to recognize how much of an impact it has on Native American residents. However, by providing better support and provisions, we can work to address this issue and ensure that Native American children receive the education they deserve.

The challenges faced by Native American societies demand our attention, compassion, and action. We can work towards a more just and inclusive society by advocating for equitable policies, increased funding, and targeted interventions in areas such as healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and cultural preservation. This includes designating sufficient funding for schools on reservations, honoring Native American perspectives, and prioritizing teacher training programs that focus on understanding and respecting diverse cultures. You can also donate to many organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund, the American Indian College Fund, and the National Indian Child Welfare Association. It is crucial to listen to the voices of those affected, empower community leaders, and collaborate to bring about sustainable change. Together, we can create a future where Native American communities thrive, their cultural heritage is honored, and opportunities are afforded to all.

Ariadna Cruz – DePaul College Prep – DMSF Class of 2027