Skip to main content

Problems Facing Native American Indians in the Modern World

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

The Troubles of the Native American Today

The Native American Indian population of the United States faces serious cultural and social dilemmas that threaten their society. Among these issues are the problems of poverty, alienation and a high rate of alcoholism. There is also the threat of a loss of their cultural identity due to interracial marriages and the large number of young Native Americans who are leaving the territories of the Indian Nations and becoming fully integrated into American culture, leaving the old ways of their cultural history behind.

The Native Americans once ruled the continent until the arrival of settlers who conquered the old American Indian tribes in wars that came close to genocide for the Indians. The victorious American government put aside some land for the remaining Indians to live on, which have become known as reservations. There was an unwillingness to share the same land with the defeated race. These reservations have been the home of most, but not all of the remaining American Indian population. This mass segregation turned the once dominant American Indians into an oppressed minority. There are 24 million Native Americans remaining, which is a very small amount considering the population of the country. The new culture of reservation life that the Indian nations were forced to accept has spawned the new social problems which plague them today.

The isolation of the life on the reservations created serious problems for the American Indians. It limited all the way they used to survive and make economic profit. Farming, hunting and trading were all affected by their new limitations. Their inability to thrive as they had once done led to mass poverty across all the Indian Nations. The US Census says that the poverty rate among the Indian Nations is 25%. For the ones who do have jobs, their average salary tends to be less than is average. The median salary for a Native American is $34,000 per year. Only 30 percent have health insurance. Non-reservation Indians have only a slightly higher standard of living. Despite efforts of the tribes to become more economically independent in recent years, the race that once ruled the continent is now poor and hungry.

The desperation caused by poverty has induced recent generations of young Native American Indians to leave reservation life behind them and travel to other places where they can make a better living and provide for their families. This is causing a slow erosion of those still devoted to the old customs. The languages, traditions and practices that have been the heart of Native American culture for 1,000 years are being replaced more and more every generation that goes by. The old customs are being replaced by American culture, Christianity, the English language and a national educational system that doesn’t know anything about traditional tribal ways. For centuries, American Indian culture was not viewed as a valid culture to teach in schools and it is only recently that Native American studies have entered in academic curriculums.

The old oral tradition of passing down knowledge and tradition from parent to child is becoming a thing of the past. The older Native Americans fear that if the younger generations continue to refuse studying the ways of their ancestors, the history of Indian culture will be lost forever. Similarly, children of mixed cultures who live outside the reservations are often raised in the non-Indian culture and never learn about their other heritage.

The rate of alcoholism among the Native Americans is much higher than the national average. One in every ten American Indian deaths is alcohol related. The rate of alcohol consumption is higher than any other minority ethnic group in this country. Since the Native Americans have long been an oppressed society, the likelihood of alcoholism increases because people who experience depression, unemployment and poverty and statistically more apt to drink to access than others are. The most frequent alcohol related deaths are from car accidents and suicide. Native American women in general drink more than men, which may explain why Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder rates among the Native Americans are the highest in the country.

Every two hours, someone in the United States commits suicide, making it the third highest leading cause of death in the country. Native American Indian males have a rate of suicide which is almost twice that of any other racial group. In fact, the rates may be even higher than reported, since the social stigma of suicide might embarrass a family, its speculated that many suicides are reported as accidental deaths. Further, for each successful suicide, there are approximately 20 aborted or failed attempts.

While there are various factors that influence the possibility of suicide in every ethnic group, there are some which are unique to the Indian nations. The stress and mental trauma of the disintegration of their traditional culture, as well as racial conflicts and alienation. The social alienation, identity confusion and self-hate that so many Native Americans feel are strong reasons for their high alcohol and suicide rates.

Scroll to Continue


Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 30, 2018:

Another obstacle to "being a Native American" today is our modern DNA tests that don't pick up NA DNA past two generations. In the past if a person had a black ancestor going back to 1600s, that person's line was classified as black forever. Yet if a person had a Native American great grandparent and that ggrandparent didn't get on an official roll, he or she could not claim NA ancestry. Those of us who had ancestors hide out and pass for white and opted not to get on rolls were SOL. Many of us had hoped that DNA tests would confirm our ancestry only to be disappointed.

23andMe says it can detect genes only within two generations, parents and grandparents, and can't go back any farther. My great grandmother was Choctaw, and my great grandparents left their home state of Tennessee after their marriage, we suspect, to protect his "white" wife. I'm hoping that DNA tests will get better and some of us can prove our ancestry is not a lie.

edward on February 26, 2017:

very nice article, keep it up... but author, in your view, what do you suggests the native american should do relaim their status

nana on October 22, 2014:

I understand that. They did not want to deal with the missionary people,because if they were to take the bread that was offered to them, they will have to convert. I agree they want to keep their culture alive it is sad ,word of mouth so they can help keep on writing about it

DaisysJourney from Midwest, USA on August 07, 2014:

I found the same facts in my research. Also to add to this, education-wise: reservation schools have the highest teacher turnover rate, they get the "cast off" materials (books, technology) from other schools, and a very high drop out rate. Inspirational teachers don't sign on to teach at reservation schools.

In my studies, I have concluded that getting off the reservation may be the best choice for overcoming many obstacles, but I also want to preserve the culture of Native Americans and have communities stay communities. But, I think the reservation has become a place of desolation and is even colored by the past too much, just like some historical sites are haunted by past terrors (in a non-ghosty ghoulie kind of way.)

I am a member of the Choctaw tribe, but we don't have a reservation. The Choctaw tribe had some of the first doctors and lawyers and a Harvard? graduate in the early Ivy League days. I asked my dad why we didn't have a reservation and he said the Choctaws assimilated quicker and were less nomadic, they owned land, farmed, "got" religion, and adapted to the "white" culture.

Somewhere there needs to be a balance of cultures. I wish I had the answers and power to fix things!

Thank you for writing an interesting article. I wish more people understood the plight of the modern Native American.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on April 17, 2013:

Hi Sarra;

I'd love to go to one of those authentic pow-pows on a real Apache tribal reservation.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sarra Garrett on April 17, 2013:

voted up and awesome. Living in Arizona I went to many Pow Wows and enjoyed learning about the American Indian Culture which is just wonderful. To hear them speak their native language and see their beautiful handmade jewelry and costumes. Of course their music is bar none. At my favorite camping spot outside of Lake Mary in Arizona, is owned by the Apache Nation. At night when the campfires would be lit, there was always an elder singing and drumming. It was so wonderful to hear and to imagine what it must have been like in the very beginning. Thank you for being a voice of the Native Americans. Yattahey

Sarra Garrett on April 17, 2013:

voted up and awesome. Living in Arizona I went to many Pow Wows and enjoyed learning about the American Indian Culture which is just wonderful. To hear them speak their native language and see their beautiful handmade jewelry and costumes. Of course their music is bar none. At my favorite camping spot outside of Lake Mary in Arizona, is owned by the Apache Nation. At night when the campfires would be lit, there was always an elder singing and drumming. It was so wonderful to hear and to imagine what it must have been like in the very beginning. Thank you for being a voice of the Native Americans. Yattahey

KarolínaTrtílková on January 19, 2013:


I find your article very interesting because I am writing my bachelor thesis about contemporary problems facing Native Americans. But your article does not include any list of sources used, so I can not use it for my work. Please, could you give me some links to certified websites where I would find statistics and reliable information similar to these in your article?? I would be very very thankful.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on December 12, 2012:

It's true, Greek. They were never a discriminatory culture. It's a great shame that they were conquered and now face so many problems.


Greek on December 12, 2012:

I've always had a great respect and admiration for native Americans since for them women were equal members of the society (and you find this only in Celtic and ancient Greek Cretan culture) and a great respect for nature. I'm so sorry that they still face so many problems.

Tyesha Sewer- Matthews from MOSS POINT, MS on October 16, 2012:

You have always been accepted by my family. Did you know in Alabama there is and Native American tribe fighting for National recognition. they reside in Creole,AL. They are saying that because they mixed with other races it would be hard to establish them. I say either way, they are the last of many. My aunt is 1/3 Cherokee, My step- Grandmother is Creek. I myself because of my lineage would be classified as Afro-Latina or the derogatory " Zambo".

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 15, 2012:

That's so sad to hear, Tyesha. It's a great tragedy.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tyesha Sewer- Matthews from MOSS POINT, MS on October 15, 2012:

I hate how these people are being robbed of a beautiful culture. I am the on of the last Sewer- Sowahs of the Virgin Islands and Ghana and so much of my roots I have never got to experience.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 14, 2012:

Kristy; It is a sad state of affairs;

Thanks for the comments,


Kristy on October 14, 2012:

Low pay, no health insurance... I think the government is trying to push the natives to abandon their culture in order to be accepted among the general population. It's no wonder why the natives in America moved to Canada, but it's sad that they have to face the same problems there.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on September 27, 2012:

You're right, Linda. Something definitely needs to be done. There should be more national debate on this matter.

Thanks for reading,


linda on September 27, 2012:

something needs to done. someone need to speak loud and clear about the past and what is still going on to the people who where here first. how can the young people not be upset about there past! so much was taking, terrible things were done to a people who trusted for the most part. its very sad even for me to think about, so i can understand how some can turn to something that's not good for you to ease the pain. but you must be strong and fight with a clear mind and teach you children the same thing. there is still a lot of hate out there. it is so very same if i could make all the wrong right i would. tell me what one person can do.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on July 30, 2012:

Carmen, Thank you for your detailed and interesting response. And you're right, that education can be powerful.

Thanks for stopping by,


... ....

Irc7815; Hi.

It's something that needs to be talked about.

Thanks for reading,


Linda Crist from Central Virginia on July 30, 2012:

Great hub! So glad to see the issues of poverty, suicide, isolation, and substance abuse in Indian Country being talked about here.

Carmen4826 on July 23, 2012:

Hi Rob,

I just stumbled across your article, while my daughter and I were doing research on different

Native American cultures for a book we'd like to write. Your article made me cry....because my family's background is swimming with Indian culture from several tribes. I myself have Choctaw, whereas my husband has Iroquois. I have been trying earnstly to educate our children on our other background besides African American. Your article brought to light so much we were not even aware of. Most do know that Native Americans have been struggling....but not to the extint. I would love to come in contact with others from these and other tribes in order to help keep their cultures alive in my children's hearts as well as those of our future generations. It's not always the mighty dollar that helps to fix problems, but educating can be even more powerful. Thank you once again for all your research in this matter. I am very interested in learning more if you or anyone else has more to contribute to their cause.


Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 25, 2011:

That's true, Xenonlit; There isn't much attantion to it. Which is a shame.

Thanks for reading,


Xenonlit on October 25, 2011:

Thanks for a thoughtful and well written article that helps us all to understand the problems facing Native Americans. There is not a lot of media attention to these issues.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 23, 2011:

Hi H.H.; I agree with you. People need to learn to listen instead of destroying. The Native American culture still has a lot to offer.

Thanks for reading,


Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 23, 2011:

Oh it is genocite all right but over the years and nobody wants to see or acknowledge it. The white man could learn so much from them if they weren't so arrogant. What a wealth to destroy. They are such great people with great wisdom and have so much understanding about nature.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 21, 2011:

Thank you for your very well thought-out response, PS. I agree with you that it's a few hundred years late in thinking about how to save the Native American culture. I hope it can still be done but I have my doubts about that.

I don't know if it's a case of the Native Americans not wanting help but rather its a case of them not wanting to be torn further from their roots in order to revieve that help. Most of the time, help comes with certain conditions, which they are often too proud to bow to.

It's sad to see what the once-time rulers of the continent are reduced to.

Thanks again for a terrific response,


ps acainaich on October 21, 2011:

Great article robwrite. I’ve always said that the Native American is the one that received the short end of the stick when white people came and took over their country, I just didn’t realize the full ramifications until I read your statistics. Over the last few hundred years, however, they are one of the few races that have been able to hold on to their culture. Take for instance the mixing of the European people that migrated to the United States. There are no pure bloods, if they were even pure bloods to start with. (i.e) the prince of this country would be married to the princess of that country to form an allegiance, thus mixing one with the other. But even after the commoner migrated to the United States ones family history, cultural, fork lore, beliefs and religious affiliations would be verbally past down from generation to generation. None of this is true any more. America has been, loving, referred to as the mutt of the white culture because of the mixing and as for family history, culture, fork lore, beliefs and religious affiliation, it is all lost. How do we save the Native Americans is a question that comes hundreds of years to late, but still one that can be answered. However, executing the resolve to the problem would be the challenge. In today’s society I feel we would have a better chance of saving an endangered animal. A better question would be ‘Do they actually want help?’ when I was a girl there was a mission group that would travel to one of the reservation every summer. I had learned as I got older that many of the elders were very resistant to the missionary’s being there. But on the flip side of that, maybe they were just resistance to them trying to convert them to Christians…

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 20, 2011:

Hi September; Thanks for the interesting anecdote. I've never seen a shaman in action. I bet it was a memorable experience. I'm sure the animals appreciated it.

I appreciate your stopping by my hub,


september girl on October 20, 2011:

Very interesting hub! Enlightening and useful. My grandfather loved the Indian culture. When my Momma was a girl living on the farm, they use to have an Indian witch doctor come out to heal their ailments with sauve and roots from the woods. My Momma claimed it healed them much faster than any of our known treatments today. : ) Sad about their culture falling by the wayside.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 18, 2011:

Hi cogerson. If you think about how hard it is these days for the average American citizen to make a good living, imagine what the Native Americans are going through, with these disadvantages.

Thanks, as always, for the comments.


UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on October 18, 2011:

Thanks for putting some light on some very disturbing statistics. I think most of America...thinks casinos have solved all the Native American Indians problems. But your stats show that not to be the case. Suicide rates, alcoholism, no health insurance and low pay how hard it is for Native Americans to survive in the good old US. Voted up and useful.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 17, 2011:

Hi Paradise. I'm glad you found it interesting but I wish there was no need for me to have written it. It's a sad state of affairs.

Thanks for stopping by,


Paradise7 from Upstate New York on October 17, 2011:

This was very interesting and very, very sad, especially the pregnant woman alchoholic statistics and the male suicides.

It does seem that the once vibrant and pure Native American culture is dying amongst us.

Thanks for an enlightening hub.

Rob (author) from Oviedo, FL on October 17, 2011:

Hi Flora; It's such a sad statistic. It's depressing to hear that things are just as bad for them in Canada as they are here.


FloraBreenRobison on October 17, 2011:

A lot of these rates are similar in Canada too, although there is some discrepancy here between the First Nations they call themselves here in this country. For example, the Sto:lo have a higher living standard here in the Fraser Valley than some of the other tribes. But no matter what tribe you mean, young Native men are the highest suicide rate here too.

Related Articles