Did you know that within the United States there exist sovereign nations? That’s right – they are the Native American Reservations. But just how sovereign are they? Before we delve into life on reservations, let’s cover the basics.
First, what is a reservation?
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, “A federal Indian reservation is an area of land reserved for a tribe or tribes under treaty or other agreement with the United States, executive order, or federal statute or administrative action as permanent tribal homelands, and where the federal governmtient holds title to the land in trust on behalf of the tribe” (BIA).
How many are there?
On the BIA’s website, it states that “there are approximately 326 Indian land areas in the U.S. administered as federal Indian reservations” (BIA). However, there are over there are over 560 federally recognized tribes in the United States. (Scholar Harvard). This equates to some tribes having no land of their own and others having to share.
Where are they?
In regards to the land itself, about 56 million acres have been allotted for reservations (BIA). The BIA explains that “some reservations are the remnants of a tribe’s original land base. Others were created by the federal government for the resettling of Indian people forcibly relocated from their homelands.”
This map indicates how many and the location of the federally recognized reservations within the United States.
How do tribes become federally recognized?
The BIA explains that “most of today’s federally recognized tribes received federal recognition status through treaties, acts of Congress, presidential executive orders or other federal administrative actions, or federal court decisions” (BIA).
Now, let’s consider tribal sovereignty – a continued controversial topic. Tribal sovereignty, plainly put, is the inherent right of each tribe to govern itself (Legal Dictionary). However, sovereignty is more than that - “it is the life-blood of Indian nations. . . sovereignty is a key lever that provides American Indian communities with institutions and practices that can protect and promote their citizens’ interests and wellbeing” (Scholar Harvard).
That being said, the current policy of the United States, and has been so for forty years – "to recognize tribes’ sovereignty and to ensure its continued existence” (Scholar Harvard). However, “When it has wanted to, the United States has conscripted citizens of tribes into its armies, terminated the legal status of tribes and their property holdings, provided for law and order in communities of Native individuals, protected tribes from the exercise of sovereignty over tribal citizens by other sovereigns within its borders (i.e., states and municipalities), authorized the exercise of sovereignty over tribal citizens by other sovereigns within its borders (i.e., states and municipalities); unilaterally determined the applicability of its tax levies on individual Indians and tribes” (Scholar Harvard). So though reservations may be called sovereign, it is still up to the U.S. government to decide whether or not a tribe is federally recognized, thereby determining a tribe’s right to sovereignty.
And even if a tribe is federally recognized, then what?
Many reservations have been “compared to the developing world” (World Atlas). Common health problems found amongst reservations include: “malnutrition, diabetes, high infant mortality, and alcoholism” (World Atlas). All of which are “driven by the rampant poverty and lack of economic opportunities available on tribal lands” (World Atlas). This is not a trivial matter - 22% of the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands and 28.2% are living below the federal poverty line (Native Partnership). Depending on the reservation, job scarcity leads to “four to eight of ten adults on reservations being unemployed”(Native Partnership). This leads to many adults seeking jobs off of the reservation, leaving the grandparents to raise the children (Native Partnership). There is also a housing crisis and consequent, homelessness due to lack of not just homes, but inadequate ones according to the US Commission on Civil Rights (Native Partnership).
So, where does this leave Native Americans today?
The answer varies, depending on the reservation, the tribe, and the individual. However, it must be highlighted that while some tribes hold sovereignty, not all do. And for those that do hold federally recognized sovereignty, there still exist societal walls that confine their livelihood.
*Disclaimer: The author is currently working at a charter school in the south Bronx of New York City. Although she attended a well-funded public school and strongly believes in public education, she believes that charter schools offer a positive alternative for parents in low-income neighborhoods who are seeking opportunities and a better future for their children. This piece is not intended to argue which educational system is better,rather it is intended to spark conversation regarding the necessity that education be of equal quality from neighborhood to neighborhood, state to state, and child to child.
Across the United States, if you are born in a zip code that has undergone extreme redlining, has access to poor public transportation, and is comprised of primarily minorities, it is likely your access to a great education, is also limited.
Public schools, funded directly by the tax dollars of the neighborhoods’ residents, are better in more affluent communities. The discrepancy in tax based funds favors the status of education in wealthy areas —by pulling in better educated teachers, providing better access to resources, and creating a network of support that is always there for students. All of this fuels student development, and ultimately, the scores students reach on state tests.
There is a lot of controversy around state tests. State tests are very structured and are created on the state level in order to collect big data. The controversy is primarily derived from the fact that state-tests are aligned with state-funding. Poorly funded schools are at-risk to lose federal and state funding based on their scores because they lack the resources to adequately prepare students. Despite appearing as an effective evaluation of schools, state tests may counter intuitively punish the schools that need the most support. When students do not have equal access to the same information or resources to achieve success, and school funding is based on their performance, a cycle develops that keeps underfunded schools from improving their performance.
State tests are aligned with common core initiatives; meaning students must be able to achieve a set of standards by each milestone. However, these standards can only be met if test taking strategies are being taught and the schools have access to textbooks that are released and published by the state. According to Atlantic journalist Meredith Broussard in her article, “Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing,” poor schools cannot afford to buy these textbooks, many of which contain the answers that will likely be on state tests The test-makers and the textbook producers are concentrated in three companies: CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson. Consequently, if one has access to these up-to-date textbooks and curriculum aligned to their test-taking strategies, the student will have overall higher scores on state-testing. However if a student does not have access to these textbooks and their curriculum, he or she will be at a significant disadvantage to meet common core standards. This inaccessibility is a compounding factor amongst the walls that poor neighborhoods and schools are already up against.
Across many parts of the United States, charter schools have been the answer to these problems. For instance, in New York City, charter schools are popping up every single year in some of the city’s most underserved and underrepresented areas. Charter schools are funded similarly to public schools. Their funding is based on the amount of pupils enrolled and their average daily attendance (ADA). However, the schools must abide by set guidelines generated and approved by a board of directors and the state charter laws. Charter schools can be funded and supported by outside sources if they adhere to the guidelines. Further, charter schools also have more flexibility when it comes to creating a culture within their school since it is based on a lottery system and annual data standards.
In New York, charter schools have led to extensive rates of student success and also have helped close racial performance gaps. The test scores prove this. Students who attended charter schools in both Harlem and the Bronx, historically neighborhoods with large populations of minorities, do better than their public school counterparts. For instance, students at charter schools passed state-tests at rates 60% or higher than public schools. Not only that, but the students also passed with higher rates than white, affluent, communities within New York City.
The generic comments disputing these statistics include charter schools cherry-picking gifted students that will drive positive statistics, where public institutions are unable to weed students out. In public schools, there is opportunity to decline a student access to education, and therefore public schools are representative of a wider range of data points. In many cases, students, who cannot conform to the structured charter school setting, end up leaving or being pushed through the system to leave. The Washington Post debunked many myths about charter schools in this article, “Separating Fact from Fiction in 21 claims about Charter Schools,” and found that contrary to popular belief, charter schools are funded at lower levels than public schools. Furthermore, this article noted that although they are based on a lottery system that accepts students based on parents who enter the lottery, the reason for high success rates is largely aligned with the rigor and school environment. Students must to meet certain reading levels and complete various math standards at the end of each year. If they fail, they will be retained. The driving reason for drop out rates amongst charter schools is based on grade repetition. This results in students re-entering public schools.
Education is the way out of poverty and it is also the door to opportunity.While, the long-term solution is to recreate the whole education system, that is easier said than done. Charter schools offer a solution to an unequal education system that doesn’t perpetuate invisible walls and combats Institutionalized racism.In many ways it is the answer right now for a broken system. With educational goals based and invested in people rather than standardized tests charter schools show that when it comes to education the zip code should not matter, the people should.
Books on Education in the United states
When Puerto Rico comes to mind, most people will now certainly associate the small island with Hurricane Maria. News organizations have been covering Puerto Rico as the most obvious illustration of where FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds are failing to make any impact. The majority of the island is without power and continues to lack access to clean water. But another longer term crisis has loomed over the island since 1967, namely: What is the status of Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico neither has the right to a vote in Congress, nor to vote in presidential elections. The island is technically a U.S. colony, with more than 3 million citizens that often are unsure of where their status lies. While any Puerto Rican can simply move to the U.S. mainland and be guaranteed the full rights of a U.S/ citizen, any who choose to stay on the island have fewer rights than their counterparts. We spoke to a Puerto Rican who prefers to remain anonymous. She had this to say:
“I know a lot of people who want Puerto Rico to be independent because they want to conserve the Puerto Rican identity but in crises like the most recent hurricane, it seems like statehood would have its benefits. I think there would have been more immediate and efficient help for the island if it had been a state. In my opinion, our current president does not seem to be giving much thought or care much about Puerto Rico. At least 80% of the island remains without power. If Puerto Rico had been a state, it probably would have received helped quicker and with less hesitation.”
Since 1967, five separate referendums have been held on the issue of US statehood. The most recent one was held in June 2017, where over 97 percent voted in favor of statehood. However, the turnout for that vote was 23 percent and this was due to a boycott by one major party. Despite this odd voting status quo, Puerto Rican citizens don’t actually have a say on whether or not they become a state. Like our Puerto Rican source says, “but if it doesn’t have any consequences or move things along, then why have it in the first place?” Unfortunately both the House of Representatives and the Senate would have to approve statehood legislation. The last time this happened was in 1959 with the states, Alaska and Hawaii.
Puerto Rico was originally taken over by the United States in the Spanish American War of 1898, and its residents were given citizenship in 1917. This year marks the 100th year of that legislation. However, while Puerto Ricans may pay taxes, the island still has no electoral votes, no representative votes and no actual physical representation in the U.S. federal government. Puerto Rico is also facing a debt crisis that affects its health care and economic welfare. In total, Puerto Rico has around $70 billion in debt. The U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation that may set a precedent for the federal government to impose a federal control board of directors on Puerto Rico to address the debt. What does that mean? It means that the U.S. wishes to take more control over Puerto Rico without giving it the benefits of a state. More practically, this crisis means that many Puerto Ricans choose to immigrate to the mainland for better education, jobs and more opportunities to set up businesses. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, Puerto Rico has faced a net loss of around 446,000 people. One of those is the Puerto Rican who we are speaking with. She moved to Massachusetts to find “better education, find a new perspective, a change of scenery and be a bit more independent.”
Luckily if Puerto Ricans choose to immigrate, anyone born in Puerto Rico after 1940 has acquired U.S. citizenship. This is a direct result of being born on Puerto Rican soil as mentioned in the the Nationality Act of 1940. However, the Puerto Rican territory remains unincorporated to the United States as a whole. What is Puerto Rico then? Separate and Unequal. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that all states must guarantee the same rights, privileges, and protections to all citizens. As long as Puerto Rico remains in its colony-like limbo status, its citizens cannot lay claim to that privilege of a constitutional citizenship status. That means that there are those who live as U.S. citizens without full citizenship rights,such as the right to vote and the right to representation.
The issue of statehood ultimately has to do with identity. Do you identify more as Puerto Rican or American? It’s an intensely personal issue. When asked, our Puerto Rican source simply ended by asking us a question in return, “What difference does it make? Aren’t you American if you’re Puerto Rican?”
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Over the last few months, there has been a marked increase in aggressive rhetoric between the United States and North Korean governments. It suffices to say, that the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has gained new prominence in the news. The DMZ is one of the longest existing walls that continues to divide the Korean Peninsula. It represents the lack of consensus and compromise as well as the remnants of the Cold War’s mentality.
What is the DMZ?
The DMZ is the border between the autocratic Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It was established in 1953 by the Korean Armistice Agreement and marks where each country’s territory ends. In fact, the Korean War is not over, officially. The war continues to divide the two countries, and the armistice is simply an agreement to a stalemate. The DMZ measures around 250 kilometers (160 miles) long and is about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide.
Where did it come from?
The Korean War started on June 25, 1950 and lasted until the Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953. Even though the war lasted for around three years, it claimed the lives of over three million people. This war is one of the many conflicts that existed as a proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States. The DMZ now, is more than a simple wall. It is a distinct break between two different schools of thought - the first focusing around the idea that that governments should work for people and that democracy is the best way to ensure rule of law. The second ideology consists of the idea that governments can act autocratically and for their own interests and it acts in favour of communism.
Given that many countries today have chosen democratic systems of government over regime rule, how does North Korea continue to exist? The DMZ is physically a source of tension between the two Korean states, but legal and sanctions-based walls also continue to isolate North Korea from the rest of the world. The answer? Allies. Both the Chinese and Russian governments aid North Korea by assisting in their nuclear aspirations.China even repatriates North Korean refugees who have escaped through their shared border. With the North Korean government, China faces a dilemma. On one hand, China has more to gain with a North Korean regime that is dependent on China and their shared border - especially given the fact that there aren’t American-supported South Korean troops on their border. On the other hand, a nuclear-powered North Korea can immediately blackmail China into potentially anti-China actions..
The wall between North and South Korea consists of more than differing government approaches, and idealistic thought. Contact between the two countries has been non-existent, and sporadic at best. Family reunions happen rarely, and North Koreans do not have access to the Internet nor any other country. Mines and military troops man the DMZ, and so this wall continues to propagate the stalemate between these two countries.
Where are we going?
The future prospects for tearing down this wall, as Reagan called for in Berlin in 1987, are not the most promising. To be frank, they’re quite bleak. Tensions between the Korean nations is as high as it has ever been. Continued progress towards ICBM nuclear missiles means that every nation is on edge, particularly South Korea. The shared history of the two Koreas mean that for more than two generations, children and adults alike, have been taught to hate the other. How can you possibly bring together two nations that share and breed hatred of each other? However, s stalemates can only last for so long. Sixty-three years later, it seems like it still holds - but for how much longer?
Check out some photos that the Atlantic reporters have of the DMZ and read facts about the Korean wall with Business Insider.
For months, the election of Donald Trump was thought of as a joke. In the primaries it was mere entertainment, by summer he had proved his point and showcased that that nothing would stand in his way, and even all of last fall hurdle after hurdle Donald Trump trudged through. The results spoke for themselves. The United States, as a nation was divided, and the Republican party was being represented by someone far outside of their own party lines, but it did count for something. People’s voices were heard — those who agreed with Trump’s rhetoric and were brought to the surface, but also those who answered had their voices heard. What Trump campaigned on and what he now stands on is a voice that is present but it has only been further legitimized under his presidency. Although the United States has been very forward thinking and in many ways has brought many people together, undertones of racism, sexism and xenophobia still exist. However, once Trump took office, these notions were legitimized. It became okay to discriminate openly and the wave of modern day civil rights was back. Supreme Court cases that have been passed decades ago were brazenly defied, consequently stripping people of rights they once had.But, every time people were stripped of their rights or their value as human was questioned by the administration as well as Trump supporters, there was a response - and a loud one at that.
Although the current president stands on a controversial ground, the question must be asked: Is a Trump presidency what people needed in order to start standing up for what they value most - namely, human rights, environmental rights, etc.? If Hillary was elected president would people so passionately to unite, to defend each other and to take political action? Or, would complacency with the current situation continue? Could a Trump presidency be the drastic driving factor that people needed to take action, to participate in walks and demonstrations, to use social media to advocate for the rights of others, and to make the calls to senators and congressmen, and to have hard conversations with people of opposing views? It might not be pretty, but maybe the marches and the coming together for many communities is the change we need to alter the future of the United States where people embrace diversity, and promote peace.
This article breaks down what Trump has accomplished in a year, how the world responded, and how more people than ever are becoming the call to action for their generation.
It has been a year since the world knew that Trump would rise to being a world leader. Since his time in office, Trump has rolled back environmental protection, increased border control, legitimized hatred and bigotry, and has divided people instead of united them. However, people are responding. They are not sitting idly - rather they are acting, they are marching, they are protesting and they will continue to do so until their voices are heard, are recognized and are met with action.
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