Review Of The Suffer Of Native American Reservations

The novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian focuses on a fourteen-year old boy named Arnold Spirit, who lives in the Spokane Indian Reservation of Washington. He, his family, and his community in the reservation suffer from living a life abundant of poor living conditions and flat wealth. Because of this, Arnold is encouraged to stop dwelling in his poverty-stricken home and start attending the rich “white” school of Reardan High School. Arnold is not the only one who goes through this, as this situation often occurs in real life with several Native Americans citizens in the United States. Just as it goes in the novel, Native Americans in real life are affected by the conditions of reservations throughout the United States.

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Arnold Spirit’s dog Oscar is about to be put down due to various health issues and being unable to be helped out. Because of this, Arnold becomes distressed and gets on the urge of furiously blaming his parents for what was about to happen. Arnold then rethinks to himself and realizes that not only are his parents important to him, but that they have gone through a life just as poor as his. He follows along with this thought and says, “And it's not like my mother and father were born into wealth. It's not like they gambled away their family fortunes. My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people” (Alexie, pg, 10). These very first people that Arnold refers to would be the Indian Americans and Native Americans that lived during the nineteenth century. In the online article titled Life on the Reservation, this topic is further mentioned, where it states, “In 1900, land held by Native American tribes was half that of 1880. Land holdings continued to dwindle in the early 20th century. When the Dawes Act was repealed in 1934, alcoholism, poverty, illiteracy, and suicide rates were higher for Native Americans than any other ethnic group in the United States” (“Life on the Reservation”, U.S Online History Textbook, When considering Arnold’s statement and the history of Native Americans, they were forced into Americanization, as well as reservations with poor quality living due to the Dawes Act during the nineteenth century. Although this act was eventually repealed, this still left them in even more shambles for several years to come, including modern day times, which is the time setting of the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Just as Arnold had thought to himself, Native Americans and Indian Americans had been forced into a poor life that had ever since dragged them to the ground for many generations to come.

Because several Native Americans suffer under poverty, they attempt to reach out and get a job, which tends to be difficult for most of them. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, it was said by Arnold Spirit that his parents had dreams for their future, only for them to be ignored. He directly follows with a statement, stating, “But we reservation Indians don't get to realize our dreams. We don't get those chances. Or choices. We're just poor. That's all we are” (Alexie, pg. 11). Arnold’s parents are not alone in this case, as in reality, there is a large quantity of Native Americans and Indian Americans all around the United States that end up with no jobs. Based on the Southwest Reservation Aid online article titled Living Conditions, it’s mentioned that, “The scarcity of jobs and lack of economic opportunity mean that, depending on the reservation, four to eight out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed” (“Living Conditions”, Southwest Reservation Aid). Because it’s half likely that Native and Indian Americans are able to get a job, it puts a large portion of the population ineligible of getting a job to earn money, which not only causes several of their dreams to end up being put down, but further pushes them into poverty, which is same situation with Arnold’s parents in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. To summarize, even if Native Americans attempt to get out of poverty and earn some money to gain wealth, it’s half likely that they would fail and remain stuck living in their slum reservation.

Since many Indian Americans and Native Americans are dragged into their poor reservations and have an unlikely chance of being eligible for a job that can earn them money, it encourages them into getting involved with unhealthy habits, including alcoholism and violence. Richard L. Zephier, the executive director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe was interviewed in the The New York Times article with the title Pain on the Reservation, where he was asked about the strugglesome life on the reservation. During this discussion, he mentions, “More people sick; fewer people educated; fewer people getting general assistance; more domestic violence; more alcoholism” (“Pain on the Reservation”, The New York Times, Annie Lowrey, July 12, 2013). When taking this topic in the hands of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Arnold Spirit’s family members and father’s best friend pass away due to an involvement in alcoholism. His grandmother passes away after getting struck by a drunk driver, his father’s best friend named Eugene becomes drunk and gets shot in the head by his drunk friend, and his sister Mary is burned to death after passing out drunk with her husband while her house catches on fire. Arnold and his parents became devastated, to which Arnold had thought to himself while mourning, 'I was crying because I knew five or ten or fifteen more Spokanes would die during the next year, and that most of them would die because of booze. I cried because so many of my fellow tribal members were slowly killing themselves and I wanted them to live” (Alexie, 179). Because of how impoverished Native Americans are within these reservations are, they begin to feel hopeless and get involved in various unhealthy actions including abuse, alcoholism, gangs, and violence. Since several of these people are unable to reach out for help, it causes them to continuously feel hopeless and loop in these habits to the point where it can even lead them to deaths likewise to Arnold’s grandmother, sister, and father’s best friend. Overall, Native Americans become hopeless and get involved in unhealthy habits due to being unable to get help in their poor reservations, to which they can resume to do until their eventual death.

When taking the occurrences in real life and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian into consideration, Native Americans throughout the United States are affected by the conditions of reservations in various ways. Their ancestors were forced into a new way of living that threw them into impoverishment that lasts to this day, leaving them to no eligibility for future dreams or jobs, and even encouraging them to get involved in alcoholism, starting gangs, violence, and other unhealthy habits or actions that can lead to eventual death. One of the only ways for Native Americans to escape the conditions of the reservations, especially with the young is to be like Arnold Spirit from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. In other words, gain the spirit to reach out for new opportunities against their own will of their quality-deprived lives.              

16 December 2021
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