Sunday, November 13, 2011

Native Americans Still Exist in Orange County and Continue to Get Royally Screwed

It was with self-conscious irony that I read a paper by Paul Apodaca, local Native American scholar, while eating an expensive dinner in a fancy Orange County restaurant. This is ironic because many Native Americans today live on reservations and in poverty.

Dr. Apodaca's paper, entitled "Native Americans: Still a Presence" was presented, also ironically, at the San Juan Capistrano Library on May 6, 1989. This is ironic because Mission San Juan Capistrano was, like all the California Missions, a site of tremendous injustice and oppression of Native Americans.

As I ate my chicken with muchrooms in a sherry cream sauce, I read Apodaca's paper in stunned silence. It was a real eye-opener.

Here are some things I learned. As of May 6, 1989:

-There were approximately 20,000 Native Americans still living in Orange County.

-There was not a single Native American studies program at any Orange County college or university, public or private.

-32 reservations existed in Southern California, including Palm Springs.

-Orange County institutions had no plans to address the educational, health, or social needs of the Native American population.

-Santa Ana, the city with the largest population of Native American school children, chose NOT to accept free federal funds from the Indian Education Program, which would have aided in tutorial, counseling, and cultural reinforcement programs.

-The average lifespan for Native Americans was 45 years.

-The average yearly income for Native Americans living on reservations was as low as $760 per person.

-Suicide rates for Native Americans were 300% above the national average.

-Infant mortality rates for Native Americans was 20% above the national average.

Granted, Dr. Apodaca's paper was written 22 years ago, and things may have improved since then. I intend to investigate this further. But the fact that things were that bad as recently as 1989 is a tragedy and a disgrace for Orange County.

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"A result of this neglect is that a Native American with a Ph.D. in American Indian History or studies cannot find employment in this county...The curatorship at the Bowers Museum [Santa Ana] is the highest academic position within the county for American Indian studies...if a major discovery about the Indian past of Orange County was made by the Bowers Museum Curatorial Department, there would be no one in the county to share it with."

--Dr. Paul Apodaca, Curator - Folk Art - Bowers Museum, 1989

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