Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Crime and Victimization among American Indians: One Community's Perception of Crime, Violence, and Social Services

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Crime and Victimization among American Indians: One Community's Perception of Crime, Violence, and Social Services

Article excerpt

American Indians living on reservations find that justice is elusive for them. The size and density of the reservation, the environmental surroundings, the complexities of the indigenous culture, and the struggle of law enforcement and social services to address social problems presents a daunting challenge for American Indians. While the problems are well known, bureaucracies often hinder the funding and implementation of effective policies. As a result of these conditions, American Indians, as with other minority groups, have been subjected to injustices in the social service and criminal justice systems. This research study examines the social problems, particularly those surrounding crime and victimization, within one tribal community by listening to the voices of a small group of those within the tribe.

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Despite an overall national decrease in violent crime beginning in the 1990s, violent crime rates among American Indians remain high, especially as compared to other racial and ethnic groups (CraneMurdoch, 2013; Feagin & Feagin, 2008; Toth, Crews, & Burton, 2007; Williams, 2012). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "the annual average violent crime rate among [American Indians] was twice as high as that of blacks (50 per 1,000 persons), 2Vi times higher than that for whites (41 per 1,000 persons), and 4V2 times higher than for Asians (22 per 1,000 persons)" (Perry, 2004, p. 5). Additionally, American Indians are more likely to be victims of a violent crime than any other ethnic group in the United States. In fact, official statistics suggest that "on average, American Indians experienced an estimated 1 violent crime for every 10 residents age 12 or older" (Perry, 2004, p. iv). The characteristics of these crimes also appear to be extraordinary. For example, contrary to the general population, American Indians are more likely to be victims of inter-racial violence. In fact, almost 70% of violent crimes suffered by American Indians are committed by a non-Native offender (Perry, 2004). In a report published by Amnesty International (2007), a social worker in Oklahoma reported that "58% of the cases she had worked on in the preceding 18 months involved non-Native perpetrators" (p. 5). At the community level, the rate of violent crimes is staggering. The Montana Indian reservations, for example, had a homicide rate that was twice as high as New Orleans, a city long considered to be among the most violent cities in the nation (DiGregory & Manuel, 1997). Similarly, one in five Southern Ute Indian Reservation residents reported to be victims of a violent crime (Perry, 2004). Additionally, nearly 25% of Zuni Pueblo Indian Reservation tribal members reported that they were victims of assault in their tribal community (Perry, 2004).

Both American Indian men and women experience a higher rate of violent victimization than do all other races/ethnicities in the United States. Although American Indian women are less likely to be victimized than their male counterparts, their violent victimization rate is more than double the rate for all women in the general population (Amnesty International, 2007; Perry, 2004). For instance, statistics show that American Indian women experience violence at rates almost 50% higher than that of African American men (Perry, 2004). Several studies have found that Indian women are victimized at higher rates regarding intimate partner violence and sexual assaults than non-Native Americans (Bachman, Zaykowski, Lanier, Poteyeva, & Kallmyer, 2010; Malcoe, Duran, & Montgomery, 2004; Oetzel & Duran, 2004; Robin, Chester, & Rasmussen, 1998; Sapra, Jubinski, Tanaka, & Gershon, 2014; Smith, 2005; Wahab, & Olson, 2004). One out of three American Indian women will be raped in their lifetime (Greenfeld & Smith, 1991; Perry, 2004), as compared to one out of five women in the non-Indian United States population (Flarwell, Moore, & Spence 2003; Wahab & Olson 2004). …

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