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It was only an Indian
Title of this picture is:
It was only an Indian.
© Charlene Teter

This is the article from the New York Times.


The New York Times on the web

February 15, 1999

Study Says Indians Are Violent Crime Victims at Twice National Average

By FOX BUTTERFIELD
American Indians are the victims of violent crimes at more than twice the national average and, unlike the situation among whites and blacks where the large majority of crime victims are of the same race as the perpetrators, 70 percent of those committing crimes against Indians are of a different race, according to the first comprehensive study of crimes involving Indians, which was released Sunday by the Justice Department.
The study found that the nation's 2.3 million Indians were far more likely to be victims of violent crimes than members of any other racial group, and that the rate of violent crime experienced by Indian women is nearly 50 percent higher than that by black males
. A full 60 percent of the perpetrators of violent crimes against Indians were whites, according to the victims, while 29 percent of the offenders were other Indians and 10 percent were described as black, the report said. By contrast, other studies have shown that 69 percent of the perpetrators of violent crimes against whites are also white, and 81 percent of those committing violent crimes against blacks are themselves black.
"This highlights what has been going on out there for 130 years, since the beginning of the reservation system," said Sidney Harring, a professor of law at the City University of New York School of Law and an expert on Indian crime and criminal law.
Harring said much of the violence against Indians by other racial groups was attributable to racism and alcohol, "with Indians being victimized by poor, drunken whites, people on the margins hurting each other." There are still high levels of prejudice against Indians in the West, where most Indians live, he said, and a culture that lives on the edges of Indian reservations "that tolerates this violence," even among law enforcement officials.
Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, an Indians' rights advocacy group in Washington, took an even more sweeping position, saying, "This may actually represent a downturn in violence over the centuries since we first encountered Europeans.
"At least it's not genocidal," said Ms. Harjo, who is part Cheyenee and part Muscogee. "Now they are taking Indians out one by one."
The study was published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the statistical branch of the Justice Department, using data gathered from 1992 to 1996 by the National Crime Victimization Survey, which asks a sample of American households each year about crimes they have experienced. The survey measures the violent crimes of rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault. To supplement the survey, the justice department added data on homicides gathered by the FBI from local police reports.
The victimization survey is considered a reliable measure of crime by criminologists.
According to the survey, the average annual rate at which Indians were victims of crimes -- 124 per 1,000 people, ages 12 or older -- is about two and a half times the national average of 50 crimes per 1,000 people who are above the age of 12. The average for whites was 49 per 1,000 people; for blacks, 61 per 1,000; and for Asians, 29 per 1,000.
Alcohol played a major part in violent crimes against Indians, both those committed by Indians against each other and those committed by people of other racial groups, the report found. Indian victims reported that the perpetrator had been drinking in 46 percent of violent crimes against them, the highest of any racial group, while 70 percent of Indians convicted of violence who were in jail said they had been drinking at the time of their offense. In addition, the survey found that the arrest rate for alcohol-related offenses among Indians (including drunken driving, liquor law violations and public drunkenness) was more than double that for the total population during 1996, though the arrest rate for drug offenses was lower than for other races. The four states with the most Indian residents were; Oklahoma, with 252,000, followed by California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Peter Iverson, a professor of history at Arizona State University, said that there had been a significant shift in Indian population over the past 20 years, with a majority of Indians now living in urban areas. But those Indians in cities form a small part of the metropolitan area and do not live in segregated areas, so they are much more likely to come in contact with people of other groups. Residential segregation is often part of the explanation for the tendency of whites to commit violence against whites, and blacks against other blacks. Iverson said that in rural areas bordering Indian reservations, "you still have significant prejudice against Indian people providing traditional justification for violence." Historically, he said, Indians entered these communities to shop, or to buy alcohol or for entertainment, and though whites in these towns made money off the Indians, "there has long been an uneasy relationship, even resentment." In this situation, arguments, fueled by alcohol, could quickly become violent, he said.
Separately, the report said that the murder rate by Indians in 1996 was 4 per 100,000, below the national average of 7.9 per 100,000, and less than the white rate of 4.9 per 100,000.
From 1991 to 1996, the murder rate by Indians fell 20 percent, faster than the overall national decline of 15 percent.

The art work at the top of this page may be seen at:
Teter's Gallery
It was done by Charlene Teters, a Spokane Indian.
Used with permission of the Artist. Thank You.


The study can be seen at:
Bureau of Justice Statistics American Indians and Crime.


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