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The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians    by Naomi Schaefer Riley order for
New Trail of Tears
by Naomi Schaefer Riley
Order:  USA  Can
Encounter, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Naomi Schaefer Riley's The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians delves into the status of indigenous communities in both the U.S. and Canada, and the (past and present) damage done by a paternalistic bureaucracy in both countries that has left 'communities existing in a kind of suspended animation.'

She tells us that American Indians' poverty rate is almost twice the national average, and that 'This deprivation seems to contribute not only to higher rates of crime but also to higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, gang membership, and sexual abuse.' She backs it up with shocking statistics, informing us that each problem is statistically worse with results 'restricted to Native Americans who live on reservations.'

Riley asks 'what does America owe Indians?' and traveled to communities around the United States and Canada in search of answers. Her conclusion is that 'the problems American Indians face today - lack of economic opportunity, lack of education, and lack of equal protection under the law - and the solutions to these problems require a different approach from the misguided paternalism of the past 150 years.'

Lack of individual land ownership and federal government control of land held in trust have left Native Americans with dead capital - land is owned on paper but can't be sold or borrowed against to start a small business, or participate in the economy. Riley speaks of the popular myth that indigenous culture was a socialist utopia, contradicting both history and basic human nature. And she comments on the challenge of training people to move away from a state of dependency that has become their norm.

Riley also addresses areas where improvements can be, and have been achieved, emphasizing education as a key one, as well as 'more fiscal and political autonomy'. Though it's clearly a long and bumpy road to achieving real change, the book makes clear that it's one that must be taken, given that such wealthy nations 'have what amounts to a third world country within our borders.' Strongly recommended.

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