1 in 2 Native Americans in MN are Jobless; This Day in History: The Code of Indian Offenses

According to a blog by the American Indian OIC, half of Native Americans living in Minnesota are jobless. According to the blog:

  • The median household income for American Indian families in the state of Minnesota is $32,000. (Incidentally, the established Federal Poverty Line is a household income of $24,250 for a family of four.)
  • The unemployment rate for the American Indian population of Minnesota is 10.8%- nearly three times that of Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate.
  • 40.8% of our population is considered to be “not in the labor force” – and therefore not tabulated in the employment data because they are jobless and are not currently looking for work.

For the full blog, click here.

This Day in History: The Code of Indian Offenses

On December 2, 1882, Interior Secretary Henry M. Teller, wrote a letter calling attention to the “great hindrance” of Indian customs to the progress of assimilation.

The letter opens:

I desire to call your attention to what I regard as a great hindrance to the civilization of the Indians, viz, the continuance of the old heathenish dances, such as the sun-dance, scalp-dance, & c. These dances, or feasts, as they are sometimes called, ought, in my judgment, to be discontinued, and if the Indians now supported by the Government are not willing to discontinue them, the agents should be instructed to compel such discontinuance.

The result of the letter was the Code of Indian Offenses of 1883, which outlined the procedure for suppressing “evil practices.” A Court of Indian Offenses was to be established at each Indian agency. The Court would serve as judges to punish offenders. Outlawed behavior included participation in traditional dances and feasts, polygamy, reciprocal gift giving and funeral practices, and intoxication or sale of liquor. Also prohibited were “medicine men” who “use any of the arts of the conjurer to prevent the Indians from abandoning their heathenish rites and customs.” Penalties included up to 90 days imprisonment and loss of government-provided rations for up to 30 days. Five Civilized Tribes were exempt from the Code which remained in effect until 1933.

Robert Clinton, a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, writes the following about the Code of Indian Offenses:

… the penalty prescribed by the Code of Indian Offenses for practicing traditional and customary ways often involved the denial of rations. Thus, the federal government’s message to tribal Indians in the late nineteenth century was crystal clear — abandon your traditional culture and comply with the Code of Indian Offenses or starve. The Code of Indian Offenses therefore was not an early criminal code for Indian Reservations, as it is sometimes portrayed, but, rather, the clearest evidence of a deliberate federal policy of ethnocide — the deliberate extermination of another culture.

For more of Clinton’s blog, click here.

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