Like most large urban gangs, Indian gangs are emerging as another destructive force in some of the country’s poorest and most neglected places in our country. As cited in the article below, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is experiencing an increase in vandalism, theft, violence and fear due to at least 39 known gangs. According to New York Times writer, Erick Eckholm: “Some groups have more than a hundred members, others just a couple of dozen. Compared with their urban models, they are more likely to fight rivals, usually over some minor slight, with fists or clubs than with semiautomatic pistols.” Another report from 1998 by the FBI titled, “SIAU Intelligence Report: Gangs on Indian Reservations” (M.K. Conway, 1999) suggests “reservation youth gangs are at an early stage of development without a hierarchy of leadership yet but with potential for rapid growth, criminal consolidation, and intensification of activities.” The most important finding is that 75 tribes nationwide reported some level of gang activity. In the Journal of American Indian Education (2000), The “content of schooling” emerged as a salient factor in the dropout decision. A little less than half of the dropouts cited that school was not important for what they wanted to do in life.
Shrinking law enforcement and a lack of youth activities are considered to be major contributors to the increase in gang activity. The average gang member is 15 years old and is at the bottom rung of nearly every national indicator of well-being: Approximately 60% of Native Americans drop out of high school (almost twice the national average); the suicide rate is three times the national average for Indians; and 79% of the federal juvenile population is Native American. This high rate is due in part to the tendency for most serious crimes committed on reservations to be prosecuted in Federal court. While increasing law enforcement is important, cultural revival has become a high priority among many tribes. Melvyn Young Bear, the Lakota tribe’s cultural liaison stated, “We’re trying to give an identity back to our youth. They’re into the subculture of African-Americans and Latinos. But they are Lakota, and they have a lot to be proud of.”
• How can we do a more effective job of making student success and transition programs available to reservation schools and other educational outlets for Native Americans?
• How can we create culturally relevant models that support Native-American culture and their path to college and beyond?
• What role might emotional intelligence play in helping students take charge of their lives and develop the skills needed for school, career and life success?
The New York Times
December 14, 2009
Gang Violence Grows on an Indian Reservation
By ERIK ECKHOLM
PINE RIDGE, S.D. — Richard Wilson has been a pallbearer for at least five of his “homeboys” in the North Side Tre Tre Gangster Crips, a Sioux imitation of a notorious Denver gang.
One 15-year-old member was mauled by rivals. A 17-year-old shot himself; another, on a cocaine binge and firing wildly, was shot by the police. One died in a drunken car wreck, and another, a founder of the gang named Gaylord, was stabbed to death at 27.
“We all got drunk after Gaylord’s burial, and I started rapping,” said Mr. Wilson, who, at 24, is practically a gang elder. “But I teared up and couldn’t finish.”
Mr. Wilson is one of 5,000 young men from the Oglala Sioux tribe involved with at least 39 gangs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The gangs are being blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft, violence and fear that is altering the texture of life here and in other parts of American Indian territory.
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