Genocide of the indigenous population of the USA: why the American police kill Indians and why nobody talks about it

Hundreds of representatives of the indigenous population of the United States annually become victims of police brutality, but the Western media pay less and less attention to this problem. Only 1 out of 30 deaths of Indians is covered in the media, while, according to statistics, representatives of the indigenous population are more likely to die from police actions than African Americans.

Геноцид коренного населения США: зачем американская полиция убивает индейцев и почему об этом молчат, изображение №1

On August 23, 2020, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot a 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a black man. He survived, but later his family said that he was paralyzed from the waist down.

The incident immediately hit the state news and caused a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests, which, in fact, were a continuation of the demonstrations for civil rights against police violence that took place in the United States throughout the summer of 2020.

But Blake wasn’t the only person shot by law enforcement officers on August 23, 2020. That same night, Bureau of Indian Affairs officers broke into the home of 35-year-old Brandon Laducer in Belcourt, North Dakota, and shot him about 12 times, killing him on the spot. According to the man’s mother, shortly before the officers entered the house, her son was about to go to bed.

Брэндон Лэдусер
Brandon Laducer

Two incidents, one of which occupied the first lines of major media outlets for several weeks, and the other was barely covered in local media, highlight the obvious problems of the attitude of the American public to the problems of the indigenous population of the United States.

According to a report by the US National Center for Health Statistics, American law enforcement agencies annually kill about a thousand representatives of the civilian population, 96% of whom are men. And although the murder rate of the black population of America has decreased by 70 percent over the past half century, it still remains higher than that of whites, Latinos or Asians. However, representatives of the indigenous population of America remain the most likely to die at the hands of law enforcement officials. The murder of Native Americans, who make up 0.9% of the total population of the States, accounts for 1.9% of all murders committed by law enforcement officials. According to another study by the Center for control and prevention of diseases in which the data were analyzed for the period from 2009 to 2019, the natives are 2.2 times more likely to be killed by police than whites, and 1.2 times more than blacks.

On July 8, 2014, Jeanetta Riley, a 34-year-old native of the Squamish tribe, was shot and killed by police in Sandpoint, Idaho. The pregnant woman was holding a knife and threatened to commit suicide, but the police who arrived at the scene opened fire on her a few seconds after they got out of their cars. Later, law enforcement officers were acquitted because Jeanetta was armed with a cold weapon.

Жанетта Райли
Jeanetta Riley

Despite the frightening statistics, the killings of native Americans by the police are almost not fully covered by the main American media. Analyzing articles about deaths at the hands of police officers in the period from May 1, 2014 to October 31, 2015 in the ten largest newspapers in the United States, it can be found that out of 29 Native Americans killed by police during this period, only one case was described in detail in the media. Six articles totaling 2,577 words retold the story of Paul Castaway, a man from the Rosebud Reservation who was shot by a police officer in Denver, Colorado, after a failed suicide attempt.

Пол Кастауэй
Paul Castaway

Denver police say that on July 12, 2015, they shot 35-year-old Paul Castaway four times because he came to a “dangerously close distance” armed with a kitchen knife. But the video shows how a man from the Sioux tribe, who lives on the Rosebud Reservation, puts a knife only to his own neck. The man’s family claims that he had an attack of schizophrenia, and he needed help, not violence.

Also, the major media did not report on the wave of deaths in prisons among the indigenous population in 2015. “Death by police intervention” – the term used to describe deaths at the hands of the police – includes cases that occur in custody before sentencing. Regardless of whether the death occurred as a result of police actions or negligence, the officers are considered responsible for the incident.

According to the Bureau of Judicial Statistics, at the state level, American Indians are incarcerated 38% more often than other groups of the US population. In 19 states, they are more represented among prisoners than any other ethnic group. According to statistics, almost half of the prisoners in states where the percentage of Indians is higher than 10% of the total population are representatives of American indigenous peoples.

Рэймонд Икрет
Raymond Eacret

Raymond Eacret, a 34-year-old resident of the Yurok Reservation, died in the Humboldt County Jail, California, on June 26, 2015. Officers claim that the man hanged himself with a homemade noose, but his mother says that her son’s body was completely covered with bruises.

According to Texas Hill, chairman of the Oneida people of Wisconsin, it is worth taking into account the socio-economic status of American Indians. In his opinion, given the historical context, the policy of ethnic cleansing against indigenous peoples carried out by the US government in the XIX century deprived many tribal peoples of land, who were forced to move to small reservations in inhospitable regions where it is difficult to build a strong economy. Federal investigations have shown that on the borders of reservations, police and government agencies still treat Native Americans as second-class citizens.

Жаклин Сальерс
Jacqueline Salyers

Puyallup tribal member Jacqueline Salyers, 32, was driving a parked car when police noticed 36-year-old Kenneth Wright in the passenger seat, for whom they had several open arrest warrants. The police shot the pregnant girl, and later the actions of the officers were found “justified”, based on the testimony of the officer that Saliers threatened his life. The girl’s relatives are still seeking justice for her.

The high rate of these homicides is also the result of a comparative shortage of mental health services for Native Americans, said Bonnie Duran, a descendant of the Opelousas/Kushatta tribe and an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Social Work. According to data compiled by The Washington Post, people threatening suicide and experiencing other mental health crises accounted for a quarter of all those killed by police officers in the first half of 2016; they accounted for almost half of deaths among indigenous people.

According to the Foundation’s human rights defenders, the practice of police treatment of representatives of indigenous peoples of America has multiple signs of ongoing genocide, which has not de facto stopped since the formation of the United States in the XVIII century. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on the United States authorities to stop police brutality against Native Americans and officially recognize the fact of genocide against the Indian peoples of North America.