Racial and Ethnic Groups .in the United States
How do racial and ethnic groups come into contact with one another? How do they adjust to one another and to the dominant group over time? Sociologists have explored these questions extensively; how ever detailed historical account of the unique experiences of each group is beyond the scope of this chapter. Instead. we will look briefly at intergroup contacts. In the process. sports will be used as an example of how members of some groups have attempted to gain upward mobility and become integrated into society.
Native Americans are believed to have migrated to North America from Asia thousands of years ago, as shown on the time line in Figure 10.2. One of the most widely accepted beliefs about this migration is that the first groups of Mongolians made their way across a natural bridge of land called Beringia into present-day laska. From there, they moved to what is now Canada and the northern United States, eventually making their.move in order to accommodate the white settlers. 111e "Trail of Tears" was one of the most disastrous of the forced migrations. In the coldest part of the winter of1832. over half of the Cherokee Nation died during or as a result of their forced relocation from the southeastern United States to the Indian Tcnitory in Oklahoma(Thornton. 1984). Native Americans were made wards of the government (meaning they had a legal status similar to that of minors and incompetents) and were subjected to forced assimilation on the reservations after 1871 (Takaki. 1993). Native American children were placed in boarding schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to hasten their assimilation into the dominant culture. About 98 percent of native lands had been expropriatedhy ]920 (see McDonnell. 199]). Even after Native Americans received full citizenship and the
right to vote in 1924. the Supreme Court continued tohold that they were wards of the government. .I, Native Americans are currently in a transition from a history marked by prejudice and discrimination to a contemporary life in which they may find new opportunities, Many see the challenge for Native A.mericans today as erasing negative stereotypes while maintaining their heritage and obtaining recognition for their contributions to this nation's development and growth. Native Americans Today CurrenLly. about 2.5 million Native Americans (1.5 percent of the U.S. population) live in the United States. including Aleuts. Inuit (Eskimos), Cherokee, Navajo. Choctaw. Chippewa. Sioux, and over 500 other nations of varying sizes and different 10.:aJc~. There is a wide diversity alnong the people in this category: Each nation has its own culture, history, and unique identity. and more than 250 Native American languages are spoken today. Most Native Americans live in the Southwest, and aout one-third live on reservations. Native Americans are the ost disadvantaged racial or ethnic group in the United States in terms of income, employment. housing, nutrition. and health. The life chances of Native Americans wholive on reservations are especially limited. They have the highest rates of infant eath by exposure and malnutrition. They also have high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and school violence (Kershaw, 2005). Historically. Native Americans have had very limited educational opportunities and a very high rate of unemployment. In recent years, however, a network of tribal colleges has been successful in providing some Native Americans with the education they need to move into the ranks of the skilled working class and beyond (Bordewich, 1996). Across the nation. Native Americans own and operate many types of enterprises.such as construction companies. computer graphic design firms, grocery stores, and management consultingbusinesses. Casino gambling operations and cigarette shops on Native American reservations-resultingfrom a reinterpretation of federal law in the 19905-
have brought more income to some of the nations. but this change has not been without its critics.