The history of humanity is sometimes cruel and uncompromising. In the 20th century, public health was rapidly developing in the United States. Its tasks included raising labor safety standards, monitoring food production, and-suddenly-sterilization. Forced sterilization happened because of the popularity of “eugenics” and the desire to reduce the number of “defective” offspring. First of all, inherited mental illnesses were meant and tended to aggression, deafness, and other “undesirable” personality traits.
Indian women were not the only group of the population that was forcibly sterilized. However, it was the Indians who were most exposed to this practice because they were heavily dependent on such public organizations as the Indian Health Service, Ministry of Health, Education and Social Security, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many doctors who performed this procedure believed that it was the best alternative for Indian women. The fact is that in the 1960s and 1970s, sterilization was considered an acceptable form of contraception.
Doctors sterilized Indian women, forcing them to do this or simply not informing them about the planned procedure. For example, a woman who went to the hospital with a request to remove her appendicitis was convinced of the need for amputation of the uterus. The process of forced sterilization has caused severe damage to the health of many Indian women and the Indian community as a whole. In addition, sterilization greatly affected the Indians in psychological and social terms. The Indians value fertility very much, and a woman who cannot have children can be treated with prejudice.
Unfortunately, the past cannot be corrected, and it is necessary to realize that an actual crime was committed against the Indian people. Thousands of Indians became victims of eugenics, which obliged representatives of other peoples to pass tests to determine intellectual abilities. These tests were not objective because the knowledge of the US culture was taken into account and not the person’s actual capacity to think. Thus, thousands of people were sterilized only based on the results of such tests.
The widespread practice of sterilizing people who were “not suitable” for creating children lasted until about the mid-1960s, when a sufficient number of people opposed eugenics. In the end, the practice of forced sterilization was universally recognized as unethical, and the state authorities apologized to the victims. Operations are still being carried out, but only medical indications or the patient’s request can serve as a reason for surgical intervention.
What is the life of modern Indians like? Indian reservations have their courts, police, legislative bodies, and total autonomy in internal affairs. Most of the Indians live in large cities. They work as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and athletes. Off-reservation Indians have many benefits that can make their life much easier. Tribal members on reservations do not pay property taxes and state taxes. All Indian reservations vary significantly in terms of territory size, income, the standard of living, mortality, and birth rate.
Unfortunately, many problems exist in the life of modern Indians in the United States. Let’s start with the fact that among the Native American population, the percentage of unemployed is incredibly high – about 90%. Many homes do not have electricity and the simplest household appliances. This is partly a consequence of the low level of education that the Indians practically do not receive. Alcohol is the cause of high mortality among Indians, along with diabetes and obesity. Bans on opening casinos, which exist in many states, do not apply to the territories of reservations.
The Indians are a wonderful, unique people. They have their own distinctive culture and traditions. In the spiritual culture of the American people, in literature, art, and folklore, various national customs are intertwined. The colonizing powers received from the Indians not only their lands and wealth but also the skill and technique of developing new lands. Many modern Indians are not indifferent to environmental problems. For example, the Onondaga tribe has been demanding from the American government for many years to start work on cleaning up Onondaga Lake. In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the Indians have had and continue to have a great influence on the culture and life of the United States, so we should not repeat the mistakes of the past concerning them.
Ladd-Taylor, M. (2017). Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Nielsen, M. O., & Jarrat-Snider K. (2018). Crime and social justice in Indian country. The University of Arizona Press.
Noll, S. (2012). Eugenics. In Thomas J. & Wilson C. (Eds.), The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 22: Science and Medicine (pp. 71-75). University of North Carolina Press.