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Feature Stories
Forgotten Justice
by Dan Gunderson

Today, many American Indians live in two worlds. Off the reservation they are guaranteed all the rights of a U.S. citizen. On the reservation, those federal rights disappear, replaced by the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, enforced by tribal governments. Many Indian people in Minnesota and the Dakotas say they've come to expect injustice both on and off the reservation. Here are stories from some people who say their rights, and complaints, are ignored.


South Dakota - A State of Despair
by Cara Hetland

It's been more than a year since a United States Commission on Civil Rights report blasted race relations in South Dakota. Hundreds of Native Americans testified about abuses in law enforcement. The testimony echoed complaints brought before the commission in the mid-1970s, causing many to ask why there's been so little change.


Spiritual Freedom Behind Bars
by Bob Reha

Most people take for granted the right to pray, or worship as they choose. But for many years, Native Americans were denied that right. In 1890, as part of the U.S. government's assimilation policy, American Indian religious practices were outlawed. Eighty-eight years later, in 1978, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, restoring religious freedom to Indian people. But even now, some Indians—those in jail—are denied the opportunity to practice their religion.


No Promise of Education
by Bob Kelleher

The high school diploma is a benchmark that divides those who have from those who have very little. But in Indian country, diplomas are relatively scarce. Education opportunities are too often abandoned by Native American kids facing a litany of problems, including the sting of discrimination.

How Indian Are You?
by Jeff Horwich

Of the 12 races listed on this year's census form, only one has an official membership card. That document, known as "the white card," is what makes an Indian an Indian—at least in the eyes of many U.S. government and tribal programs.

Not surprisingly, the use of the white card to record a human pedigree raises civil rights concerns. The use of "blood quantum" to define a genetic cut-off point for Indian people is viewed by many as an instrument of assimilation or extermination. Yet over a century, blood quantum has become a deeply ingrained—and even valued—tool in the relations between sovereign tribes and the rest of world.

As a new generation of Indians comes of age, blood quantum reform may be closely tied to the future of Indian nations and cultures.


Tribal Justice - But Not For All
by Tom Robertson

Reports of civil rights violations on Minnesota's Indian reservations have been persistent for years. Indians have filed scores of complaints to state and federal agencies, saying they live under a system where political patronage and nepotism rule the day and tribal leaders can manipulate the legal system to benefit themselves and their supporters. The past few years have brought major reforms in tribal government, but there is still a lingering mistrust.


Speech on the Reservation Isn't Free
by Dan Gunderson

Press freedom is a constitutional guarantee for most American journalists. But many who work on Indian reservations do not enjoy the same freedom, because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not apply to them. Their protection comes from the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, which guarantees free speech. But it leaves the enforcement to tribal governments that own most reservation media outlets.


Plowing Native Ground
by Mark Steil

Federal funds are one of the major sources of wealth in the agricultural economy, accounting for nearly half of farmers' income last year. When farmers can't get access to that money, it can put them out of business. That's what a group of American Indian farmers say happened to them, and they're suing for damages. They allege they were denied federal help because of discrimination. Many say it's just the latest in a long history of abuse by the federal government.