The Dakota Access Pipeline protests put Native Americans in a new media spotlight. For those who would like to know more, American Apartheid offers a concise, knowledgeable and respectful portrait of the history, current status and struggles of Native peoples in the U.S. by Stephanie Woodard, a journalist who has reported for almost 20 years on these topics when major news outlets did not.
"Tribal communities are set apart from the rest of us geographically, socially, politically and economically." This is no accident, writes Woodard, but the result of federal policies over two centuries. "If a tribe wants to build a housing development or protect a sacred site, if a tribal member wants to start a business or plant a field, a federal agency can modify or scuttle the plans. Conversely, if a corporation or other outside interest covets reservation land or resources, the federal government becomes an obsequious bondservant, helping the non-Native entity get what it wants at bargain-basement prices." She shows how Native people are more likely to receive severe sentences for minor crimes, suffer police brutality and have their children taken from them by the courts. Wealth is drained away from reservation lands by outsiders, while "the reservations themselves act as giant funnels, pouring federal benefits and business earnings into state and regional economies." Though she does not gloss over what Native Americans have lost and still suffer, Woodard also shows the resilience of their cultures, and the organizations and individuals who strive to defend and build up their communities. --Sara Catterall