Most Americans admit knowing little of contemporary Indian life; Indians eager to show successes and continuing challenges
The research is available online at: http://www.publicagenda.org/WalkingaMile
Given the limited documented opinion research on the topic, this study may be one of the most in-depth examinations of the thinking of these two groups about each other yet undertaken. The findings are based on the views of people in 12 focus groups conducted in 2006 and 2007 throughout the United States: seven with Indians and five with non-Indians.
“This study sheds important light on the challenges created by misperceptions of contemporary Native America. It certainly accords with what we see and hear on the ground,” said Joseph P. Kalt, Co-Director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“Public Agenda's report is a critical step in furthering Indian White relations,” said Ruth Yellowhawk of the Indigenous Issues Forums. “Until we examine those places where we are struggling, and key knowledge gaps that exist we cannot understand ways to move forward with dignity and grace. Let's hope that this small step of revealing ways people are thinking allows for the kind of self-reflection that can engender positive action for such disparate nations.”
The research details the thinking of both groups regarding Indian history, the present and how better understanding can develop in the future. The research shows how little most Americans know about the diversity of contemporary Indian experience and points to the need for depictions of Indians outside of casinos and impoverished reservations.
While the Indians interviewed for the research described their sadness about the past and widespread prejudice and discrimination against Indians today, they also talked about their hopes and feelings of success--their pride in the great strides Indians have made economically and theirs sense that their lives are improving.
The research also points to a number of revelations that call for additional research. For instance, why non-Indians acknowledge that Indians have been badly mistreated in the past, on the one hand, and yet at the same time resent what they see as “preferential treatment” by the government, on the other. The report also notes generally more favorable attitudes toward Indians among Americans living far from concentrations of Indian populations and a somewhat higher prevalence of more negative views among those living closer to Indian reservations.