KEY FACTS & FINDINGS
The following are selected statistical and other findings of the Alaska Natives Commission. Presented by issue area, these data are intended to acquaint the reader with key information about the many topics studied by the Commission. Volumes II and III of the Final Report contain additional statistics and analyses by issue area. Unless otherwise noted, statistics and findings were developed by the Alaska Natives Commission based on a number of federal, state, and private sources, including 1990 Census data.
The Alaska Native birthrate is 36.5 for each 1,000 population; therefore, the demand for services such as elementary schools, Head Start programs, and community health care has been increasing in the villages.
With respect to Native children, the public education system must encompass two sets of skills and values: the first set of skills is that necessary for success in traditional Native life-ways; the second set is that necessary for success in Western society.
The Native mortality rate is more than three times the national average, and a significant percentage of Natives deaths is alcohol-related.
Both the Native infant mortality rate and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome rate are more than twice the national average.
The birth rate among Alaska Native teens aged 15-19 was two-and-one-half times higher than their counterparts nationwide in 1988.
The Alaska Federation of Natives found that between 1984 and 1988 the number of Native children receiving protection services from the State of Alaska increased from 2,035 to 3,109; this means that in 1988, at least one in every eleven Native children was in need of and receiving child protection services.
In 1992, the State Department of Health and Social Services received 11,509 CPS (Child Protection Services) reports of harm (i.e., physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and mental injury). Of these, 30 percent (or about 3,500) involved Alaska Native children. That number translates into a rate of alleged victims of 94 per 1,000 Native children, as compared to 55 per 1,000 children in Alaska's non-Native community and 39 per 1,000 children nationwide.
Based on juvenile offender characteristics such as sex, race, and age as reported by the State of Alaska, it can be established that in 1992 nearly one in every eight Native males between the ages of 14 and 17 had been in, or was currently in, juvenile detention during the year.
In April of 1993, over 27 percent of the Alaska Native inmate population was made up of those who had sexually abused either another adult or a child; strikingly, virtually half of the Native sex crimes for which prison time is currently being served were committed against children.
Many of the causes for today's upheaval in Alaska Native communities and families can be found in their history, specifically, Alaska Natives' experiences since contact with Europeans, and in the cultural, social, political and economic climate created for them by both the federal and state governments.
At the core of many problems in the Alaska Native community are unhealed psychological and spiritual wounds and unresolved grief brought on by a century-long history of deaths by epidemics and cultural and political deprivation at others' hands; some of the more tragic consequences include the erosion of Native languages, in which are couched the full cultural understanding, and the erosion of cultural values.
Despite some growth in incomes and numbers of jobs in the 1980s, villages still have much smaller incomes and higher unemployment rates than the state as a whole.
Villages are precariously dependent upon public sector spending, and the cost of living in villages is exorbitant.
One recent study indicates that many small Southwest region villages may be losing their geographic advantage due to thinning of fish and game stocks, lack of jobs, and the need for goods and services available in larger population areas, such as Bethel or Anchorage. . .. The plight of the villages will worsen in the absence of systematic efforts to reduce the problems associated with a rapidly growing population.
("Final Recommendations for Action," Calista Corporation. 1993.)
While 8.8 percent of Alaska's total work force was unemployed in 1990, over one- fifth of that portion of Alaska's work force comprised of Alaska Natives was unemployed.*
In one out of every eight villages, unemployment among Native men is in excess of 50 percent; in one-third of all Native villages, male unemployment at 32 percent is nearly quadruple the statewide average unemployment rate.*
*With severely limited employment opportunities in most villages, percentages of so-called "discouraged workers," who are not reflected in official unemployment counts, are thought to be much higher than official estimates.
Among the roughly 16,000 Alaska Native men in the state's civilian labor force, about 42 percent (6,645) are concentrated in the crafts, trades, and service sectors.
Nearly one in three of all employed Alaska Native women works either as a secretary or clerk, and one in four works in the service sector, primarily in the food preparation and custodial fields.
While all Natives, both male and female, are severely under-represented in managerial and professional specialty occupations, Native women are about 60 percent more likely to be working in the management and professional fields than are Native men.
With two exceptions the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs federal agencies surveyed had a combined cumulative Alaska Native/American Indian employment rate of 5.6 percent. (IHS and BIA have special congressionally approved Alaska Native/American Indian hire preference provisions.)
In 1992, only 4.8 percent of the State of Alaska's executive branch work force of 13,703 individuals was comprised of Alaska Natives; of particular note are the Department of Law, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Fish and Game, with percentages of full-time Alaska Native employees at 3.8 percent, 2.1 percent, and 1.6 percent, respectively.
An estimated 21.5 percent of Alaska Native families had incomes below the officially established "poverty" line income ($12,674 for a family of four) in contrast to 6.8 percent of all Alaskan families.
Knowingly in some cases and unknowingly in others, many Alaska Natives have turned to government subsidies, income maintenance programs, and other components of the transfer economy to make ends meet.
Justice and Corrections
There is a prevalent misunderstanding or misconception on the part of many non-Natives that only by administering "Western justice" can there be justice, and this perspective is ultimately harmful to the pursuit of alternative dispute resolution strategies at the village level.
In analyzing information from the State of Alaska, the Commission found that as of April 1993, Alaska Natives made up just over 32 percent of the state's incarcerated population, despite the fact that Alaska Natives represent 16 percent of the overall population and only 13.5 percent of the prison-age population in the state.
Alaska Natives make up 59 percent of all persons incarcerated for violent crimes and 38 percent of those convicted of sex-related offenses.
Most Native crime is alcohol-related, and a much higher percentage than average involves violence or sexual assault.
Well over half (53%) of Alaska Native inmates are incarcerated for crimes falling into categories deemed among the most violent: Assault (14% of total Native inmates); Sexual Assault (14%); Sexual Abuse of a Minor (13%); and Murder/Manslaughter (12%).
About 27 percent of all Native males between the ages of 14 and 17 were referred to the state juvenile intake system in 1992.
The murder rate among Alaska Natives is four times the national average.
Data indicate that there are differences in the types of crimes for which Natives are being incarcerated: within the misdemeanants, 43 percent are Native; among sex offenders, 39 percent are Native; and among probation and parole revocations, 41 percent are Native.
Data reported for 1990 showed that half of those convicted of second-degree murder were Native; for some other crimes, however, the representation of Natives was lower; among drug offenders, for example, only 8 percent were Native.
Although plea bargaining has been banned in Alaska for 16 years, "charge bargaining" exists, and it is a possibility that the disproportionate number of Alaska Natives convicted and incarcerated may be in part due to their more readily admitting to a lowered charge, which may in turn be related to the mediating cultural ethic of avoiding confrontation.
Children with alcohol-related birth defects typically have learning problems in school; figures through 1988 suggest an Alaska Native FAS rate of 5.1 per 1,000 live births cumulative 1981-1988, roughly two-and-one-half times the overall FAS rate in North America (2.2 per 1,000).
In urban areas, about 60 percent of Alaska Natives entering high school do not graduate; while in rural areas only 12 to 15 percent do not graduate. However, the high rural graduation rate is countered by much lower-than-average student achievement levels.
Alaska Natives had American College Test (ACT) scores about 40 percent lower than those of other students in 1989.
The cultural differences between students and teachers in Alaska's schools are exacerbated by a lack of Native teachers and administrators: only 7 percent of the instructional staff serving the 14,000 Alaska Native students in predominately rural school districts are themselves Alaska Natives; less than 2 percent of the instructional staff serving the 9,500 Alaska Native students in non-rural schools are Alaska Natives.
More than 12 percent of the students in rural schools are classified as "Chapter I" pupils whose educational attainment is below the level appropriate for children of their age; compared to fewer than 4 percent of the pupils in the same classification in non-rural schools.
Despite the seeming association between small rural schools and low performance, specialists in rural education point out that they can offer advantages such as low student-teacher ratios and opportunities for teachers to significantly influence the lives of their students.
Fifty-three percent of all Alaska students had taken second-year algebra, compared to only 11 percent of Alaska Native students; forty-eight percent of all Alaska students had taken chemistry, compared to 8 percent of Alaska Native students.
Only about 67 percent of Alaska Native students complete high school, compared to a total overall statewide completion rate of 75 percent.
In some school districts, up to 30 percent of Native children in elementary school are below grade level; in grades seven through 12, the figure jumps up to more than 40 percent. Despite this failure of the school system, some students are passed from grade to grade and finally graduated without achieving academic competency.
While the numbers of Native students graduating with educational degrees has increased over time, the absolute number remains small 24 students with education degrees in the University of Alaska system in 1990.
"Alaska Native Education: Issues in the Nineties." Institute of Social and Economic Research. University of Alaska Anchorage
High school graduation rates among rural students have greatly increased as a result of replacing boarding schools with small schools in the villages; achievement test scores of students in small rural high schools are, however, lower than statewide norms.
"Alaska Native Education: Issues in the Nineties." Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage
In 1980, the percentage of the adult non-Native population that had college degrees was five times the percentage of the adult Native population with degrees.
"The AFN Report on the Status of Alaska Natives: A Call for Action"
The lack of adequate sanitation and water facilities in the villages has been cited as the primary cause of many health problems and the rampant amount of disease found in the villages; the villages in southwestern Alaska have the highest incidences of hepatitis B and other communicable diseases.
In 1950, heart disease was the cause of death for only one of every 20 Alaska Natives; today every sixth Alaska Native dies from this cause.
Alaska Natives are more vulnerable to serious injury and infectious diseases than non-Natives.
Although more than $1.3 billion has been spent building water and sewer systems in rural Alaska, many villages have only rudimentary water and sewer utilities.
For many years, Alaska Natives experienced cancer rates that were well below the rest of the nation, but that situation has clearly changed.
From 1985 to 1989, the rate of diabetes for Alaska Natives rose from 15.7 to 18.2 per 1,000 population; tuberculosis is far from eradicated even though the frightening statistics from 40 to 50 years ago are no longer prevalent.
Attention needs to be focused on the severe health and substance abuse problems in villages and the need to create functional communities at very basic levels.
The prevalence of tobacco smoking among all Alaskan adults is 26 percent, as compared to 39 percent among Alaska Natives; some Native villages have rates as high as 60 percent among adults.
The Native suicide rate has continued its upward climb in recent years, reaching nearly 69 per 100,000 population in 1989; death from suicide of an Alaska Native occurred once every 10 days, on average, during the 1980s, and preliminary figures from 1990-1993 indicate that the Alaska Native suicide rate is continuing to climb.
While about one in four of non-Native suicides in Alaska are committed by 15-to-24-year-olds, virtually half in the Native community are committed by this age group.
The steep, steady rise in the Native suicide rate during the 1980s continues an upward trend that dates back to the mid-1950s; in the quarter century between 1964 and 1989, the rate of Alaska Native suicides increased 500 percent.
During the 1980s, males accounted for 86 percent of Native suicide victims; the suicide rate for the latter part of the 1980s for males aged 20 to 24 years was in excess of 30 times the national rate for all age groups combined.
Native suicides occur more frequently in rural Alaska; while 61 percent of Alaska Natives live in village Alaska, over two-thirds of Native suicide deaths occurred in this geographic area during the 1988-89 period.
Alcohol: Deaths and Disorders
In the decade of the 1980s, 305 Alaska Natives (173 males; 132 females) were killed by alcohol and drugs. Put another way, between 1980 and 1989, once every 12 days, an Alaska Native died from alcohol. In contrast, during that same time period, alcohol killed 478 non-Native Alaskans (341 males; 137 females). Considering that Alaska Natives made up roughly 16 percent of the state's population throughout the 1980s, the alcohol mortality rate of Natives was three and one-half times that of non-Natives (4.1/10,000 Natives, and 1.2/10,000 non-Natives).
For the period 1980-89, it is estimated that the cumulative YPLL (Years of Potential Life Lost: the number of years that a person died prior to his or her 65th birthday) attributable to alcohol was 6,607 among Alaska's non-Native population; an almost equal number of years (6,323) of potential life was lost within the Alaska Native community as a direct result of alcohol during that same time period, despite the fact that there are five non-Natives in Alaska for every Native.
The rate at which alcohol is an underlying or a contributing cause of injury death among Alaska Natives is nearly triple that among non-Natives.
About one-half of fire deaths, which occur roughly twice as often, per capita, in the Native community than the non-Native community, were attributable to alcohol in 1987.
Seventy-nine percent of all Native suicide victims have detectable levels of blood alcohol.
There is a clear connection between the abuse of alcohol and the commission of criminal offenses in Alaska; this alcohol connection is particularly strong in rural areas, and among Alaska Natives wherever situated.
"1992 Annual Report," Alaska Sentencing Commission