Breath of Clarity

Minority Discrimination Leads to Land Mismanagement & Inhibits Beneficial Healthcare Reform

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This essay investigates colonization’s modern presence within America’s indigenous land control debate. The multifaceted problem cannot merely be defined as government natural resource exploitation and deficient concern for environmental conservation. Rather, the problem’s root is the government’s unwillingness to value direct strategic consultation with indigenous people. Historically, the judicial branch serves as a crucial gateway for indigenous people to assert their voice. The legislative branch takes advantage of cultural difference by creating unproductive laws, which essentially shut out the indigenous perspective via structural violence. Rather than maximize human capital to enhance modern climate change action and healthcare, the government disrespects indigenous populations by stripping the land which is indispensable to their cultural insight. John Kingdon’s three-streams model (problem, policy, politics) accurately depicts the indigenous affairs political process. Until minority discrimination no longer clouds America’s political climate, indigenous people’s participation will never extend from exclusively problem identification into policy-making. Insofar as the government discriminates against the indigenous minority’s policy-making involvement, native people’s terrain knowledge cannot collaborate with Western technology to sustainably improve America’s health.


Continental Congress rejoices, as the war against Britain is finally over. A fruitful 1783 spring season entails a deep appreciation for the envisioned divine spirit who manifested the government’s acquired absolute control.1 With no protection, the Indians receive no land control, due their treacherous decision to stand by the defeated English enemy. The brave conquerers reap the benefits- cash which funds the nation’s new land speculators and settler units which preserve elite prosperity. The independent masters construct a series of “treaties,” which mark the birth of colonization- land confiscation without fair compensation. To remove unfortunate subjects’ rebellious threats, the imperialists craft indigenous land rights declarations. However, the privileged elitist Confederation government dominate the policy venue and exclusively dictate whether transaction is actually carried out. Essentially, the elite’s self-superiority sentiments justify inaction, and the insufficiently armed indigenous people cannot fight back. Consequentially, the nation’s original dynamics persist centuries later.

Political theorist John Kingdon explains a major obstacle indigenous people face is the the government’s inability to view the indigenous land loss condition as a problem. Kingdon describes, action is based on whether the policy venue recognizes human rights.2 To support indigenous affairs attention entails making a case that the native American minority population is “neither helpless nor docile, but rather active human agents endowed with assets”.4 However, the prior paragraph illustrates that the original American government perceived the indigenous people as unworthy landowners. Since the eighteenth century, there’s yet to be a significant change, as the term indigenous people “is best used in regions with a colonial history that has left a predominant national culture and autochthonous cultures that coexist and compete for limited resources, especially land”.3 The conquerer’s failure to strengthen their relationship with indigenous subjects molded modern post-colonial society’s socially inequitable conditions, which inhibits collaborative efforts to sustain American life.


The problem underlying indigenous affairs involves multiple other policy topics. Multi-faceted problem analysis is concurrent with Kingdon’s claim that policy creation is informed by quantifiable changes in relevant indicators (such as unemployment rates or the national debt). In this case, the relevant indicator topics relate to colonization.2 The Comparative Agendas Project collects and organizes data from archived sources to track policy attention overtime. The graphs indicate attention trends for issues related to mistreatment of minority indigenous groups (right to privacy, subsidies to farmers, branch relations, health-care reform, the drug industry). The listed indicator topics correlate with government’s indigenous affairs concern. Figures (A, B, C) reveal decreased attention to matters inherent to the colonization era (right to privacy, subsidies to farmers, branch relations) correlate with indigenous affairs concern. The alignment illustrated in Figure (A) reveals the original colonist manifest destiny conceptualization still impacts the way indigenous manners are presently managed. The even greater statistically significant correlation in Figure (B) shows lacking concern for indigenous people is demonstrated by unwillingness to compensate for seized property. Further more, Figure (C) suggests the government’s lacking concern for power dynamics is still a central factor which impacts indigenous minority discrimination. Rather than being related to liberal and conservative ideologies, there is not much partisan divide. The problem definition holds its root in colonization. Therefore, the problem is more concerned with dynamics between two different bodies of power (branches within the U.S. government and authority’s relationship with tribal leadership). The data reveals minority discrimination hinders indigenous affairs attention.


The judicial branch serves as a gateway for indigenous people to assert their voice because they can discuss land rights outside the legislative branch’s political climate. Compared to other Public Lands subset areas (national parks, water resources, dependencies & territories), the indigenous affairs subtopic receives consistently lower attention from the parliamentary/legislative dataset than judiciary. Despite explicit provisions in nineteenth century treaties (1837, 1842, 1854), which outline the right to harvest natural resources within established areas, the states took the position that they abrogated all treaty rights over the Ojibwe tribe.5 Tribal members faced fines, arrests, and property confiscation if they did not abide to state law. Throughout the twentieth century, band members resisted violations and “consistently articulat[ed] a demand for recognition of the rights their ancestors negotiated in the treaties”.5 Indigenous people’s cultural differences are less inhibitory if they approach problems via court because they don’t need to surrender to state control.

Data reveals indigenous people respond. Figures (D) and (E) demonstrate there is a proportionally higher quantity of indigenous affairs court cases compared to Congressional bills. Further more, minority discrimination is another issue which also gets significantly more attention in the courts. Figures (F) and (G) demonstrate there is a proportionally higher quantity of minority discrimination court cases compared to Congressional bills. Evidently, minority discrimination is a major limitation which faces Congressional procedure’s ability to formulate fair land ownership regulation. Perhaps, it’s because court decisions are constitutionally based, which would emphasize a moral standard based on equality, a chief principle from the bill of rights.


Insofar as the government practices minority discrimination, there is decreased legislative attention devoted to indigenous affairs. Investigation into the indigenous affairs legislative graph (above) reveals the civil rights era positively impacted indigenous affairs. While blacks don’t equate to indigenous people, both are minority populations. Therefore, it’s concurrent with this essay’s thesis that increased attention to the black minority is linked to increased attention to indigenous affairs. The link to minority discrimination is exemplified by the data, as the most significant net increase in indigenous affairs legislative attention occurred during the civil rights movement (1960-1969). Specifically, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote.7 Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting were made illegal. Specifically, laws which supported minority people’s voice in policy-making caused land rights recognition.

Moreover, it’s evident the civil rights movement effected the Indian rights movement. Civil Rights organization actors capitalized to identify the indigenous affairs land deficiency condition as a problem. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has admonished states to take specific steps to recognize and protect indigenous people’s control of communal territories and resources.6 1970 brings additional influence from the executive branch, which increased attention in the courts and legislation. Kingdon discusses the “players in the game,” defined as those who are involved in agenda-setting and policy-making. The president holds the power to set the agenda, as any policy he/she proposes goes right to the top.2 Nixon’s “Special Message on Indian Affairs” was a speech to Congress which denounced past federal policies and called for a new era of self-determination for Indian peoples.7 Consequentially, indigenous affairs attention increased up until its peak in 1972. Kingdon asserts bureaucrats, on the other hand, are looking to put in place long-term policy and offer few alternatives with little power.2

The indigenous affairs legislative attention distribution’s fall (from 1972-1986) can be attributed to the Trail of Broken Treaties which was enacted in 1972. Over 500 Indian activists traveled across the country to Washington D.C. where they planned to meet with the Bureau of Indian Affairs officials and propose a commission’s treaty violations review. When guards at the BIA informed the tribal members that Bureau officials would not meet with them and threatened removal by force, the activists began a week-long siege of the BIA building. Although the BIA agreed to review the indigenous people’s demands, the FBI classified the activists as an extremist organization, which negatively effected their subsequent relations with the U.S. government.7 The event contributed to indigenous affairs attention’s most intense decrease, evident on the legislative distribution. Specifically, discrimination against the indigenous minority’s voice in policy-making was the major factor which prompted the issue-attention downfall.

The Trail of Broken Treaties demonstrates that indigenous policy’s fate is grounded in whether indigenous people will ever be involved in strategic discussion and viewed as “contributors to environmental regeneration”. Integration holds potential to “facilitate interaction among participants, create a sense of ownership in the local community, and enhance cooperation”.4 The right of consultation relates to the basic value of self-determination. Self-determination “establishes a right for indigenous people to control their own lands and natural resources and to be genuinely involved in all decision-making processes that affect them”.6 Prohibition of local participation obliterates knowledge and potential for indigenous people to offer unique perspective.

The problem doesn’t involve issues about indigenous culture revitalization; rather, the greatest concern lies with the indigenous minority lacking influence among the elites. Education issues are not a large component of the problem definition. In 1972, the Indian Education Act established funding for special bilingual and bicultural programs. It also created an Office of Indian Education within the U.S. Department of Education.7 The legislative data reveals there was a decrease in issue attention during that year. Kingdon mentions policy issues eventually “fade” from the agenda oftentimes as a result when there is increased government oversight without new legislation.2 In this way, issues can rise to the agenda and then leave with no resolution.

The above paragraph illustrates a discrepancy between the U.S. government and tribal leadership regarding the intentions of indigenous affairs attention. The Garbage Can Model is described as being a system in which people act in the absence of clearly defined goals. Thus, when the organization is a loose collection of ideas, it discovers preferences through action more than it acts on the basis of preferences.2 The indigenous people view the problem as related to indigenous rights, which pertain to land control and elite discrimination of minorities by the elites, rather than cultural preservation. The “states’ obligation to protect indigenous peoples’ right to cultural integrity necessarily includes the obligation to protect traditional lands because of the inextricable link between the two in this context”.6 The indigenous affairs attention distribution’s fall was halted by the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The act promised to protect American Indians inherent freedom to exercise traditional religions and granted them access to sacred sites and objects.7 Although the enactment contained no enforcement provisions, halted religious minority discrimination was more impactful in giving land access to indigenous populations than gains in education because it involved a land rights component.

The final increase in indigenous rights recognition happened as a result of crucial court cases. The crucial change is when the U.S. Supreme Court “recognize[d] indigenous peoples’ oral history and their own documentation and mapping of their lands as evidence in legal proceedings determining land rights”.6 The 1980 USSC court case, between the U.S. and Sioux Nation of Indians, ruled that the Sioux Indians were entitled to an award of $17.5 million and 5% interest per year since 1877. This totaled to about $106 million in compensation for the unjust taking of the Black Hills in direct contravention of the Treaty of Fort Laramie.7 In the Seminole Tribe v. Butterworth USSC decision, the Court ruled that tribes have the right to create gambling enterprises on their land, even if such facilities are prohibited by the civil statutes of the state.7 The ruling enabled reservations to establish casinos, as well as gave reservations greater authority for tribal governments to levy taxes, own assets and create judiciaries. From this information, it’s evident the courts play a significant role as “judicial organs have been the architects of domestic legal doctrine recognizing land and natural resource rights for indigenous people”.6

From all the gathered data, it’s evident indigenous affairs is inherently a cultural issue. Frank Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones bounce off Kingdon and introduce the term “policy image” to discuss how it is necessary to manipulate for success in public policy-making. Policy image essentially refers to how the policy is viewed by people, both the public and the policymakers themselves. Often this involves the simplification of complicated legal jargon or a focus shift from one part of the bill to another.8 By investigating the chronological account of policy action, it’s evident the Congress focus shift perpetuates inaction. From the indigenous people’s perspective, policy image’s roots lie in land control, but action is limited due to minority discrimination.


The above figure illustrates U.S. government’s openness to health care reform is correlated to their concern for the indigenous population. This essay proposes that healthcare reform, specifically within the drug industry, is the issue most likely to sway government legislation about indigenous land rights. If trends (exhibited in the above figure) endure, indigenous cultural respect may be most effectively cultivated by highlighting indigenous people’s potential medicinal contributions. Currently, while the proposal breeds potential for a strong collective product, the government’s minority discrimination prohibits indigenous people from land ownership. A logical aim would be to identify the problem as healthcare deficiency so that it reaches the agenda and then propose indigenous land rights as a solution. Kingdon claims “the subject with an available alternative is the one that rises on the agenda”.2 In crucial subjects such as the health area (long-term care, desirability of getting people to alter their own health habits, and persuading physicians to settle in under resourced areas), it is difficult to bring attention to problems because bureaucrats don’t know what to do about them when there is no solution attached to the proposal.2 Healthcare is a major concern, considering that without human survival, there would be no other societal elements. Healthcare impacts a variety of people from different socio-economic backgrounds and usually contains potential to decrease inequality. Safety is the government’s chief motivation if they stay true to their constitutional purpose to guarantee basic rights for its citizens. This solutions functions under the basis that minority discrimination is not worth the loss of indigenous medicinal strengths and land ownership regulations will change as a result.

To create a sense of urgency, it’s essential the U.S. government quickly considers the logistics of reframing indigenous affairs healthcare reform concern. Baumgartner and Jones draw a brief comparison between two circumstances surrounding agenda-setting. The authors assert when a general principle of policy action is in place (such as indigenous human rights recognition), policymaking tends to occur incrementally. However, when new principles (such as healthcare reform using indigenous medicine) “the policymaking process tends to be volatile”.8

The choice to approach indigenous affairs from a healthcare position will also create a tighter knit community of policymakers. Kingdon explains certain policy areas are made up of tightly knit communities, whereas others are heavily fragmented. In tightly knit communities, “policy communities are composed of specialists in a given policy area – health, housing, environmental protection, criminal justice, etc. In any one of these policy areas, specialists are scattered both through and outside of government”.2 In a closely knit policy area, decision makers know who to how to streamline the process. To transform the problem definition to insufficient healthcare reform would encourage collaboration between indigenous people and Western scientists, rather than deal with multiple indigenous affairs subsets simultaneously. The multifaceted indigenous affairs problem allows for Congress to devote focus away from land rights. Within fragmented policy areas, problems with coordination often arise and this makes it hard to get things done.2 However, a indigenous healthcare reform solution would require indigenous land rights restoration because natives need access to the resourceful areas. Therefore, to urgently instigate increased attention to indigenous affairs, it’s optimal for policy focus to transcend into the healthcare topic.

America unnecessarily spends money on land management tactics without maximizing their accessible human resources. While indigenous affairs attention decreases overtime, the U.S. budget devoted to Conservation and Land Management increases (see graph below). It’s clear the indigenous population holds strengths in recognizing natural materials’ capabilities. Scholars contend widely documented ecologically and economically sound farming methods, “such as multi-cropping, shifting cultivation, and terracing, which were essential to curtailing weeds and soil erosion” reflect indigenous societies’ capability to cut costs.4 The U.S. allocation of budget is inherently flawed, as the money devoted to land conservation can smoothy be minimized if the government surrenders territorial control to native humans.


When pharmaceutical companies discriminate against indigenous minority populations, they fail to trust indigenous knowledge about curative plants. The “garbage can” model discusses how the importance of problems and solutions can be virtually interchangeable, more exactly, “solutions and problems have equal status as separate streams in the system”.2 While it’s relatively easy for a policy image to be formed (insufficient indigenous rights), it can seem impossible for solutions to get on the agenda due to minority discrimination in this case.

Minority discrimination prohibits Westerners to ask indigenous people for help. Although Westerners have turned to natural compounds to search for powerful healing properties, the scope of substance is a major obstacle. Companies “must examine roughly 10,000 plants for every species they find with promising medicinal qualities” and “reliance on indigenous knowledge has proven a significant source of savings in drug research.3 The greatest problem for indigenous peoples is “the failure of States to demarcate indigenous lands. Purely abstract or legal recognition of indigenous lands, territories or resources can be practically meaningless unless the physical identity of the property is determined and marked”.6 Even though indigenous people can influence issue attention, they lack policy-making impact which would actually award them with land control needed for healthcare improvement.

There’s potential for indigenous knowledge to boost modern sustainable development efforts. The indigenous spiritual worldview compliments formal Western thought with alternative methods to comprehend environmental conditions. Projects that set out to harness and preserve indigenous knowledge often end up utilizing both. For example, the National Museum of Kenya “is developing a database to catalogue the nutritional value of indigenous food plants and plans to promote their cultivation, consumption, and marketing”.4 Indigenous knowledge is useful to Westerners because it’s fundamentally different from their scientific approach which focuses on objective reality understood from empirical data and rationality. The indigenous people prioritize strong relationships with ancestors as a gateway to develop a strong cultural identity and self-understanding. The originally spiritual aim necessitates a lifestyle dedicated to thorough resonation with physical terrain the ancestors once inhabited. The historical knowledge basis grounded in traditional stories guides direct engagement with material contained within the spacious remains. Indigenous knowledge is concerned with the environment’s curative properties and essentially “the body of historically constituted knowledge instrumental in the long-term adaptation of human groups to the biophysical environment”.3 The indigenous people’s comprehension is crucially “unique to a given location”.4 Therefore, a particular tribe’s knowledge is specialized, a quality which calls for a collaborative trade with Westerners. While trade is inherent to indigenous civilization, minority discrimination perpetuates the government’s hesitant allowance of natives’ participation in the drug industry. However, the proposed solution explicitly outlines it’s worth surrendering land to consume the information exchanged.


This essay is founded under the basis that a quality solution is timeless. In order to make it happen, it’s essential to control variability, specifically within the three streams of the political process Kingdon presents. Kingdon elaborates on his “revised garbage-can model,” which describes three separate policymaking streams (agenda-setting, alternative formation, and politics) operating together. According to this model, there must exist a specific (and often rare) policy window in which all three such streams can be “coupled” for a new policy to emerge.2 The unlikelihood of such a policy window’s emergence is emphasized by the stasis period Baumgartner and Jones model in the punctuated equilibrium theory.8 The political climate that originated during colonization created minority discrimination which impacts the prior two streams. The indigenous people are not valued for their land knowledge, due to lacking mindfulness of unjust power dynamics, and therefore the insufficient land rights condition did not escalate into a problem. The culture is not valued and therefore don’t hold rights to the materials contained within the indigenous lands, as well as lack access to policy-making participation. Consequentially, the issue struggles to rise on the agenda and approach resolution. We suffer from the inability to benefit from the indigenous people’s care of land and human health.

However, the proposed solution reveals the issue presented is possible to combat. Minority discrimination is a timeless theory to explain multiple problem roots, such as indigenous affairs. In the modern era, it poses threats to human safety, as gruesome gun violence is attributed to racial tensions dating back to colonization. To frame indigenous affairs inattention as a healthcare deficiency is the most optimal strategy. The approach will mitigate minority discrimination’s influence on the political climate because the solution will benefit both minorities and majorities.


1 Banner, Stuart. How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.

2 Kingdon, John W. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. Boston: Little, Brown, 1984.

3 Trotti, John, Compensation Versus Colonization: A Common Heritage Approach to the Use of Indigenous Medicine in Developing Western Pharmaceuticals, Food and Drug Law Journal, 2001.

4 Maragia, Bosire, The Indigenous Sustainability Paradox and the Quest for Sustainability in Post- Colonial Societies: Is Indigenous Knowledge All that is Needed? Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 2006.

5 Kebec, Philomena, Environmental Justice and Tribal Environmental Regulation: REDD+: Climate Justice or a New Face of Manifest Destiny? Lessons Drawn from the Indigenous Struggle to Resist Colonization of Ojibwe Forests in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, William Mitchell Law Review, 2015.

6 Anaya, S. James, Williams Jr., Robert A. The Protection of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights over Lands and Natural Resources Under the Inter-American Human Rights System, The Harvard Human Rights Journal, 2001.

7 Johansen, Bruce E. Shapers of the Great Debate on Native Americans–land, Spirit, and Power: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

8 Baumgartner, Frank R. and Bryan D. Jones. 2009. Agendas and Instability in American Politics. Second Edition. University of Chicago Press.