Undervalued and Underrepresented: Native Americans 

By Jacqui McLean

Since the colonization of America, Native Americans have continued to be pushed aside and underrepresented through numerous aspects of society. The following —media, education, and government, represent some of the biggest areas where Natives are marginalized. 


For starters, Native Americans have very little representation when it comes to the state and federal government.  Their struggles with influencing government policy is partially why they experience underrepresentation in other aspects of society. For example, slim representation in government has made it difficult to change voter ID laws which disproportionately affect Native Americans. There have only been 18 Native Americans elected into the House (not including re-elected officials). However, in recent years their representation has increased with 5 members serving at once as of September 2022. In addition, the first female Native representatives were elected within the past five years. While Native people continue to be underrepresented in government, there is slow progress in improving the disparity. 


Not only are Native Americans underrepresented in the media, but their few appearances are often portrayed in a very stereotypical light. The very few places Native Americans are presented in media tend to be in historical film pieces that depict Native’s in the 18th and 19th century often wearing headpieces, buckskin, and wielding bows and arrows. Although they amount to around 2 percent of the population, Native groups only make up about .4 percent of film and tv characters, less than 1 percent of children’s TV characters, and .09 percent of video game characters. The lack of representation along with stereotypical depictions, present a continuous struggle for Native Amercians. 


College also continues to be an area where Native Americans lack representation. One of the issues is the lack of higher education courses (like AP and college prep classes) that are available to Native American students. In addition, Native students often lack the financial resources to attend college and need more financial assistance than other students. Although there is greater access to aid for Native students it still presents a barrier. Lastly, the fact that many Native students don’t have a parent who went to college makes it more difficult for them to not only go to college but also stay in college to retain a degree. Overall, even with financial progress, there is still under representation in education.