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America's Best Kept Secret

An Entirely Different America

USA | Monday, 5 May 2014 | Views [76] | Scholarship Entry

The drive from Phoenix to Tuba City, Arizona may only last a few short hours, yet it feels as if you are traveling back in time. Well-groomed lawns and manicured golf courses transform into barren deserts and trailer homes. America may be known as one of the wealthiest countries in the world; however, there is a strong contrast between what is expected and what actually exists. Look through the spyglass at America’s poverty, and you last smack in the middle of an Indian Reservation.
Why are these Indian Reservations so poor? There is an array of opportunities available to them, from education grants to tax-free land. Despite these valuable resources, reservations are known for infinite drug and alcohol problems and high dropout rates. I planned on investigating this question as I spent the day with a student at the local high school.
Having been earlier informed that many of the students who attended the high school lived in homes lacking electricity and running water, I couldn’t believe my eyes as we approached Tuba City High School. The school looked brand new and was in pristine quality. Textbooks were abundant among smart-board filled classrooms.
When I went to class with students, however, the truth began to come alive. I noticed that the resources in the classroom were not put to proper use. Students shuffled into English class, assignment already written up on the board. Over the duration of the class, the teacher remained seated in his desk while students ignored the assignment and conversed among themselves. A missed opportunity to learn gave me the chance to speak with some of the students. I noticed a lack of ambition. Many were going to college, but few actually had dreams of career paths.
The classroom held a general feeling of unsureness. These students were stuck right in the middle, on one side a duty to preserve their Native-American culture, and on the other, a desire to experience what lies outside of the reservation.
Native American cultures contain a beautiful complexity of traditions and unique artwork. Though once alive and abundant, the culture is slowly fading away and blending into every day American life. The future of Indian Reservations is about as unsure as the students who will determine the destiny of the land they reside on. One hundred years from now, one can only hope the quality of life and preservation of culture has improved on the land that contains America’s largest poverty population.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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