After my last post I realized that organized crime and Native American crime was the thing I wanted to research and write about for my ANT 358 paper. I am interested and passionate about understanding the causes and motivations surrounding the emergence organized crime in Native American communities. 

One book that I came across and has had a significant impact on my research direction has been Crime and the Native American by David Lester (1999). Lester focuses several sections on the current theories on why crime has emerged in Native American communities. And these theories are what I am going to talk about today…

THE THEORIES (Lester 1999:87-90)

1. “Native Americans are inherently a more criminal group” 

– I very much disagree with this…I think statements such as these proliferate racism.

2. Native Americans have high recidivism rates leading to an inflation of crime estimates

—-There is not much research on the higher rates of recidivism other than these statistics—–


As reported in Lester (1999) in a research study by Randall and Randall (1978) Native Americans exhibit higher recidivism rates than other populations. What is recidivism? Recidivism is the continuation of undesirable behavior (often illegal) after punishment. This statistic is often used to describe the rearrest of inmates after incarceration, as we see here.



3. Adjustment as a result of acculturation. i.e. culture conflict, clash of cultures, imposition of Anglo laws, and migration of one culture into another.

– I particularly like the Societal cause theories introduced by Lester because I draw some comparisons to the situations of Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants in New York during the 1800s and 1900s. Things such as cultural clashes result in trying to assimilate into the new culture, but by assimilating you risk losing your original cultural identity. However, the American culture never fully excepts these assimilated peoples either. I view it very much as a double-edged sword especially in the case of Native American peoples. This is demonstrated in the case of the boarding schools introduced throughout America and Canada. 

4. Social disorganization as a result of historical trauma (i.e. relocation and maltreatment). This disorganization results in an erosion of traditional values, reservations and poverty.

5.  Social organization of Native American tribes resulted in varying levels of crime

– This took a little extra comprehension for me, but what Lester is eluding to is the degree of which cultural values such as low values on property possession inform the type of crimes (i.e. low property possession = less property crime). I don’t know how much I buy into this explanation because of the cultural corruption and the loss of cultural knowledge that has resulted from acculturation. 

6. Native Americans demographically have a greater proportion of crime-prone individuals such as young males. This would require a lot more research to verify…

7. Over representation in the criminal justice system is a result of discrimination 

8. Subjects of greater surveillance. Several layers of the justice system (tribal, local, state, and federal) and as a result there is an inflation of police activity.

9.  Native Americans do not use the legal services available to gain lesser sentences.

10. Alcohol use and abuse plays a role in criminal activity. Lester suggests that prohibition r=on reservations prevents the establishment of norms for everyday self-regulated drinking.

11. Lack opportunity for legitimate means of work.

12. Native American community facilities for “delinquent” youth are often poor and unhelpful 

13. Break down of the family structure on reservations (illegitimate births, divorce and incarceration)

14. Criminal and delinquent behavior of Native Americans is exaggerated.

As in true anthropological fashion I feel that the cause of crime in Native American communities is a culmination of many of these theories. After reading all of these theories I find myself gravitating towards the societal causes theories such as social disorganization and adjustment as a result of acculturation. 










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