American Sociological Association

Reservation Lands as a Protective Social Factor: An Analysis of Psychological Distress among Two American Indian Tribes

The unique physical, cultural, and ecological location of U.S. American Indian reservations simultaneously presents risks for mental health and offers sources of resilience to Native peoples. Using survey data from two American Indian tribes, we explore whether the length of one’s life spent on a reservation is associated with lower odds of psychological distress. In both tribes, we find that individuals who live a vast majority of their lives on the reservation have lower odds of psychological distress than individuals who spent portions of their life off or near the reservation. These findings suggest a need to reframe the perception of life experience on tribal reservations but also call for a more nuanced investigation of the life experience of American Indians. This study illustrates the importance of deeply exploring the relationship that American Indians have with their tribal reservation lands.

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Kimberly R. Huyser, Ronald J. Angel, Janette Beals, James H. Cox, Robert A. Hummer, Arthur Sakamoto, and Spero M. Manson