February 15, 2022

AP Photo/Alex Menendez

Melissa forwarded me a feed about how Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman (right guard) Austin Corbett helped lead his team to victory Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20.  Corbett got the starting job for the Rams in 2021 and was on the field late for the game-winning score with 1:25 remaining to give the Rams their first NFL title since the 1999 season, and their first representing Los Angeles since 1951.  What made Corbett unique was he is a citizen of the Walker River Paiute.  The previous Native to win the Super Bowl was Kansas City’s James Winchester of the Choctaw Nation in 2020.  Now Corbett holds that title.  

Corbett was born in Nevada and attended Edward C Reed High School.  He received little interest from college programs but managed to find playing time as a walk-on for the University of Nevada.  Corbett steadily improved for the Wolfpack, earning an honorable mention in the 2015 All-Mountain West team, second team in 2016 and then first team in 2017.  After his senior year at Nevada, Corbett was invited to the 2018 Senior Bowl and was drafted 33rd overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL draft.  Corbett struggled with the Browns and started just one game before being traded to the Rams midway through the 2019 season.  During the last two seasons with the Rams Corbett surrendered only four regular-season sacks and held the starting job for every game for the Rams this season.  He was named Bleacher Report’s “best kept secret” on the Rams roster prior to the Super Bowl.  Corbett become a free agent after the game, and that means for now, he is out of a job.

Two different pictures came out of last week’s job data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  One told a story of a stunning job report, the other showed the job market is leaving Indigenous people behind.  According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, “While the nation’s topline unadjusted unemployment rate was 4.4% in January, the . . . rate among Native American workers was an extraordinarily high 11.1%.”  The report is striking because the monthly BLS report does not make Native unemployment even available.  That means there was a gap in how the economy was doing because it excluded Native people in general.  The Brookings report shows Native Americans had a higher unemployment rate (7.5%) than other racial groups before the pandemic, and with the pandemic the rate jumped to 28.6%, or comparable to national unemployment during the Great Depression.  Even with the recovery, Native American unemployment is two and a half times higher than the national level.  That would be considered a crisis if we tracked this information.

THOUGHTS:  Robert Maxim of the Brookings Institute said one cause of high unemployment is that health disparities, magnified by the pandemic, lead to worse economic outcomes.  “If you’re not healthy enough to work, if you’re just trying to stay alive, you can’t even think about your economic well being.”  Even this job data only identifies people that self-identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native alone, while 61% of Native people identify as two or more races, the highest of any racial or ethnic group.  That means it excludes three out of every five people in data about Native individuals.  What we do not know can hurt us.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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