Accessibility links

Breaking News

American Indians Are Still Poorer Than the US Average but Making Gains

Also: Dave Eggers becomes the youngest winner of the Heinz Family Foundation award. And music by some groups that have recently played at the Merriweather Post Pavilion near Washington. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We hear music from singers who performed recently at the Merriweather Post Pavilion …

Answer a question about Native Americans …

And report about a recent winner of the Heinz Family Foundation Awards.

Heinz Award


Dave Eggers is a respected American writer, publisher and activist. Last month, the thirty-seven-year-old writer became the youngest person ever to win the yearly Heinz Family Foundation award. Barbara Klein has more.


Every year, the Heinz Family Foundation gives awards to recognize the important and influential efforts of individuals in American society. The awards are given to people for their extraordinary work in areas including public policy, the environment and the arts. Each winner receives two hundred fifty thousand dollars in prize money.

Dave Eggers was named one of the winners. He is well known for his bestselling book “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” published in two thousand. It tells the true story of how he cared for his eight-year-old brother after their parents died.

Last year, Eggers wrote "What is the What," another book that was praised by critics and the public. Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng cooperated in the fictional retelling of Deng's life story as one of the lost boys of Sudan. Profits from the book have been used to build schools and community centers in southern Sudan.

Dave Eggers has used the money from his other successful books to educate children and support writers in this country. In two thousand two, he started the organization 826 Valencia, named for its street address in San Francisco, California.

Eight Twenty-Six Valencia is a writing laboratory. Its volunteers give free classes to teach writing skills to children. The group also organizes trips so students can meet with authors and enjoy projects like learning to make a book.

Eight Twenty-Six Valencia has expanded to six more cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Eggers said he will donate his prize money to these seven centers.

Dave Eggers also created a literary journal and publishing company called McSweeney’s. The company started as a literary journal for publishing stories that other magazines had rejected. Now, the journal includes stories by well known writers as well as newly discovered writers. One part of the company is called Believer Books. It helps find books by non-English speaking writers and publishes them in English for the first time.

Dave Eggers and five other people will receive the Heinz Family Foundation awards at a private ceremony later this month in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

American Indians


Our listener question this week comes from Indonesia. Sholeh asks about the lives of American Indians. American Indians have lived on the continent for thousands of years. European explorer Christopher Columbus named them Indians in the late fourteen hundreds. He thought his ship had reached a place called the Indies.

There are more than four million American Indians and Alaskan natives in the United States. They belong to more than five hundred Indian tribes. Many tribe members live on reservations. These are areas that the United States government set up for native tribes that had lost their lands to European settlers.

There are about three hundred Indian reservations in the United States. Some reservations are larger than American states. The United States Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs supervises these territories. Tribes on reservations have limited self-rule.

Generally, American Indians do not enjoy the same economic and educational success as other Americans. A continuing study by Harvard University says American Indians generally earn less money and have more unemployment than other Americans. The study says they also have higher rates of disease and die younger than other American groups.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs provides education services to almost fifty thousand Indian children in one hundred eighty-four schools. Experts from Harvard say college attendance rates among the Indian population is half that of the general population. But, they also say the situation is improving. The experts say the number of Native American Indians seeking higher education has more than doubled in the last twenty years.

Harvard researchers also say that the American Indian economy has grown at three times the national rate since the nineteen eighties. Some of the improvement has come from expansion of the American Indian gambling industry. More than two hundred Indian tribes have legalized gambling on their reservations. Native American casinos and other gaming businesses earn more than twenty billion dollars each year.

Merriweather Post Pavilion


In spring, summer and autumn, Americans like to attend outdoor music concerts. The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland is one popular place to enjoy music outside. It is in an area of protected land called Symphony Woods. This year Merriweather held many kinds of concerts featuring jazz, country, and rock music. Faith Lapidus plays some of that music.



That was “Infinita Maleza” from Manu Chao’s latest album “La Radiolina.” The song tells about the painful effects that American foreign policy can have on poor populations.

Manu Chao gave an energetic and exciting concert at Merriweather in June. This singer was born in Paris, France to Spanish parents. He is very famous in South America and Europe, but is less well known in the United States.

In his records Manu Chao often sings in different languages about political oppression and the suffering of displaced people.

Alison Krauss and her Union Station bluegrass band performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion in August. Krauss is popular for her clear, sweet voice and expert playing on the fiddle. She recently released an album called “A Hundred Miles or More.” Here is the song “Simple Love.”


This month, the Shins will perform at Merriweather. This band is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Shins are one of the more successful independent rock groups around today. Their latest album, “Wincing the Night Away,” is filled with imaginative and poetic songs. We leave you now with “Red Rabbits.”



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange and Caty Weaver who was our producer.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.