Wambli Ho, Voice of the Eagles: Special Report
© November, 2002
Median income is $2,600 per year with 85% to 95% unemployment
Infant mortality rate 300% higher than the U.S. national average
Diabetes and Tuberculosis rates 800% higher than the U.S.
Elderly die each winter from hypothermia (freezing)
At least 60% of the homes are severely substandard, without
water, electricity, adequate insulation, and sewage systems
School drop-out rate is 70%
Recent reports state the average life expectancy is 45 years old
while others state that it is 48 years old for men and 52 years old for women. With either set of
figures, that's the shortest life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside Haiti,
according to The Wall Street Journal.
And the list goes on and on....
Hidden Away, in the Land of Plenty....
2002 Current Statistics Concerning the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota
(Compiled from recent political, government, and tribal publications)
Hidden away, dotted throughout the landscape of America, are the
Reservations of the Indigenous People of our land. Mostly unknown or
forgotten by the mainstream culture of the dominant U.S. society, the
average United States resident knows little or nothing about these
people other than what romanticized versions they see in movies and
television or else in their nearest Reservation casino. Most assume
that whatever poverty exists on a reservation is most certainly
comparable to that which they might experience themselves.
And definitely, mainstream Americans are accustomed to being exposed
to poverty. It has become nearly invisible due to its overwhelming
presence everywhere. We drive through our cities now with a blind eye,
numb to the suffering around us. Even more, we watch the televised
reports of Third World countries, shake our heads and turn away,
rightfully assuming that our government and our charities will help
those in need all over the globe.
But the question begs: What about the foreign nations on America's
own soil, within this country, a part and yet apart from mainstream
society? What about the Native American Nations on America's
reservations? Few mainstream Americans know anything about the people
that live on these reservations and fewer still know or comprehend the
unconscionable conditions present on many of them. Oddly enough, the
case could be made that more Europeans and Australians know and
understand the cultures and conditions of our Indigenous people better
than do the majority of mainstream Americans.
And what the Europeans and Australians know is that there are a
number of very fortunate Native American Nations whose people are able
to earn a very good living due to casino income, natural resource
income, or from some other sources. They also know, however, that a
staggering number of residents on Native American reservations live in
abject conditions rivaling, or even surpassing, that of many Third World
This report chronicles just one Nation, the Oglala Lakota (Sioux)
Nation of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Yet the name and
only a few details could easily be changed to describe a host of others.
Dineh (Navajo), Ute Mountain Ute, Tohono O'odham, Pima, Yaqui .the list
But despite nearly-insurmountable conditions, few resources, and
against unbelievable odds, Nation after Nation of Indigenous leaders and
their people are working hard to counteract decades of oppression and
forced destruction of their cultures to bring their citizens back to a
life of self-respect and self-sufficiency in today's world.
This report is not a plea for charity. It will also not detail the
causes. It is simply hoped this report will serve to inform and cure
the massive ignorance pervading the United States about its own
Indigenous people. It seeks to dispel the illusions. For only by
understanding, only through education, can prejudice be counteracted,
mutual respect gained, and effective long-term cooperative solutions be
found. But nothing can be accomplished if the issues remain unknown.
There are numerous non-profit organizations, all under-staffed and
under-funded, trying to work with the Indigenous leaders to solve
various facets of the problems existing on the reservations. It is not
the purpose of this report to promote one organization over another as a
solution. If the reader resolves to take a step to help, either
monetarily or through volunteer work, it will be up to the reader to
take the responsibility to investigate and find a reputable organization
best suited to their talents, resources, and vision.
In the meantime, this report will serve simply to make public part of
that which is hidden away in the richest country in the world.
Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Indian Reservation sits in Bennett,
Jackson, and Shannon Counties and is located in the southwest corner of
South Dakota, fifty miles east of the Wyoming border.
11,000-square mile (over 2 million acres) Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge
Reservation is the second-largest Native American Reservation within the
United States. It is roughly the size of the State of Connecticut.
Reservation is divided into eight districts: Eagle Nest, Pass Creek,
Wakpamni, LaCreek, Pine Ridge, White Clay, Medicine Root, Porcupine, and
topography of the Pine Ridge Reservation includes badlands, rolling
grassland hills, dryland prairie, and areas dotted with pine trees.
to the 1998 Bureau of Indian Affairs Census, the Pine Ridge Reservation
is home to approximately 40,000 persons, 35% of which are under the age
of 16. Approximately half the residents of the Reservation are
registered tribal members of the Oglala Lakota Nation.
population is steadily rising, despite the severe conditions on the
Reservation, as more and more Oglala Lakota return home from far-away
cities in order to live within their societal values, be with their
families, and assist with the revitalization of their culture and their
reports point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation
is approximately $2,600 per year.
unemployment rate vacillates from 85% to 95% on the Reservation.
is no industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the
Reservation to provide employment.
nearest town of size (which provides some jobs for those few persons
able to travel the distance) is Rapid City, South Dakota with
approximately 57,000 residents. It is located approximately 120 miles
from the Reservation. The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver,
Colorado located about 350 miles away.
figures state that the life expectancy on the Reservation is 48 years
old for men and 52 for women. Other reports state that the average life
expectancy on the Reservation is 45 years old. With either set of
figures, that's the shortest life expectancy for a community anywhere in
the Western Hemisphere outside Haiti, according to The Wall Street
suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S.
national average for this age group.
infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300%
higher than the U.S. national average.
than half the Reservation's adults battle addiction and disease.
Alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and malnutrition are
rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than
the U.S. national average.
reports indicate that almost 50% of the adults on the Reservation over
the age of 40 have diabetes.
a result of the high rate of diabetes on the Reservation,
diabetic-related blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are common.
tuberculosis rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 800%
higher than the U.S. national average.
cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average.
winter, Reservation Elders are found dead from hypothermia (freezing).
is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation
are infested with Black Mold, Stachybotrys. This infestation causes an
often-fatal condition with infants, children, elderly, those with
damaged immune systems, and those with lung and pulmonary conditions at
the highest risk. Exposure to this mold can cause hemorrhaging of the
lungs and brain as well as cancer.
Reservation residents live without health care due to vast travel
distances involved in accessing that care. Additional factors include
under-funded, under-staffed medical facilities and outdated or
non-existent medical equipment. There is little hope for increased
funding for Indian health care.
healthcare programs are rare.
most of the treaties between the U.S. Government and Indian Nations, the
U.S. government agreed to provide adequate medical care for Indians in
return for vast quantities of land. The Indian Health Services (IHS)
was set up to administer the health care for Indians under these
treaties and receives an appropriation each year to fund Indian health
care. Unfortunately, the appropriation is very small compared to the
need. The IHS is understaffed and ill-equipped and can't possibly
address the needs of Indian communities. Nowhere is this more apparent
than on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
drop-out rate is over 70%.
to a Bureau of Indian Affairs report, the Pine Ridge Reservation schools
are in the bottom 10% of school funding by U.S. Department of Education
and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
turnover is 800% that of the U.S. national average.
small Tribal Housing Authority homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are
so overcrowded and scarce that many homeless families often use tents or
cars for shelter. Many families live in shacks, old trailers, or
dilapidated mobile homes.
is a large homeless population on the Reservation, but most families
never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation.
Consequently, many homes have large numbers of people living in them.
is an estimated average of 17 people living in each family home (a home
which may only have two to three rooms). Some homes, built for 6 to 8
people, have up to 30 people living in them.
of Reservation families have no telephone.
33% of the Reservation homes lack basic water and sewage systems as well
residents must carry (often contaminated) water from the local rivers
daily for their personal needs.
of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have no electricity.
of the Reservation homes are substandard.
is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation
need to be burned to the ground and replaced with new housing due to
infestation of the potentially-fatal Black Mold, Stachybotrys. There is
no insurance or government program to assist families in replacing their
Reservation families are forced to sleep on dirt floors.
Reservation homes lack adequate insulation. Even more homes lack
basic insulation or central heating in their homes, many residents on
the Pine Ridge Reservation use their ovens to heat their homes.
Reservation homes lack stoves, refrigerators, beds, and/or basic
Reservation families live in rural and often isolated areas.
largest town on the Reservation is the town of Pine Ridge which has a
population of approximately 5,720 people and is the administrative
center for the Reservation.
are few improved roads on the Reservation and many of the homes are
inaccessible during times of heavy snow or rain.
is extreme on the Reservation. Severe winds are always a factor.
Traditionally, summer temperatures reach well over 110*F and winters
bring bitter cold with temperatures that can reach -50*F below zero or
worse. Flooding, tornados, or wildfires are always a risk.
of the wells and much of the water and land on the Reservation is
contaminated with pesticides and other poisons from farming, mining,
open dumps, and commercial and governmental mining operations outside
the Reservation. A further source of contamination is buried ordnance
and hazardous materials from closed U.S. military bombing ranges on the
Pine Ridge Reservation still has no banks, motels, discount stores, or
movie theaters. It has only one grocery store of any moderate size and
it is located in the town of Pine Ridge on the Reservation.
of the banks and lending institutions nearest to the Reservation were
recently targeted for investigation of fraudulent or predatory lending
practices, with the citizens of the Pine Ridge Reservation as their
are no public libraries except one at the Oglala Lakota College.
is no public transportation available on the Reservation.
of operable automobiles by residents of the Reservation is highly
form of travel for all ages on the Reservation is walking or
is one very small airport on the Reservation servicing both the Pine
Ridge Reservation and Shannon County. It's longest, paved runway
extends 4,969 feet. There are no commercial flights available.
is one radio station on the Pine Ridge Reservation. KILI 90.1FM is
located near the town of Porcupine on the Reservation.
affects eight out of ten families on the Reservation.
death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300%
higher than the remaining US population.
Oglala Lakota Nation has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol
on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the early 1970's. However, the town
of Whiteclay, Nebraska (which sits 400 yards off the Reservation border
in a contested "buffer" zone) has approximately 14 residents and four
liquor stores which sell over 4.1 million cans of beer each year
resulting in a $3million annual trade. Unlike other Nebraska
communities, Whiteclay exists only to sell liquor and make money. It has
no schools, no churches, no civic organizations, no parks, no benches,
no public bathrooms, no fire service and no law enforcement. Tribal
officials have repeatedly pleaded with the State of Nebraska to close
these liquor stores or enforce the State laws regulating liquor stores
but have been consistently refused.
studies show that the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer which begins underneath
the Pine Ridge Reservation is predicted to run dry within the next
thirty years, possibly as early as the year 2005, due to commercial
interest use and dryland farming in numerous states south of the
Reservation. This critical North American underground water resource is
not renewable at anything near the present consumption rate. The recent
years of drought have simply accelerated the problem.
studies show that much of the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer has been
contaminated with farming pesticides and commercial, factory, mining,
and industrial contaminants in the States of South Dakota, Wyoming,
Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Tribal nations are considered to have sovereign governmental status and
have a government to government relationship with the United States.
The Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribal government operates under a constitution
consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and approved by
the Tribal membership and Tribal Council of the Oglala Lakota Sioux
Tribe. The Tribe is governed by an elected body consisting of a 5 member
Executive Committee and an 18 member Tribal Council, all of whom serve a
four year term.
If you wish a list of the resources and publications used for this
Please contact Stephanie M. Schwartz, Editor
Wambli Ho, Voice of the Eagles at
Stephanie Schwartz walked on to the Spirit World
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