America’s Third World: Pine Ridge, South Dakota

Two Bulls has long harbored a conspiracy theory about the government: “Look how they brought welfare and our people lived on welfare and some of our people don’t even know how to work. They’re used to just staying at home all day, watching TV and drinking and taking drugs,” she told the Guardian. “That’s the state the government wanted us to be in and we’re in it.”

Unemployment at 80%. Fifteen people per home. Life expectancy rates of 50 years. The third world? Not hardly. Try South Dakota. The Pine Ridge reservation is home to an estimated 45,000 Oglala Sioux on more than two million acres. News of these conditions comes, perhaps unfortunately, from a British paper, England’s Guardian.

There are 310 Indian reservations in the U.S. Some are wealthy; many are not. The Oglala Sioux’s Prairie Wind Casino doesn’t bring massive profits like the casinos of other tribes in other states. More often, it’s Oglala Sioux who are gambling their money away.

The Pine Ridge tribal housing authority does receive $10 million a year from Congress, but it’s not enough to maintain existing homes, much less build many new ones. A third of homes on the reservation don’t have electricity or running water. Recently, local leaders built a 280-cell jail to replace the old 25-cell one. You know there’s something wrong when your best shot at new housing is committing a crime.

The police captain blames 90% of the reservation’s problems on alcohol dependence. And according to the law, the reservation is supposed to be dry. The few options available to young people include joining a gang or the military or bootlegging. Youth suicide is on the rise.

Tribe president Theresa Two Bulls is also contending with startlingly poor health for young and old reservation residents alike; half of the Oglala Sioux over 40 have diabetes and the infant mortality rate is three times the national average.


Original source.

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