An article in the December 2009 issue of Harper's Magazine offers a totally depressing view of a South Dakota reservation:
This is Pine Ridge Reservation today: somewhere between 13,000 and 40,000 Oglala Sioux spread across an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Unemployment is 89 percent, the few jobs in the tribal bureaucracy or the Prairie Winds Casino. More than half the population lives below the federal poverty line. The youth suicide rate is ten times the national average. One in three women is a victim of rape. Life expectancy is roughly equivalent to Somalia’s. Plagues of alcohol, drugs, domestic and gang violence. Pine Ridge is as profoundly damaged a place as exists in America...There are more biographies and photos at the link.
Ponies grazing among wreckage in the long afternoon light, graffi ti-covered tribal housing tumbles down the hillside. The houses are falling apart, surrounded by burst garbage bags dug through by slinking dogs, dead cars on blocks, windows smashed. Most basements are rotting with black mold and mildew, and half the houses on the hill have had their electricity shut off. A small boy plays in the dirt, shirtless, his face almost catlike, the sign of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome...
Custer was owned by the Oglala Sioux, they couldn’t beat us. That’s why we own what we still own. Until the day I die I’ll take pride in it. Look at what we have, it’s not much. No lights, barely surviving off food stamps. But we’re still here, we’re surviving.Kimberly sits in the candlelight and drinks a can of Camo Black Ice malt liquor, chasing each gulp with water and grimacing.
It’s only $2.50 a can. If we lived in cities we could buy a Budweiser or a Bud Light, something that won’t kill us off, but you know, we’re at the reservation, some of us don’t even have cars. Camo’s just the way you gotta take it, I guess. Gets you drunk faster...