The Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Reservations in South Dakota are part of a larger territory established for the Lakota in 1868 by the United States government and later parceled out to non-Native homesteaders and broken up into smaller tribal reservations. Today, Pine Ridge Reservation is home to about 40,000 Native Americans and Cheyenne Reservation about 20,000. According to the US Census Bureau, the reservations lie within the poorest counties in the United States.
There is a group of people who have the shortest life expectancy of any group in the Western Hemisphere, outside of Haiti?
Families, children and elders go without food on a regular basis?
Families are often without heat during sub-zero temperatures?
People are without employment opportunities or adequate medical facilities?
That is the plight of Lakota People living on reservations in South Dakota.
Life Expectancy is 48 years for men and 52 years for women.
Unemployment is estimated to be 87%
90% live below the Federal poverty level.
The teenage suicide rate is 3 1/2 times higher than the national average.
Infant mortality is five times higher than the national average
Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and malnutrition are epidemic.
Maintaining Culture and Traditions
Despite hardship and adversity, the Lakota maintain their cultural knowledge and traditions and preserve for their children and for the world, ancient wisdom that contributes to quality of life.
- About 1/3 of the population still speak the Lakota language
- Almost all maintain their traditional spiritual and cultural beliefs
- They are leaders in knowledge of environmental preservation.
- They are a sharing society - when one eats, they all eat - or they all do without.
- Their exquisite beadwork, quillwork, quilting, sewing, painting is art at its best.
- They wish to preserve their culture and find ways to be self-sufficient.