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PINE RIDGE RESERVATION AND THE OGLALA SIOUX

The Siouan language family, including Lakota-Dakota-Nakota speakers inhabited over 100 million acres in the upper Mississippi Region in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Conflicts with the Cree and Chippewa, as well as the lure of the Great Plains' buffalo herds, motivated the Sioux to move farther west in the mid 17th century. The Lakota acquired horses around 1740 and crossed the Missouri River shortly after, arriving in the Black Hills in 1775. Shortly after their arrival in the Black Hills, the Lakota split into seven tribes, among which was the Oglala. The Lakota are one of the archetypal Plains Indians. They lived in organized bands, warred and raided, and depended on buffalo for food, clothing, and housing as well as household goods and medicine.

HISTORY OF THE RESERVATION

The terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 placed the Lakota on one large reservation that stretched across parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, and four other states. After the defeat of the Indian tribes during the "Indian Wars" (post Civil War era), of the 1870's, the United States Government created several smaller "reservations". In 1889, the government confiscated 7.7 million acres of the Sioux's sacred Black Hills and assigned the Oglala to live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, which occupied 2.7 million acres. In 1890, government troops senselessly slaughtered over 300 reservation residents, most of which were elders, women, and children, near Wounded Knee Creek Bed.

In the 20th Century, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to pay the Sioux tribes compensation for illegally confiscating the Black Hills. The Oglala remain strong in their desire to have the Black Hills returned to them and refused to accept the settlement money.

LIFE ON THE RESERVATION

The Pine Ridge Reservation has been designated as one of the poorest areas in the United States. The Reservation has few natural resources and no industry. The population of Pine Ridge is somewhere around 17,775. Many residents travel more than 120 miles to the town of Rapid City for seasonal employment. Tribal and federal governments provide the few jobs that are available on the Reservation. Only one in five has a job. Unemployment is at 86% on Pine Ridge. Medical Care on the Reservation is inadequate, and many tribal members forego medical attention because of the long distance to medical facilities. In addition, housing on the Reservation also does not meet the tribal members' needs. A severe housing shortage forces hundreds into homelessness while thousands of others live in overcrowded, substandard accommodations. Sixty-nine percent live beneath the poverty line, and residents must make do on $2,600 per year income, less than one-fifth of the national average income.

Wounded Knee Sign

 

Badlands


We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.

Native American Proverb

Wolf Pack