South Dakota: Lower Brule Reservation


About the Brule 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, incited 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. Soon after, the Lakota split into seven bands or tribes, among which was the Brule. The Lakota are the archetypal Plains Indian. They lived in organized bands, warred and raided, and depended on buffalo for food and clothing. 

History of the Reservation: The terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 placed the Lakota on one large reservation that covered parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, and four other states. After the defeat of the Indian tribes during the Indian Wars of the 1870s, the United States created several smaller reservations. In 1889, the government confiscated 7.7 million acres of the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills and relegated the Brule to a small reservation along the banks of the Missouri River. Today, the reservation occupies 114,219 acres, of which the tribe owns 66,600. 

Life on the Reservation: The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, known as the Kul Wicasa Oyate, is home to the Lake Sharpe and Lake Francis Case reservoirs and has a tribal enrollment of 3,410 people. The tribal government is the largest employer on the reservation, including many Bureau of Indian Affairs and I.H.S. jobs, along with a casino and popcorn processing plant. About 19% of the workforce is jobless, and most of the 1,700 residents subsist on about $23,000 per year. One-third of the population lives below the federal poverty level.  

Chamberlain, the town closest to the reservation, lies 45 minutes away by car and provides little job relief. Without a grocery store on the 157,000-acre reservation, residents often rely on food from the local gas station. The unavailability of nutritious food contributes to a high incidence of diabetes. 

Lower Brule on the map: Lyman and Stanley counties, South Dakota. 


Population, Land Size, Jobs, Income, Poverty 




American Income