South Dakota: Cheyenne River Reservation


About the Cheyenne River 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, encouraged 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. 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 defeating the tribes during the Indian Wars of the 1870s, the United States created several smaller reservations, which included establishing the Cheyenne River Reservation in 1869. About half of the reservation was confiscated by the U.S.; then they started damming the Missouri River in 1948, submerging an additional 8 percent of the reservation. 

Life on the Reservation: The Cheyenne River Reservation is known as the “Good River Reservation” or Wakpa Wasté Oyanke. Though 4 main towns serve the area, there are 27 small communities that span 1,450,644 acres, making Cheyenne River one of the largest reservations in terms of land mass. 

While around 8,600 people live on the reservation, the amount of enrolled tribal members is nearly 16,000. Two nationally recognized scenic routes are found on the reservation: the Native American Scenic Byway and the Lewis and Clark Trail. 

Cheyenne River families face a poverty rate of 27%, nearly four times more than the South Dakota average. The typical household survives on two-thirds of the average American income, while 22% of the workforce is unemployed.  

Cheyenne River on the map: Perkins, Dewey, and Zieback counties, South Dakota.  


Joblessness, Poverty, Income, Population 

Communities, Reservation Name Translation 

American Income