South Dakota: Crow Creek Reservation


About the Wiciyela 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 Anishnabe Indians, as well as the lure of the Great Plains buffalo herds, impelled the Sioux to move further west in the mid-17th century. The Lakota acquired horses around 1740. Shortly thereafter, the tribe crossed the Missouri River, arriving in the Black Hills in 1775. The Lakota were the archetypical Plains Indian, living in organized bands, warring and raiding, and relying 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 spanned parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, and four other states. After the defeat of the Indian tribes in the Indian Wars of the 1870s, the United States broke the original Lakota reservation into smaller ones. Not only did this reduce their acreage – it splintered the people. In 1889, the United States reclaimed 7.7 million acres of the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills and randomly assigned Sioux families to live on the Crow Creek Reservation, splitting up many extended families. 

Life on the Reservation: Once home to the famous artist Oscar Howe, the Crow Creek Reservation is home to more than 2,000 people, but the tribe has 4,600 enrolled members. Communities on the reservation are set in one of the poorest areas in the nation with few employment opportunities. The tribe operates a small casino and leases land to ranching families, making agriculture a big industry for the area. However, many jobs are with the tribal and federal governments. About 20% of the labor force is jobless, and 34% of families live below the federal poverty level. 

In addition, Crow Creek also lacks access to basic services and resources. There is a single Indian Health Service unit to serve the entire reservation. Similarly, there is one grocery store and a convenience store to service residents across 125,000 acres. Without access to transportation, many people rely on a diet of prepackaged foods. This, in part, worsens health problems such as diabetes on the reservation. 

Crow Creek on the map: Buffalo, Hyde, and Hughes counties, South Dakota, on the eastern shore of the Missouri River.


Joblessness, Poverty 

Population, Agriculture, Oscar Howe, Casino, Land Size