South Dakota: Standing Rock Reservation


About the Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, and Blackfoot 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 Ojibwe and Cree, as well as the lure of the Great Plains buffalo herds, incited 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. About this time, the Lakota dispersed into seven bands: Ogalala, Sicangu or Brule, Hunkpapa, Mniconjou, Sihasapa or Blackfeet, Itazipacola and Oohenupa. Standing Rock bands include the Hunkpapa and Blackfeet. As is typical of Plains Indian tribes, the Lakota lived in organized bands and relied on buffalo for food and clothing. 

History of the Reservation: The terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 placed all the Lakota on one large reservation that encompassed parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and four other states. After the United States defeated the tribes in the Indian Wars of the 1870s, the U.S. government broke the Lakota’s original reservation into several smaller ones. Not only did they reduce the acreage – they also splintered the people. In 1889, the U.S. reclaimed 7.7 million acres of the Sioux’s sacred Black Hills and moved the Teton Sioux to the Standing Rock Reservation. Although this originally entailed 2.7 million acres, subsequent land confiscations by the government reduced the reservation to just 1 million acres. 

Life on the Reservation: Today straddling South and North Dakota, the Standing Rock Reservation spans 842,000 acres with a population of 8,500 people. More than 16,00 members are enrolled in the tribe.  

The main economic activities include cattle ranching and farming, and the tribe has established various industries including a fairly successful casino. Despite these efforts to establish greater economic activity on the reservation, residents still face high unemployment at 21% and a poverty rate of 32%.  

As a matter of principle, the Standing Rock tribes never complied with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1935 and therefore do not receive their full share of government funding. This lack of government dollars, meager per capita income, and high unemployment intensify housing and health problems on the reservation. Many residents live in remote areas, far away from medical care and healthy food. Housing, both in remote areas and in towns, is in short supply, forcing many families to live in overcrowded conditions. 


7 bands: 

Population, Land Size, Jobs, Income, Poverty