The Pine Ridge Reserve: America’s Own Third World Country

In 1889, the Pine Ridge Native American Reserve was established for the preservation of the Lakota nation within South Dakota. However, little is ever heard about this reserve, and many citizens of the United States are unaware of its existence. You may think, “What does it matter if I know about the Pine Ridge Reservation or any other Indian reservation?” Well, hopefully the information I am about to disclose to you will change your mind.

In 1889, the Pine Ridge Reservation was allocated for the Lakota Nation. This was after the Lakota Nation had unjustly loss the Black Hills to the United States Government without receiving any compensation. This was just the beginning of a whirlwind of unjust actions directed to the Great Sioux Nation and the Lakota tribe. Since this, the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation have experienced consistent violence with US government, despite their own abilities to govern themselves. The most recent documented violence occurred in the 1970s. This event was known as the Pine Ridge Shootout between FBI agents and Indian officials.

Why am I telling you, the reader, all this history? I am telling you this in order to lead up to the shocking statistics of the present day situation within the Pine Ridge Reserve. When I heard these numbers, I cried.

    • 97% of Pine Ridge residents live below the federal poverty line.
    • The unemployment rate is between 85% to 95%.
    • Death due to Heart Disease is twice the National Average.
    • 60% of homes lack electricity, are infested with Black Mold, or do not have running water.
    • The infant mortality rate is the highest on the continent, and 300% higher than the national average.
    • The average income per household is between $2,600 to $3,500.
    • The life expectancy is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.
    • High school dropout rate is above 70%.
    • The Pine Ridge Reservation Schools are in the bottom 10% of the Government’s education funding.

When I read these statistics, it shocked me. The idea that a group of people in America are living under these conditions, and no one has done anything to help it is upsetting to me. The fact that I was not even aware of these statistics until recently shocked me again. As Americans, it is our duty to help those in need, especially our citizens. I personally believe that this has not been accomplished in the case of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Something must be done.



  1. Annelise, this call to action is a very powerful one. I’ve read these statistics before, and recently I’ve seen a lot more about this reservation–specifically due to this government class–than I’d ever thought I would hear. Of course, I knew all the facts about the Indian Relocation Act, the Dawes Act, and the Indian Reorganization Act. But seeing how the Lakota are affected in this powerful way is absolutely powerful, and as you said, brings one to tears. Living in Hawaii, there are a lot of statistics about the Native Hawaiians. There are between 200 and 500 pure Hawaiians left in this world, and most of them live on one island that is used as a reserve. Those who don’t live there typically live in poverty, with low high school and college graduation rates, as well as many health problems. Those who are most involved in Hawaiian cultural practices are typically not full Hawaiian outside of Ni’ihau. There’s a huge movement here in Hawaii demanding the US government’s return of native lands to native peoples. So I know what a call to action sounds like in these cases.
    But I think the saddest part of this is that nobody hears these calls. I’m really glad you made this post, because it’s a very powerful one.
    – Cat


  2. Annelise-
    Wow. This blog post has definitely shocked me in many ways. The statistics you mentioned were hard to even process, especially because Pine Ridge Reservation is in the United States. From your stats, it seems like the US Government barely supports the native Americans living in the Pine Ridge Reservation. Is this because of all the violence that has happened between the native americans and the US government, or is it simply because the people of Pine Ridge won’t accept it?
    Great blog post,


  3. Hi there Annelise,
    Good job on a very interesting post. The statistics were hard to believe, and I was very surprised that there are people in the United States living in this situation, or that the government did not give any compensation for taking over part of their land. I also wish that stories like this were covered more in the media, although our media usually only shows the most flashy stories to get better ratings. Why do you think that these people are living under such conditions? Can they not get jobs because of their heritage? Or maybe they can’t get good education. What do you think?


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