The Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota is home to Oglala Lakota Nation.  This is the 8th largest reservation in the United States and the poorest. The latest estimations of populations put their numbers at right around 30,000.  Of these,

  • 80% are unemployed, versus 10% in the rest of the county
  • 49% percent of the residents are living below the Federal poverty level, including 61% of all of those under the age of 18. 
  • Their per capita income in $6,286
  • 85% of families have at least one member suffering from alcoholism and depression

Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewage systems; and many use wood stoves to heat their homes, depleting limited wood resources.  They have many schools and even a 4 year accredited college all run by Native Americans however, they have a 70% drop out rate. 

Health care is insufficient, and the Pine Ridge residents have the shortest life expectancy of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and 52 years for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average, and the adolescent suicide rate is 7-10 times the United States national average.

The children here are the most vulnerable victims of the historic inequalities and disadvantage: the youth attempted suicide rate is estimated at 7-10 times the national average.  In 2009 and 2015, the Oglala Lakota declared a Suicide State of Emergency on the Reservation, particularly in response to an epidemic occurring among their youth.  On the first 110 days of 2013 Pine Ridge saw 100 attempted suicides by youth as young as 6 years old.  From the end of December 2014 through February, 2015, nine young people took their own lives.

The picture to the left was taken on a recent trip to Pine Ridge.  This art decorated the wall of a trailer that housed a single mother and her 6 children.  The little girl who drew this didn't have any paper to use so her art decorated the walls in their family room (which also doubled as her bedroom.)  We were thrilled to be able to have a hand in providing the necessary materials for an art therapy program open to all children they are starting at Oyate Concern Christian School and the ReCreation Community Center.  In that, we pray there is a start to their hope and healing.