Western South Dakota is home to the three counties with the nation’s highest poverty rate, and four of the top 10, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

South Dakota has long had several counties toward the top as Native American reservations have a major presence in -- and in some cases occupy all –- the most destitute counties. The state has never had the top three dating back to at least 2003, when the bureau began distributing the figures in an easily readable electronic format.

The figures, based on 2010 income, show Ziebach County with the highest poverty rate, at 50.1 percent, which is down from 62 percent in 2009. Todd County at 49.1 percent and Shannon County at 47.3 percent are next, with Corson County ranking ninth with 40.9 percent.

Poverty is considered a four-person household income less than $22,314. South Dakota has 14.6 percent of its residents living in poverty, just below the 15.3 percent national average.

Ziebach County, encompassed completely by the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, has held the country’s highest poverty rate since 2004.

Julie Garreau was born, raised and still resides on the reservation. In 1988 she founded the Cheyenne River Youth Project, a child and family services organization. In 2010 she lost her Democratic bid for the state Senate.

“I don’t think they see themselves as though ‘we are the poorest,’” Garreau said. “It’s a statistic of course, but that is not a reflection of who we are as people, as a community.”

About half the Cheyenne River population is under 18 years old, which, Garreau said, represents hope.

“That is a lot of young, engaged people we could be training into adulthood,” she said.

The youth that do succeed in school, and perhaps obtain a college degree, may return to the reservation, she said, but high unemployment leads them to opportunities elsewhere.

South Dakota has eight counties in the top 100 poverty rates, each at more than 30 percent. There are 3,142 counties in the report. Mississippi also has four counties in the top 10 and 17 counties in the top 100.

Pennington County has 15.2 percent, about the national average, while Minnehaha County is 11.7 percent. Lincoln County near Sioux Falls is lowest with 4.9 percent, far lower than any other county in the state.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation encompasses all of Shannon County and parts of Jackson and Bennett counties, each ranked in the top 100.

“As long as we have an epidemic of drug use and alcohol use on our reservations, we are always going to have that problem,” said Myron Pourier, executive board member for the Oglala Sioux Tribe at Pine Ridge.

An emphasis on returning to their traditional ways, such as little or no drugs and alcohol, and outreach programs are helping, Pourier said.

“We have families with five to six families in one home. That’s how our people live and it’s normal here on the reservation,” he said. “Our biggest struggle is, it’s time to get adequately funded by the federal government.”

Garreau said funding and healthcare are major problems, but the causes of poverty are complex and date back to the nation’s inception.

Having the highest poverty rate could even bring national attention to the county, leading to more resources and ideas, she said.

“Nobody here is throwing in the towel,” Garreau said.

(31) comments

interested_party
interested_party

The reading of the Declaration of Independence by members of the reporting staff at NPR gets me every time. Past on-air personalities, some now correspondents at the pearly gates, also read for this decades-old feature. The tears stream down my face right up to the line that begins, ” He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare…”

That’s when it hits me right between the eyes.

When those words were being written, thousands of cultures inhabited a continent that seemed to keep growing huge ripe plums just waiting for Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and the rest to pick and pick and pick and pick. Already, the Chesapeake Bay estuary had been mostly denuded of native vegetation, not to mention of its former human inhabitants. Slaves tilled the fields and built the infrastructure, the ancestors of the Lakota and other Siouan groups that had been forced westward out of North Carolina generations earlier, traded with the Spanish and French while forging their own alliances (and marriages) with other indigenous peoples.

So, we’ve come a long way, init?

The United States Constitution is the finest instrument ever created by the human hand. The Preamble is the body, the Bill of Rights is the neck, the Amendments are the strings. It is a fluid universal execution of human and civil rights.

While the Palestinian homeland looks like holes in the slice of Swiss cheese analogous to the illegal Israeli state, progress toward resolutions of Native trust disputes would have far more political traction after tribes secede from the States in which they reside and then be ratified to form one State, the 51st, sans contiguous borders with two Senators and two House members as there are an estimated 2.5 million indigenous.

It’s time for all Americans to enjoy the protection of law by being part of one nation: erase the artificial borders and grant Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to all the people of North America…Mexico, Central America, Canada, even the Caribbean if they’ll have us.

ip is not a New World Order guy, does not support the North American Union (god bless you. please, mr. roddenberry) and believes that the US Constitution is a big enough canvas in order to paint a more perfect masterpiece, a big enough score for all to sing. No violence. No more drug wars.

Read Alaska’s constitution some time. The last states ratified are the most egalitarian. Let’s debate it and draft a dream referendum to be delivered by and for the people of Mexico to dissolve their constitution and petition for Statehood as our 52nd State. Quebec could be the 53rd and Cuba, the 54th.

westside
westside

Very simple solution here. Move away. Why live like that if you have a choice? I have a friend who moved here from Oregon with nothing for the simple reason of getting a job. It can be done. It happens all the time. You only have one life. Why waste it?

Progstopper
Progstopper

Frank Smith Amen. Sorry to all those PC anti religious types out there. But Frank is correct. Being poor is part outside influences and part self inflicted.

Lexi06
Lexi06

It's not an Indian reservation problem. Do you see any Idaho or WA state counties on there? Mississippi is in the same boat economically, there are no Indian reservations east of the Mississippi River. The biggest problem is education. It doesn't require more money from the government, it requires better standards in schools.
@Frank Smith, I agree wholeheartedly with you.

Frank Smith
Frank Smith

It's disheartening reading the comments here. Government is not the solution to anything. Government assistance has created a permanent dependent underclass of folks who willingly wallow in poverty generation after generation. And that goes not only for Native Americans, but blacks, whites, Hispanics, etc. The answer is to wean people off of the government teat. We should look inwardly, not outwardly for solutions to our problems. MOST people on assistance have the means to be successful, but don’t have the will, the work ethic, the drive or the perseverance to be successful. It’s far easier to just sit around and drink beer and whiskey and do drugs and complain. Until that is addressed, we are pretty much doomed as a nation.

Roland
Roland

[quote]BushLeague said: "How many of the people on here commenting that the Native people on the reservations need to "work harder" and "provide for themselves" have ever been to the reservation, worked on the reservation , or lived on the reservation? It's easy to tell other people what they should do, but the reality is that the reservations were given to the Native peoples because they were the most barren and useless lands that no homesteading white person would want to claim. The reservations were given to the Natives to appease the people and give them a "home land". The Native peoples had a home land, it's called the land that we all live on now. If we as a people are so callous to turn our backs on the original inhabitants of this land we need to take a serious look at the Nation we have become and maybe learn something from Native culture about helping our human brothers. Or maybe look at the Christian tradition of helping the less fortunate. Either way the governmental policies towards Native peoples obviously hasn't worked. The whole system needs to be overhauled with input from the people who actually have to live life on the reservations. If you give people oppurtunity they will take it. "[/quote]

Help how? That is the question nobody can answer.

Naws
Naws

Ah, it's all Bush's fault.

roalkl
roalkl

Two items:
1) The silver lining is that in both Ziebach and Shannon counties the poverty levels dropped between 2009 and 2010 (see the data for yourself http://www.census.gov/did/www/saipe/data/highlights/index.html)Ziebach dropped from 62% to 50% and Shannon dropped from 51.6% to 47.3%. So while they are not out of the woods, things are moving in the right direction.

2) Since when has Todd County not been a local county? Not as good of a story there, where rates increased between 2009 and 2010 from 45.3% to 49.1%.

BushLeague
BushLeague

How many of the people on here commenting that the Native people on the reservations need to "work harder" and "provide for themselves" have ever been to the reservation, worked on the reservation , or lived on the reservation? It's easy to tell other people what they should do, but the reality is that the reservations were given to the Native peoples because they were the most barren and useless lands that no homesteading white person would want to claim. The reservations were given to the Natives to appease the people and give them a "home land". The Native peoples had a home land, it's called the land that we all live on now. If we as a people are so callous to turn our backs on the original inhabitants of this land we need to take a serious look at the Nation we have become and maybe learn something from Native culture about helping our human brothers. Or maybe look at the Christian tradition of helping the less fortunate. Either way the governmental policies towards Native peoples obviously hasn't worked. The whole system needs to be overhauled with input from the people who actually have to live life on the reservations. If you give people oppurtunity they will take it.

open-i
open-i

[quote]Roland said: "Everyone knows this problem was created by the government. If everyone waits for therm to fix it, it will never happen. You would think people would have figured that out by now."[/quote]

They do not want to bite the hand that feeds them, the gov't just keeps putting money into the reservations and turning a blind eye. The Gov't doesn't care about its people, it cares about getting re-elected.....If you all want something, work for it, bust your butt, earn what is given to you, once this is done you won't need help.

Roland
Roland

[quote]Sicangu Warrior said: "You never hear John Thune (R-SD) or Kristi Noem (R-SD) ever speak directly about the 85% unemployment rates on SD Tribal Nation's. Then they would have to speak about honoring treaty rights and economic equity for all SD citizens and that is a Republican no no. It's sad we waste our Congressional energies on partisan politics where human sacrafice is the norm which keeps corporate interests over public need. South Dakota should be ashmed to harbor such statistics and yet call themselves the gateway to democracy? Should we really think Newt is gonna come here and create us a job? "[/quote]

Everyone knows this problem was created by the government. If everyone waits for therm to fix it, it will never happen. You would think people would have figured that out by now.

Roland
Roland

[quote]BOSTON33 said: "Shocking that all of the top 10 are located in far right states. Compassionate conservatives. Yeah right. "[/quote]

You will also notice that even with the three poorest counties the overall poverty rate of SD is below average.

The state has no control over the reservations.

Spin it any way you want.

Human
Human

mr. Stu Pid, do read all the post? we don't want to leave we want you to leave. This is our home, despite the tough conditions I will rather live here than any other place on earth. don't perpetuate hate, violence, racism and genocide further, just have compassion and leave us alone. we will be fine. don't need a hand out (taking of land paid for all that and then some, like i said much as not been paid for only stolen) Indian people never took one hand out, ever. that's a fact, we gave life to others and then were taken advantage of. if the government puts forth a couple of million a year to a reservation then theya are doing it, knowing they owe, they do it knowing that they are trying to bring us into their domestice federal funding process and avoid the treaty obligations or international obligations etc...take it away tomorrow, take it all away we will be better off but remember what is our is ours and what is yours is ours as well. You probably live on stolen land, pay the lease to us not to your city or state if you care so much.

Stu Pid
Stu Pid

Sicanu Warrior said[quote]Sicangu Warrior said: "You never hear John Thune (R-SD) or Kristi Noem (R-SD) ever speak directly about the 85% unemployment rates on SD Tribal Nation's. Then they would have to speak about honoring treaty rights and economic equity for all SD citizens and that is a Republican no no. It's sad we waste our Congressional energies on partisan politics where human sacrafice is the norm which keeps corporate interests over public need. South Dakota should be ashmed to harbor such statistics and yet call themselves the gateway to democracy? Should we really think Newt is gonna come here and create us a job? "[/quote]

But do you think this is really a party thing? Come on that is what the Dems want you to think. Surely 100 year old treaty's that involve money are going to be honored by the gov't. Surely politician's cannot be trusted, no gov't is going to make the reservations a good place to be. As it works in every situation the change has to come from within. At this point there is not a good solution for what has become of the situation on the reservations and any changes that will be for the better of the people involved will be extremely hard.

Stu Pid
Stu Pid

Hey Boston33 why don't you get your own state.

But really I don't understand why people stay on the reservations, you are tied down without very good employment opportunities and also tied to gov't handouts. I say abandon the reservations, there are some great parts of the country that have better opportunities remove the power from the corrupt base and make your own. I know it is not as easy as it sounds but the solution seems like it would eventually work.

Progstopper
Progstopper

I'd be willing to send more money to the reservations, but not until they get rid of the corruption that money we aleady send to them creates. Reservations have to be attractive to businesses. Heck people go out of their way to drive around the reservations if they are in the path of their trip. When you have to put bars on the windows and doors of the local Taco Johns that right there ought to give you a clue as to what the people on the reservation think of themselves and their neighbors. This is an attitude and personal pride issue, and not a need more more issue. I have many friends that are natives, and they said the best thing they ever did was to escape the slavery of the reservation and federal government control our tax money helps create.

Human
Human

There comes a time when you have to take care of yourselves. Thats what we were saying to the squatters, encroachers, the miners etc..."stay back east where your people are", "take care of yourselves over their", "don't come steal our food water and medicine, essentially the land from under us", "there comes a time when you have to take care of yourselves". Makes sense, and part of taking care of ourselves is getting reparations for stolen land and resources, things that would have kept our people strong had they not been forcefully taken, illegally taken, and so forth. Last I heard the U.S. could not prove in an unbiased court that they had possession legally of nearly 2/3 of the land in what they consider theirs. The Black Hills fall right into this 2/3 portion. Maybe the U.S. should start taking care of itself and stop preying on others.

scrapiron68
scrapiron68

How is Newt gonna create jobs? You need a business to do that! Government does not create anything but poverty. Oh wait! that's what were talking about. Look at John Stossel's story on government's effect on the reservation's you will have your answers. I for one am tired of the same old same old. There comes a time when you just have to take care of yourself. If you think there is trouble now wait to see what happens if we do not get our fiscal house in order!

wayawa
wayawa

If You Say So, your answer is a brush off that says you don't want to be bothered as one of those who is out there comfortably and gainfully working and getting ahead, so to speak. What you prescribe for Indians to do on the reservation is not realistic. You forget that Indian people were gathered up and put on the least productive lands in our state and were given government rations to survive, hence the reservation system. This happened so those who came west with European culture and values could gain wealth without the discomfort of being around Indians who moved around the black hills and plains living off the land and wildlife. Now fast forward 150 years and the Indian people continue to sustain their culture and language, but they have lost their land and live on these reservations. There is great wealth all round them in the hills and on the plains, but not on the reservations. There is no industry, limited natural resources and a lack of reservation infrastructure and investment capital. But in 150 years, the Indian tribal population has grown substantially and the people are still living in poverty with rations. All citizens of the great state of SD, including yourself, should be really concerned and advocating for positive solutions to this growing problem of poverty on the Indian reservations. The solutions in 2012 are not as easy as you prescribe here. Pilamaya

Human
Human

How about paying the indigenous for all the resources illegally taken out of the land? get rid of reservations? these are the last bits of land we have to excercise the bit of freedom we have left after years of oppression and on going genocide. why would be forego that? America's way has proved disasterous for not only their own populace but for their colonies as well and the rest of the world.

Paleo1
Paleo1

Right on Sicangu Warrior. The whole USA should be ashamed to harbor these numbers, and especially the state of South Dakota. The living conditions of native people in South Dakota are a specially kept secret- how is it that we nourish such dismal conditions for so many of our people in this state, and almost nobody knows about it? Our "state representatives" should be screaming bloody murder over it. Literally.

eifeldude
eifeldude

Time to rethink reservations. Seems all they do is keep people poor and in check. I say let's get rid of them

Fire47
Fire47

@BOSTON33, your Progressive Socialist Party (DNC) has had a firm grip on most Native voters for most of my 63 years and all they have to show for it is sadly obvious. Individualism vs collectivism, Spirituality vs secularism, Tradition vs liberalism, Patriotism vs radicalism, abortion vs Life. Cultural wars are indeed being waged. No need to be shocked! This is reality here. Come for a visit or YouTube us. Shocked! Yeah right!

If you say so
If you say so

Wayawa, you are correct in saying you need real jobs. Of course. But no one just hands out jobs. You have to go look for them or create them yourselves. Sitting around in desparate poverty because no one will give--give you a job is self defeating. You have to earn a job by at least staying in school, showing up everyday sober and on time and a few little things like that. What are those Lakota strengths you speak of? Build on those.

wayawa
wayawa

Ms Garreau is most accurate and aware of the culture in her assessement. Lakota people have lived without what is the norm in America;i.e., gainful employment, housing, transportation and all the other attributes that make a comfortable life. Instead people on Pine Ridge struggle every day to find adequate shelter, food and warmth,(sometimes living with 18 others in a one or 2 bedroom house that needs maintenance). Generations of alcohol abuse is apparent with some families because of the social and poverty conditions, but not with all. There are many proud Lakotas who keep up the struggle with no work and poverty every day. Few complain about these conditions, but instead are proud and hopeful it will get better. The Interior Dept. and the tribal governments need to do more than provide a band aid to the poverty conditions on the reservations. Throwing out left-overs does little more than pick and choose the few who get the help. We need real jobs! And we need sensitivity and respect for our Lakota culture and language, our ways, our strength, that sustained us through generations of poverty. Wopila, Ms. Garreau. Pilamaya

Mark55
Mark55

Forget the monetary figures. Poverty is absence of hope.

If you say so
If you say so

Myron Pourier says in the article.“Our biggest struggle is, it’s time to get adequately funded by the federal government.”
Nice, the Indian soulution to their poverty is to take my money and give it to you. No thanks Myron. I'm so sick and tire of your solution I don't know where to begin.

BOSTON33
BOSTON33

Shocking that all of the top 10 are located in far right states. Compassionate conservatives. Yeah right.

Human
Human

As for the Pine Ridge Reservations poverty issues, theya re not drug and alcohol related, these are merely symptoms of a disparity in wealth and income. Currently there is about 10%of the population that have enormous power and influence and wealth relative to the rest of the 90%. The decisions made by these 10% have little benefit to the long term viability of the Oglala people and the people of Pine Ridge, they do however, have great benefits for the entrenched 10%. Any given day go to a hotel andor convention center in Rapid City and you will see this at work. Even various political committees, and council sub-committee's meet in Rapid City S.D. weekly. This denies the public the power of local spending and even more so participation in public forums. What a disaster. The overall U.S. has the 99%er's arguing for justice; "the Pine Ridge Reservation should have the 90% as a rallying cry".

Redstater
Redstater

Is this news? We've known it for years.

Sicangu Warrior
Sicangu Warrior

You never hear John Thune (R-SD) or Kristi Noem (R-SD) ever speak directly about the 85% unemployment rates on SD Tribal Nation's. Then they would have to speak about honoring treaty rights and economic equity for all SD citizens and that is a Republican no no. It's sad we waste our Congressional energies on partisan politics where human sacrafice is the norm which keeps corporate interests over public need. South Dakota should be ashmed to harbor such statistics and yet call themselves the gateway to democracy? Should we really think Newt is gonna come here and create us a job?

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