Poverty’s Poster Child
This sprawling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is a Connecticut-sized zone of prairie and poverty, where the have-nots are defined less by the money they lack than by suffocating hopelessness.
In the national number line of inequality, people here represent the “other 1 percent,” the bottom of the national heap.
Pine Ridge is a poster child of American poverty and of the failures of the reservation system for American Indians in the West. The latest Census Bureau data show that Shannon County here had the lowest per capita income in the entire United States in 2010. Not far behind in that Census Bureau list of poorest counties are several found largely inside other Sioux reservations in South Dakota: Rosebud, Cheyenne River and Crow Creek.
Poverty in the United States, including in the reservations, is so entrenched because it is often part of a toxic brew of alcohol or drug dependencies, dysfunctional families and educational failures. It self-replicates generation after generation.