Most Americans remember the Lakota Sioux Indians as Native Americans who live in the state of South Dakota: In 1876 Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeated Custer at his Last Stand. In 1890 more than 300 men, women and children were gunned down by the American army at Wounded Knee.
But where are they now?
The Sioux are among the poorest people in America. Of the ten poorest counties in the country, six are in Sioux lands in North and South Dakota. I once drove through one of those counties, through the Rosebud reservation: it looked poorer than Mexico.
On the reservations most men have no work, many turn to drink or drugs. Most families live in poverty. They live in small houses with too many people, some without power or water. They do not eat well, so many become fat or diabetic. Many do not have safe water to drink. Cervical cancer is way too common. Half drop out of high school. They have a high suicide rate. Their men are at least twice as likely to wind up in prison as white men.
They live in a ghetto with a big sky.
There are about 150,000 Sioux. Some live in white towns and cities, some on the reservations, what is left of their country. Only 14% can speak their own language, which was not allowed to be taught at school till 1978.
The Lakota Sioux had owned western South Dakota and neighbouring lands. In the middle of their lands were the sacred mountains, the Black Hills, which had silver and gold. When the whites found out, they took the mountains, robbing the Sioux of billions of dollars. Later they cut the giant faces of four white men into the side of one of those mountains, Mount Rushmore.
The Sioux fought several wars against the American government in the 1800s. In the end they lost. They lost most of their land. They lost the bisons, their livelihood. The men had no way to support their families. They had to go hat in hand and take government hand-outs.
It got worse.
The government took their children from them too. They put them in boarding schools far away to learn to speak the white tongue, worship the white god and live the white way. And to feel shame about being Sioux.
But it did not work. The Sioux were never accepted as whites. The government still ran their affairs as if they were children, telling them how to use their land. To this day they remain extremely poor, as they have been for over a hundred years.
In the 1960s they started taking pride again in being Sioux. They started to learn their language and their ancient ways.
In 2007 they said that since the American government has not lived up to any of the deals they made with the Lakota Sioux down through the years, neither would they honour any of the agreements. They wanted their land and their nation back, the Republic of Lakotah.
Thanks to the Angry Indian for his help on this post.
- Republic of Lakotah
- Mount Rushmore
- Dances with Wolves
- A Hidden America: Children of the Plains
- The lies you were taught about Native Americans
- growing up Native American
- Maori – the native people of New Zealand
- Melbourne, Day 2 – tells about the native people of Australia
- white people
- race and crime and poverty and television