These statistics and the photo piece are tough to look at – they are why we are there. We and you can make a difference. We welcome your assistance, it is rewarding work. There are many cultural revitilization activities on the rez and some amazing and beautiful people. Please see the photos in our gallery after you read this to see some of the positive that is happening! But it is also important to understand the overall state of the rez because it becomes apparent how much of a difference a combination of permaculture and cultural revitalization can make.
* 97% of of the population at Pine Ridge Reservation live below federal poverty line.
* The unemployment rate vacillates from 85% to 95% on the Reservation.
* Death due to Heart Disease: Twice the national average.
* The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average.
* Elderly die each winter from hypothermia (freezing).
* Recent reports point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
* At least 60% of the homes are severely substandard, without water, electricity, adequate insulation, and sewage systems.
* Recent reports state the average life expectancy is 45 years old while others state that it is 48 years old for men and 52 years old for women. With either set of figures, that’s the shortest life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside Haiti, according to The Wall Street Journal.
* The 11,000-square mile (over 2 million acres) Oglala Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation is the second-largest Native American Reservation within the United States. It is roughly the size of the State of Connecticut.
* There is no industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.
* The nearest town of size (which provides some jobs for those few persons able to travel the distance) is Rapid City, South Dakota with approximately 57,000 residents. It is located approximately 120 miles from the Reservation. The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado located about 350 miles away.
* Teenage suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group.
* The topography of the Pine Ridge Reservation includes badlands, rolling grassland hills, dryland prairie, and areas dotted with pine trees.
* According to the 1998 Bureau of Indian Affairs Census, the Pine Ridge Reservation is home to approximately 40,000 persons, 35% of which are under the age of 16. Approximately half the residents of the Reservation are registered tribal members of the Oglala Lakota Nation.
* The population is steadily rising, despite the severe conditions on the Reservation, as more and more Oglala Lakota return home from far-away cities in order to live within their societal values, be with their families, and assist with the revitalization of their culture and their Nation.
* More than half the Reservation’s adults battle addiction and disease. Alcoholism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and malnutrition are rampant.
* The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average.
* Recent reports indicate that almost 50% of the adults on the Reservation over the age of 40 have diabetes. Over 37% of population is diabetic.
* As a result of the high rate of diabetes on the Reservation, diabetic-related blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are common.
* The tuberculosis rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 800% higher than the U.S. national average.
* Cervical cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average.
* It is reported that at least 60% of the homes, many of them government housing, on the Pine Ridge Reservation are infested with Black Mold, Stachybotrys. This infestation causes an often-fatal condition with infants, children, elderly, those with damaged immune systems, and those with lung and pulmonary conditions at the highest risk. Exposure to this mold can cause hemorrhaging of the lungs and brain as well as cancer.
* Many Reservation residents live without health care due to vast travel distances involved in accessing that care. Additional factors include under-funded, under-staffed medical facilities and outdated or non-existent medical equipment. There is little hope for increased funding for Indian health care.
* School drop-out rate is over 70%.
* According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs report, the Pine Ridge Reservation schools are in the bottom 10% of school funding by U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
* Teacher turnover is 800% that of the U.S. national average
* The small Tribal Housing Authority homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are so overcrowded and scarce that many homeless families often use tents or cars for shelter. Many families live in shacks, old trailers, or dilapidated mobile homes.
* There is a large homeless population on the Reservation, but most families never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation. Consequently, many homes have large numbers of people living in them.
* There is an estimated average of 17 people living in each family home (a home which may only have two to three rooms). Some homes, built for 6 to 8 people, have up to 30 people living in them.
* 60% of Reservation families have no telephone.
* Over 33% of the Reservation homes lack basic water and sewage systems as well as electricity.
* Many residents must carry (often contaminated) water from the local rivers daily for their personal needs.
* 39% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation have no electricity.
* 59% of the Reservation homes are substandard.
* It is reported that at least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation need to be burned to the ground and replaced with new housing due to infestation of the potentially-fatal Black Mold, Stachybotrys. There is no insurance or government program to assist families in replacing their homes.
* Many Reservation homes lack adequate insulation. Even more homes lack central heating.
* Without basic insulation or central heating in their homes, many residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation use their ovens to heat their homes.
* Many Reservation homes lack stoves, refrigerators, beds, and/or basic furniture.
* Most Reservation families live in rural and often isolated areas.
* The largest town on the Reservation is the town of Pine Ridge which has a population of approximately 5,720 people and is the administrative center for the Reservation.
* There are few improved roads on the Reservation and many of the homes are inaccessible during times of heavy snow or rain.
* Weather is extreme on the Reservation. Severe winds are always a factor. Traditionally, summer temperatures reach well over 110*F and winters bring bitter cold with temperatures that can reach -50*F below zero or worse. Flooding, tornados, or wildfires are always a risk.
* Many of the wells and much of the water and land on the Reservation is contaminated with pesticides and other poisons from farming, mining, open dumps, and commercial and governmental mining operations outside the Reservation. A further source of contamination is buried ordnance and hazardous materials from closed U.S. military bombing ranges on the Reservation.
* The Pine Ridge Reservation still has no banks, motels, discount stores, or movie theaters. It has only one grocery store of any moderate size and it is located in the town of Pine Ridge on the Reservation.
* Several of the banks and lending institutions nearest to the Reservation were recently targeted for investigation of fraudulent or predatory lending practices, with the citizens of the Pine Ridge Reservation as their victims.
* There are no public libraries except one at the Oglala Lakota College of the reservation.
* There is no public transportation available on the Reservation.
* Ownership of operable automobiles by residents of the Reservation is highly limited.
* Predominate form of travel for all ages on the Reservation is walking or hitchhiking.
* There is one radio station on the Pine Ridge Reservation. KILI 90.1FM is located near the town of Porcupine on the Reservation.
* Alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the Reservation.
* The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population.
* The Oglala Lakota Nation has prohibited the sale and possession of alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation since the early 1970’s. However, the town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (which sits 400 yards off the Reservation border in a contested “buffer” zone) has approximately 14 residents and four liquor stores which sell over 4.1 million cans of beer each year resulting in a $3million annual trade. Unlike other Nebraska communities, Whiteclay exists only to sell liquor and make money. It has no schools, no churches, no civic organizations, no parks, no benches, no public bathrooms, no fire service and no law enforcement. Tribal officials have repeatedly pleaded with the State of Nebraska to close these liquor stores or enforce the State laws regulating liquor stores but have been consistently refused.
* Scientific studies show that the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer which begins underneath the Pine Ridge Reservation is predicted to run dry within the next thirty years, possibly as early as the year 2005, due to commercial interest use and dryland farming in numerous states south of the Reservation. This critical North American underground water resource is not renewable at anything near the present consumption rate. The recent years of drought have simply accelerated the problem.
* Scientific studies show that much of the High Plains/Oglala Aquifer has been contaminated with farming pesticides and commercial, factory, mining, and industrial contaminants in the States of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
* The Tribal nations are considered to have sovereign governmental status and have a government to government relationship with the United States. The Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribal government operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and approved by the Tribal membership and Tribal Council of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. The Tribe is governed by an elected body consisting of a 5 member Executive Committee and an 18 member Tribal Council, all of whom serve a four year term.
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One of our team members who spent several weeks in Haiti as a first responder, Andrew Larsen, has put together a contingent of experts to return to Haiti on May 9 in order to expand the delivery of sustainable sanitation solutions. He will be returning with Joe Jenkins, author of “Humanure” and a leading expert on composting human waste, and another sanitation expert from Australia to work with the Give Love project (givelove.org) and expand on the work Rodrigo Silva continues to do in the sanitation arena. Andrew has continued to work with his university to bring interest to the Haiti project.
Cory Brennan of Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) will be traveling with the group and additionally will be touring with a representative from the Ministry of the Environment to give recommendations on remediation of erosion and other environmental degradation. We will be solidifying relationships with local NGOs and educational organizations created earlier and planning future projects. Paule Jacque, a Grow Permaculture (formerly Permaculture Guild) PDC graduate from Miami and Haitian, will meet the group in Haiti to help coordinate expansion activities via her connections. Paule has been working with another graduate, Linda McGlathery, to create economic opportunities in Haiti in the form of cooperative business models.
Our intention is to create the conditions for rapid growth and expansion of sustainable solutions in the core devastated areas – the pieces are gradually coming together, and like an ecosystem, we are finding the beneficial connections we need to flourish with balance and sustainably – stay tuned for more news as the story unfolds. There are so many worthy projects with heart occurring in Haiti – we would like to assist and facilitate all of them, and we feel we can do so by observing the system thoughtfully, creating connections where they will do the most good, and utilizing energy wisely.