photo credit: Aaron Huey
The Argus Leader has an important and informative series on what it’s like to grow up Indian in South Dakota, on or off the reservations. The decades of multi-generational trauma and resulting pervasive poverty have taken their toll on our tribes whether they are fighting to maintain their traditional cultures or if they are trying to survive being assimilated into white man’s society.
ACTION: You can help by reading and using the multi-media parts of the series to understand a little of what it’s like to be young and trying to survive against all odds. Your knowledge can help us because we need your influence with policy makers and other leaders/organizers in your state.
Excerpts and all linkage below:
The inception of the series started in 2008 when reporter Steve Young [Huron Nation] was working on stories about suicide on South Dakota’s Indian Reservations. It was pointed out to him that most white Americans don’t know about the difficult life on our reservations. This series introduces you to several young individuals and their stories.
The youth interviews are often painful to watch but there are also glimmers of hope, hope that maybe something fortunate will happen in these young lives that will help them survive to find a good life and grow old with dignity.
Below are excerpts from the currently published stories:
Neleigh Driving Hawk is 3 years old and full of the innocence and beauty of childhood. She likes to ride her tiny bicycle on the ragged streets of the Lower Brule Reservation. But all around her are examples of what her life may one day be.
In many ways, Neleigh is lucky. She’s lived three years in a world where children die in birth or in the first few weeks of life at rates well beyond the rest of South Dakota. More…
The long-term effects of women drinking and taking drugs while pregnant evident across Indian Country, in the faces and the scars of small children starting life with damaged brains and bodies.
Children in the critical pre-teen stage begin to look around them and understand their world. For Indian children that may be a life void of adults who can show them the right way to live.
Physical maturity brings a new reality for Indian children in South Dakota. It too often is a period confronting sexual assault, gangs and violence that contribute to the near epidemic rates of suicide.
The gang culture – initiation, manipulation, drugs, assault and even murder – finds fertile grounds in a place where the family structure is ripped apart and hopelessness reigns. And it’s become a way of life in many parts of Indian Country.
Only about one in four Indian students graduate high school in South Dakota. But it’s that possibility of graduation and what may possibly lie ahead that drives the ambitious young people on the reservations.
For all the despair and impossible odds, there is hope. There are successes. Autumn White Eyes graduated from high school and drove away from the Pine Ridge Reservation this fall headed for a future that seems almost unimaginable given what she’s experienced growing up.
Photographer: Devin Wagner
The series runs a few more days so check the Argus for more.
Please share this series with your friends and family.
My past related diaries: