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PINE RIDGE
RESERVATION

Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is one of the largest Native American reservations, in the poorest county, in the United States. The reservation, which encompasses more than 2.8 million acres, was established in 1889 as Camp 334 for indigenous prisoners of war after the defeat of the Indian tribes during the Indian Wars of the 1870s. From 1889 until 1978, indigenous people were not free to practice their religion in America. They were not allowed to speak their native language in schools until 1990.

 

Today the unemployment rate is eighty percent. And eighty percent of its residents suffer from alcohol and drug addiction. Many experience domestic violence and sexual assault. Suicide rates and school dropout rates are very high. Many residents have spent time in prison and are considered felons. Many are suffering with post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and birth defects are much higher than the national averages.

 

The reservation has been designated as a U.S. Sacrifice Zone because it has been strip mined and used as a nuclear testing site. Much of the land is not suitable for growing fruits or vegetables. The water table has been compromised with radioactive materials. The infrastructure is very fragile so electricity, internet, water, and sewage services are insufficient.

 

The village of Wanblee, the central location for Without Reservations, is in the far northeastern part of the reservation. Because of its remoteness, Wanblee is one of the most neglected communities on the reservation.

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