From 1980 to 2000, the counties that make up Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota comprised the poorest of our nation's 3,143 counties. The 2000 census found them the third poorest, not because things got better on Pine Ridge, but because things got worse on two other South Dakota Indian Reservations.
The poverty on Pine Ridge can be described in no other terms than "third world." It is common to find homes terribly overcrowded, as those with homes take in whoever needs a roof over their heads. Homelessness would be far worse if it weren't for extended families living in small houses - up to 30 people in homes built for 6. Many homes are without running water, electricity, and without sewer. Part of what Re-Member has been providing are outhouses and bunk beds.
While the 2000 census reported a population of 15,521, a study by Colorado State University and accepted by H.U.D. estimated the population at 28,000. Tribal Government records show 38,000 enrolled members living on Pine Ridge Reservation.
Pine Ridge Statistics as of 2007
- Unemployment rate of 80-90%
- Per capita income of $4,000
- 8 Times the United States rate of diabetes
- 5 Times the United States rate of cervical cancer
- Twice the rate of heart disease
- 8 Times the United States rate of Tuberculosis
- Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
- 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
- Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
- Teen suicide rate 4 times the national rate
- Infant mortality is three times the national rate
- Life expectancy on Pine Ridge is the lowest in the United States and the 2nd lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower rate.