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This program was produced by our national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation and was compiled to the subtleties of the radio at the University of South Dakota. This is a story of ruffled feathers. The Lakota Sioux in transition. This is the ninth in a series of programs about the Dakota or Sioux Indians in South Dakota. In this program we're going to examine the economics of the Indian people. The Indians of South Dakota live in poverty as a result their economic problems are acute. Some of the economic problems stem from their culture but others are rooted in early government policies toward the Indian and the middle 18:00. The government of the United States instituted its policy of exchanging land with the Indians and moving the Indians westward with the removal and movement of the Indians.
West of the Mississippi and a large reservation policy would be the geographic location as the basis for Indian economic opportunity and unfortunately the geography of the area Great Plains area. Predicts or dictate a certain type of economy. The treaties for example Harney treaty of 1868 contained very detailed provisions for agrarian endeavors on the part of the Indians and force it was almost impossible to fulfill the provisions of the treaty. But to quote Walter Prescott Webb but he stated it front tearing consisted of three legs. That is land timber and water. But once you move ahead of the Great American Desert in the Great Plains area you lose timber and water therefore you have land. Therefore the
land is most important. And in this case it was some arid region. The government moved the Indian people into South Dakota and tried to institute agriculture as the base for the Dakota's economy. The changes the Indians were required to make were more than physical. The United States government tried a policy of agrarian development to teach the Indians to be farmers but the number of. Sociological and perhaps economic difficulties the change on the part of the head of the family from a warrior true and agrarian is most difficult I think given a long period of time then the basic question of freshness could be described as geographic determinism graphy of the area dictated a certain type of agriculture. South Dakota Wyoming we have statistics that indicate the acreage required to
feed one beef critter in here and read a large acreage there for perhaps beef cattle raising but not the type of agriculture that they were trying to practice in 1955 on the Rosebud Reservation it would have taken two thousand three hundred acres of grazing land to raise enough cattle to bring in an income of fifteen hundred dollars. The land of many of the reservations are located on just cannot support too many people out of the Indian Community Action Project is improving employment opportunities today. Although the type of work that an Indian could get up until a year or two ago fell into one general category and basically were just unskilled labor. This is during the harvest season such as potato picking. Maybe during the harvest season and when they were harvesting grain or whatever it might be or corn and there would be just menial labor day labor. And the
jobs on the reservation are practically nonexistent and these were all just seasonal jobs. Of course it's saying that we find here is that people living in this type of an atmosphere or situation for generations have a tendency not to be able to adjust to a regular 8 to 5 five days a week type of job. And I think this is one of the important things that that community action programs have contributed to reservation community and that they've they've been they've allowed the people to participate in the programs and to work five days a week eight hours a day and and to participate in such things a sick leave an annual leave in this type of thing. And I think that we've we've seen on the reservations where people have responded to this thing very well. And and that we're every day we're we're showing more and more that the stereotypes. That we have developed over the years a body needs are not true and that the one
thing that we were were pointing out or is being pointed out on the reservation is the lack of opportunity. And I think that any group of people that do not and are not presented with opportunity opportunity to grow an opportunity to work are going to become passive about their situation. Any group and I think that that will that we've been able to go into a community with a Community Action Program and by providing them with the simple thing of opportunity they have been able to respond very well to this thing other than the seasonal workers and farm workers. There was and continues to be a job opportunity with various agencies on the reservation both governmental and local. We had jobs through the Baronne in Affairs and Public Health. Mostly government jobs I believe. And of course if you were farm ranch jobs now. A large part of our our graduates high school graduates and I would say a large part but some of them are working as clerks for the rosebuds who
tried in the different ATC offices. But here again we have we do have a great number who. Who aren't employed and or maybe seasonally employed here just like in road department. As long as you can build roads and maintain what in your heart some people would like to strike out on the road and go into ranching not farming but ranching running cattle and raising grain crops on a large scale which is the only way these activities can be profitably undertaken today. I think you'll find that a great many people want to go into ranching. But here again it takes it takes capital it takes some money to start something in any business. And if you don't have it you don't have that money to begin with. Then you're not going to last and it's something that you have to have if a man I believe right now I know of several people or several young guys on here that have training and. If they had an opportunity would start a business of their own. And we've discussed this time after time how can we get capital to start door who can we see
to help us get started. Where can we borrow the money. It's rather difficult now for Ninian to go to the bank. And borrow the money. I mean if you just don't have any if you don't have it but if you know he deeded land or think it's a put up as security then you won't get the federal government does have programs available whereby loans can be secured to start into farming or ranching. But his version actually relates to the uncertainty of the government loan and its battle through the bureaucracy can cause problems too. Here's an example of a man who wanted to start his own farm operation. The Bureau was working on a plan for him to go into ranching operations. When Operation people took him out found the land you know and they said this will be your unit where you run your cattle and they even found a place to build these homes you can get water here you can raise chickens. Oh and raising fired all these things they were just really going into detail planning so they submitted his application and the tribes credit committee and the beer the local Bureau staff they approved the application. And he's really taken
his family all these children his wife all up and now I live on our own land we're going to be you know make our own living. So that went on for maybe three four months in the course. He was curious to see. How soon and get the money you know he was looking for these people. One day they stopped into the district and so he saw him so he knew more Charles he comes charging up and well I'm going I want to see you it said yes we were looking for you to the bureau man said and I'll never get my loan he said the whole Charlie said you're sorry but washing off to turn your application down. Just think of what runs through that fellow's mind when I hear his whole family plan planning their whole life to going to a ranch operation and doing something and it's just like jerking the rug out from under as I say in Ali's opes are gone again.
Do what. Nothing. If you haven't got a job. As I say automation has taken away a lot of their employment on reservations because we don't have much ranch work anymore no farm work anymore because the machines do it you know. And this is what created a hardship on raining people. By this time you're probably wondering just how bad off in dollars and cents the Dakota Indians are in 1950 the average family income earned on the Crow Creek reservation was six hundred thirty five dollars. On the Lower Brule one thousand two hundred thirty eight on the Rosebud one thousand thirty five. And on the Standing Rock Reservation seven hundred sixty seven dollars. The fact that this survey reflects the 1950 income levels is significant when comparing them to the results for the same reservations in 1966. Now these are just three you know reservations in a pro-Christian Lower Brule which are comparatively small and and we have Rosebud which is a comparatively large reservation and has a population of
five five thousand two hundred thirty two. And we have a larger one here of of Standing Rock which goes into both North and South Dakota. And having a total population of these population figures into both the Indian and non-Indian population. And as you know Standing Rock is it has a total population of ten thousand four hundred eighty one people. And then this is your base population that you work with and then you start exploring these this base and trying to determine how the total number of families do how many of these families are under a certain income level and try to break it down in in the crick and Lower Brule way. As I stated before we have you know two thousand five hundred fifty one people and this breaks down into about six hundred ten families. Now out of this 600 10 families we find that there are four hundred
thirty eight that that have incomes four hundred thirty eight families that have incomes of less than $3000. So this is quite a high percentage. And then we go to Rosebud with a total population of five hundred and five thousand two hundred thirty two people. We break this down into a total of one thousand ninety nine families. And the number of families that have an income of less than $3000 is approximately eight hundred thirty five. So both of these you know with the large reservations small reservations show of you know a very high incidence of poverty if we were just to take this $3000 level. And in the same thing is true like on the Standing Rock Quarry we have ten thousand four hundred ninety one people. And this breaks down into a total number of families of two thousand one hundred sixty five. Now the number of families
that have been come less and 3000 comes to one thousand four hundred thirty six. So this is a very very high percentage or high number and you can see now in comparing these figures like on the Lower Brule and Crow Creek about 71 percent of the families on the reservation are below the three thousand dollar level. Seventy six percent rose but and 67 percent at Standing Rock were these four reservation areas the income levels indicate that over 70 percent of the families have incomes below the $3000 Mark. However the below $1000 per family level is very shocking and shows reason for concern out of the out of the total number of families such as Lower Brule and crow Crick where we were talking in terms of six hundred ten families. Families with income of less than a thousand a Crow Creek in Lower Brule is around two hundred forty four families. So instead of getting smaller it becomes much larger.
We go over here to two Standing Rock which is a much larger population. We're talking about twenty one hundred sixty five families of families with incomes of less than a thousand is still six hundred eighty five families. So it's a very very high percentage. This indicates that at Standing Rock about 35 percent of the families have incomes of less than a thousand dollars as do about 40 percent at Crow Creek and Lower Brule. There are of course reservation areas where incomes are higher and areas where they are lower. I think it was a survey taken a year or two ago and the people in Todd County not God County was considered. The poorest county I believe. Are one of the poorer counties in the state and I think they can offer the average income level of people here on reservation maybe even in Todd County and all but it's around $750. The first of the two surveys referred to was taken by the Indian Community Action Project in an attempt to
establish income levels within a geographic area and as a result both Indian and non-Indian incomes are reflected. When we when we combined the two totals it has a tendency to raise you know the total incomes However we're looking at just the Indian population. This would give a much much more startling figure on we're talking about community action programs. And these figures that we're using our. Are the basis for the community action programs. We're talking about a geographical area that's coterminous with the reservation area and we don't make a differentiation between union and nonunion where the Community Action Program is there to serve all of the people in that particular area. And so we we rather rather than just looking at the Indian population and trying to find out the incidence of poverty we look at the geographical area and try to find out the answer in this poverty. But in most cases you could say that a very high percentage of the people living in these
reservation areas are Indian. Another factor that increases poverty in the reservation towns is the exodus of money from the area that in most communities the money stays in the community. You know for some length of time what we find on a reservation and sometimes you the money does never would never comes to the community although the person works in that community or it might change hands once and by example for instance a person living on a reservation and there are no banks or anything available that many times will go to an office of Asian community and say bank their money there. And if a person is paid by check this is merely a transfer of funds in the money actually goes in goes into the bank off the community I mean off the reservation. Now if a person is paid in cash usually he'll get paid in cash or go to the local store spend his money and the money then goes outside of the reservation immediately to the bank. But it never stays within the community and changes hands and I'm I assume that many communities and money changes hands maybe three or four times but on most reservations it will change hands
change hands once once it gets to the employee and then it's gone. There have always been government programs designed to help the Indian but because of lack of anything to replace them the original programs have been continued for decades. Recently we have this annuity these annuities as a transition but this is the crux of the problem right now and that is it might have been originally as a transition period to utilize a transition period. But there's no way already this is an anomaly. Earning part of the head of the family agriculture would not work. Therefore some people call this the dole welfare continued on and on. They were on a reservation we broke up but the big reservations in place them on small reservations but still he was they were placed on small reservations. If an error was discovered to be lucrative
for mineral resources or perhaps even for ranching with irrigation then the Indians who were moved to a smaller area so that geographically and economically the welfare had to continue until you have this debilitating aspect of welfare or handouts on the part of government to what we no longer like to color your long likes to call wards. But and that is. Where do you start to remove this process the process of welfare. The Indian is the recipient of welfare of some sort for many organizations both government and private. However if work was available there would be no need for welfare during the summer when seasonal employment is high the Indian is earning money during the winter he must rely on some other source of income.
We do get some people do get general assistance which is some kind of relief payment done in winter time. I wonder unemployed now this is. I think this one man is talking about his family his 9 and his family and he got $55 every two weeks. And it's really difficult to live one out of nine children. This doesn't last. Year around this. Maybe last maybe two or three months down the wintertime many people have the impression that Indians get money from the government simply because they're Indians. There are many ways by which Indians a pedo through which they are paid by the government for a lease is a new routine for leasing land mineral rights. Saddam let us say for a previous treaty that was made in the past. But they are not paid by the government really because they are Indians on the reservation one will find little communities huddled on the banks of streams and rivers. The very picture of poverty as we pointed out unemployment on the reservation is high and what employment there is exists only on a seasonal basis. The harvest of hay grain sugar beets and potatoes a small percentage of
Indians earn a living in farming and ranching depending on the location of their land and the amount of capital they had to get started with the houses themselves range from frame houses to rough cut log cabins to tents to old car bodies. There have been recent programs instituted to improve the housing situation on the various reservations. Bob Garza town of St. Francis mission describes the actions taken by persons at Rosebud to improve housing. Two years ago I got together with a couple of Indian people from the St. Francis and I asked them whether or not they would like to improve their housing conditions and they said yes. I said well it's what can we do about it. How can we work on something. And they suggested well that to design a home and and build one. So we designed a home. And our next question was Well what do we build it out of. What do we get the material. How do we get the materials. We decided that cement block would be a very good type of home
and we tried to find ways of first of all getting some money and then maybe buying our blocks to make this home. And it so happened to our vice president who is from South Dakota saw an article in the paper and and he one of his aides learned of a black machine being used in Minneapolis it was out of Minnesota. And we contacted the Teamsters Union and the people it was the teamsters of Minneapolis bought the machine and shipped it out here and within three weeks we were making blocks for this home. And we completed the home within three months afterwards. And from this effort it seems that the tribe asked me to write the housing component which was submitted to Washington and April of 65 and. Subsequently through the Office of Economic Opportunity
the demonstration and training office of that act asked the Battelle Memorial Institute people to come here and evaluate our needs and see what they could do to overcome the. Living conditions. So subsequently Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus Ohio. Has designed a home and has brought out a model here. Showed it to the people at our meetings with the rosewood Christian Social Action Group. Of which I was a secretary. And and just subsequently to that time. The home that Battelle Memorial Institute is hanging and built in Columbus due to their efforts we have a housing program for three hundred seventy five oh three hundred seventy five homes are a part of a pilot
project designed to provide Indian families with what is called transitional housing. The houses are little more than a roof a few windows and a door. They are attractive but do not have electricity running water or any of the other modern conveniences that most Americans are accustomed to. The idea is to get the family into a better home than it is living in now from a thin walled town or old router house into a nice looking house with a floor windows and a door. This it is hoped will be the first step for the people who have been far removed from our modern society. Many reservations also have public housing authorities with limited numbers of houses or apartments available for low income families moving to them often means leaving the farm with a means of income. What little income there is for the people so this cannot be considered a complete answer to housing problems. Perhaps after better housing there will be an expansion of economic opportunity on the reservations. Once you have your house I get a natural tendency for people to to to try to earn their living. And a lot of these people are interested in working at private business and want to set up their
businesses. They would like to work at a small industry here and Rosebud. I would like to have a competitive. And far reaching far looking business men to just come out here and talk with these people. It would be a great profit motive for that concern to locate here. You have a lot of advantages here labor cost is low. No unions land is very very cheap but good land reasonable. You can buy an acre of land here for about. $80. You can set up a good plant. You can get people who are unemployed who have been on or unemployed or under-employed to work. Sioux Falls is only 250 miles from here he said. We have Omaha which is about the same Rapid City as hundred and ten miles or so here is
close to our capital. So we're in the center I think of of east and west traffic in north and south traffic in the United States located on a very good highway Highway 18. We have the rail road and Northwestern railroad that comes 25 miles to our backdoor. We can very easily put in a small airport have good land for that. A lot of it on unemployment again was high. We have a lot of talent a lot of these young boys lose their desire to go on and get ahead simply because there's nothing for them to do after 17 18 years old. So if we can grab their ajor and their mentality at that age and put them to work make a few dollars we can create a little habit to keep going. The physical necessities for economic expansion already existed rose but as Bob mentioned there's also one other important element of the production process that we have
one thing and this is the personnel. I think we have all these people around here once trained are industrious people when given an opportunity here again. Once again an opportunity to be trained and to get a stage up. I think it would offer. A great deal to the industry itself. Not only that but we have space available and. I believe that if any industry was to come into the reservation. Or even thought about it. The tribe would help him decide which the best they could in any way that and you know there are people who are willing to work but there is one question that an industry will ask before moving into an area before before any big industry or big business will move into a community they want to know what the manpower is they want to know what training these people have had and what type of employees they're going to be hiring. And I think that through community action
programs by example they've been able to and also by facts they're able to see that you know given the opportunity these people respond become very good employees. Some business enterprises have already moved into the reservations fishing supply plants of plastic laminating factory electronics firms. But these industries employ only a small number of the people on the reservation who are in need of work. There's a continuing search for opportunity on the reservation while those who are holding down jobs are proving something to the people of the area where they are. Showing that if we give them are given the means or helped. Along a little bit and say OK now here is something I'll make the best of it. Well we will make the best of it. We realize the importance of this thing and. We know that our future probably depends on us. We want to prove to the people. Of this state of this nation that the Indian people are capable of doing things once given a chance the opportunities are improving every day through the highly successful Indian Community Action Project the government is finally providing aid to the Indian people of South Dakota not
welfare but aid in creating employment opportunities and allowing the individual to regain some of the self-respect he has lost over these many years as a frustrated ward of the federal government. In three weeks the final program of this series will be about the Indian Community Action Program its success and failure. Be sure to be listening. I would like to thank Charles G Beau Vermillion South Dakota Dr. Earl Bragg and of the University of South Dakota Cleveland miss of rosebuds South Dakota Bob Garza Tanno of St. Francis mission on the Rosebud Reservation and Vern Ashley of Pierce South Dakota for information used on this program. This is Arlin by speaking. With the. Ruffled feathers at the Dakota zoo in transition as producer the facilities of the US be ready oh at the University of South Dakota. A grant from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible the production of this program for national educational radio. This is the national educational
radio network.
Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux
The economics of being Indian
Producing Organization
University of South Dakota
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Per capita income, job opportunity, work skills, and prejudice determine the environment that the average Sioux must exist in.
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A documentary series about the history, culture and contemporary problems of the Sioux, a Native American tribe.
Race and Ethnicity
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Producing Organization: University of South Dakota
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Chicago: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The economics of being Indian,” 1967-04-10, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The economics of being Indian.” 1967-04-10. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; The economics of being Indian. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from