Facts About Pine Ridge

PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION is located in South Dakota and Nebraska. Total 3,468 sq. mi (8,984 Km2) Population- 40,000+

The Pine Ridge Reservation occupies the entirety of Oglala Lakota (formerly Shannon) County, the southern half of Jackson County and Bennett County. The total land area of the Reservation is 2.1 million acres, with 1.7 million acres held in trust by the United States government. By land area, the reservation is the seventh-largest in the country.


  • Weather is extreme on the Reservation. Severe winds are always a factor. Summer temperatures reach well over 110 degrees and winters bring bitter cold and can reach -50 degrees below zero or worse.
  • 4% of the population was identified as being younger than 20 years old in the 2010 U.S. Census. By comparison, the state of South Dakota average for this demographic is 27.8%.
  • The median age on Pine Ridge is 25.4 years; 24.6 for men, and 26 for women. (2010 U.S. Census)
  • 8% of the population was identified as being older than 50 years old. The South Dakota average for this demographic is 33.8%. (2010 U.S. Census)
  • At least 60% of the homes on Pine Ridge are severely substandard, without water, electricity, adequate insulation, and sewage systems. (American Indian Humanitarian Foundation)

Labor Force and Income

  • An 89% unemployment ratewas identified in a 2005 Department of the Interior report. With a labor force of 29,539 in the tribe (not specifically the reservation), just 3,131 were employed. The Department of the Interior has since ceased producing estimates of “unemployment.”
  • Per capita income for American Indians living on Pine Ridge is $7,773. The average for all reservations is $10,543. The United States average is $27,599. (2005 Department of the Interior report)

Poverty Rate

  • The officially reported poverty rate for American Indians living on Pine Ridge is 53.75%. The United States average is 15.6%.
  • Many assessments, drawing from sources other than U.S. Census data and government tabulations place the actual poverty rate in excess of 80% of the reservation’s population.
  • Two of the five “poorest communities in America” are located on the Pine Ridge Reservation:  Allen (#1) Wounded Knee (#4)
  • There is no industry, technology or commercial infrastructure to provide employment for its residents, contributing to its 90% unemployment rate.
  • The US Census Bureau’s 2014 study found that more than 52 percent of residents in Oglala Lakota, the largest of Pine Ridge’s three counties, lived below the poverty line.
  • International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs estimates that “per capita income in Indian areas is about half that of the US average, and the poverty rate is around three times higher”.

Oglala Lakota County ranked 59-out-of-60 counties in South Dakota for overall health outcomes in 2017. Statistics produced by the Oglala Sioux Tribe paint a bleak picture about the health of the reservation:

  • Tuberculosis: 800% higher than America as a whole
  • Infant mortality: 300% higher than America as a whole
  • Teen suicide: 150% higher than America as a whole
  • Approximately 85% of Lakota families are affected by alcoholism
  • Approximately 58% of grandparents of Lakota families are raising their grandchildren
  • Approximately 50% of adults over the age of 40 have diabetes

As of 2015, there were only six mental health professionals on the entire reservation, which has a population of 16,000 to 40,000 tribal members based on varying government and tribal estimates. based on varying government and tribal estimates.
(NY TIMES 5/1/15 Article- Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Struggles with Suicides Among Its Young)

The CIA World Factbook estimates that the infant mortality rate (IMR) for the U.S. was 6 deaths out of every 1000 live births in 2012. On the Pine Ridge Reservation, the IMR is 300% higher than the national average… meaning that out of every 1000 live births, 18 of those infants will not make it to their first birthday.



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