In the fall of 2012 I made my first visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota just to see what modern day life was like for the people who lived there. What I experienced during that initial visit fascinated me. It called out to a spirit deep within me. I was not expecting the experience to be so powerful, but it was. I have since been back four times and have many friends there now. In the process…I have donated materials to build a new home there…hunted a buffalo and brought the meat to Pine Ridge to share with the tribe…launched a non-profit organization called “The Seventh Power”…and… I am now writing a book about my adventures at Pine Ridge that I expect to publish later in 2014. Pine Ridge is beautiful, desolate, historic, tragic, hopeful, spiritual, poor, forgotten, resourceful, energizing and much more. It is an amazing and important place that our country has forgotten about. The calling I feel is to help increase AWARENESS.
Pine Ridge is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and approximately 35,000 native people live there. The reservation is large and remote. It is 2.2 million acres in size and very few people go there. It sits in the southwest corner of South Dakota below the Badlands National Park and above the Nebraska panhandle. Pine Ridge is one of the largest and poorest native reservations in America. Unemployment is around 80% and the median income is less than $8,000. There is very little economic infrastructure at Pine Ridge. There is no grocery store, no car dealership and no motel. As a result, what little money the people do have is usually spent off the reservation. Poverty, alcohol abuse, suicide, drop-out rates, life expectancy and other social challenges plague Pine Ridge today.
The people of Pine Ridge are resilient, resourceful and fun to be with. Despite decades of cultural oppression their language, traditions and values are still intact. The Lakota people generally, and the Oglala Tribe specifically, have a rich and powerful history. They are the descendants of Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Black Elk and others. Their ancestors are some of the most famous war chiefs and medicine men in American history. Their ancestors played a leading role in defeating Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at the Little Big Horn River in June of 1876. In December of 1890 Chief Bigfoot’s band of Minneconjou Sioux were massacred at Wounded Knee (located on the Rez). Wounded Knee became famous once again in the early 1970’s when leaders of the American Indian Movement barricaded the roads and entered into a prolonged standoff with Federal Marshalls over living conditions and fair treatment.
The people of Pine Ridge will sometimes refer to their modern journey as “first to worst”. Before the coming of the “Wasichu” (whites) in the mid-19th century they were free, self-sufficient and prosperous. Since the reservation era they have become among the poorest people in America. Today, government dependency is very high at Pine Ridge.
Below are two links I hope you will explore. The first shares a series of videos from my personal experiences at Pine Ridge. The second is a link to our new non-profit where you can see the mission we are pursuing.
Personal blog site featuring my Pine Ridge journey
(Follow my blog for more updates)
Seventh Power (Non Profit) Website
If this subject speaks to you let me know and share these links with others. I am not out to ‘fix’ anybody at Pine Ridge. I have met the people of Pine Ridge and I am confident they will chart their own course back toward economic independence through traditional values. I have no formal role at Pine Ridge. I just like it there. AWARENESS and UNDERSTANDING are, of themselves, powerful tools. Individuals just following their heart find themselves and impact others every day.
– Kevin Hancock