|Photo credit: Matthew Williams / fotovisura 5/1/12
Prisoner of War Camp #334 is otherwise known as the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota people, who are among the poorest in the United States.
Do you think it's far fetched to call an Indian reservation a prisoner of war camp? Well, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), was originally established as a part of the War Department in 1824 before it was transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1949. Consider, also, that the Sioux Indians fought against the U.S. Army a number of times, the last conflict being at Wounded Knee, which is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Here are some statistics to tell you what life is like at Pine Ridge:
• The unemployment rate is between 80 and 90%. There are many reasons for this, but a big one is that the infrastructure on the reservation is poor, if not nonexistent.
• Per capita income is about $4000 per year. Poverty level income for a household of one person is approximately $12,000 per year.
• Alcoholism is estimated by some as high as 80%. 1 in 4 infants is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which can result in severe learning disabilities.
• The dropout rate for Native American kids in South Dakota is 70%. I suspect that at least some of this is due directly to widespread fetal alcohol syndrome.
• Life expectancy for males is 46-48 years, and for females 52 years. This is the lowest in the United States, and the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Only Haiti has a lower life expectancy.
• The suicide rate in general is twice the national rate, and teen suicide on the reservation is 4 times the national rate.
• Infant mortality is 3 times the national rate.
• Diabetes is 8 times the national rate. It is estimated that 50% of the population over 40 has diabetes.
• Incidence of tuberculosis (TB) is also 8 times the national rate. There is a definite correlation between TB and toxic black mold, which infests up to 60% of the homes on the reservation. Black mold also causes cancer, lupus, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Chronic Fatigue Disorder, Fibromyalgia, and Epstein-Barr Syndrome.
• Incidence of cervical cancer in women is 5 times the national rate.
• Incidence of heart disease is twice the national average.
A couple of years ago, ABC News did a special about kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation, called "Children of the Plains." You can view it here on YouTube. (Some kids from the neighboring Rosebud Reservation, which has similar statistics to Pine Ridge, created a video in response to the ABC News video, called "More Than That." You can watch it here. Photographer Aaron Huey gave a TED talk in 2010, in which he shared a slide show of his photographs, along with a timeline showing the effects of the broken treaties between the United States and the Native Americans in general. You can watch that video here. It's important to mention that there are those among the Lakota people who are upset about seeing photographs and videos of the darker side of life on the reservations. I can see their point, but how else are we to get this information out to the general public?
Tomorrow I will give you some more information about the reservations in South Dakota, as well as some information about taking positive action for change. :-/