As the crowds and media attention surrounding Standing Rock have lessened, there is also a marked decrease in attention to the tribe’s other problems.
In a special report co-published with The Huffington Post today (April 4), InsideClimate News looked into life on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, 3,600 square miles in North and South Dakota where almost half of the 8,200 population living below the poverty line. So while momentum around the tribe grew out of the Dakota Access Pipeline, that fight symbolized more for its people than environmental concerns.
“It is much more than just about a pipeline,” said former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, who also used to chair the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to InsideClimate News. “They were promised health care, housing, law enforcement and a good education. Much of it was written in treaties, and it hasn’t been delivered.”
Many believed solutions would come out of the recent national spotlight, but time proved that was only temporary. Per the report:
Standing Rock’s supporters fear interest in improving conditions for the tribe is waning with the end of the pipeline battle. Already one project—construction of a new health clinic in Fort Yates that would combine modern and traditional Lakota medicine—is in trouble. The health center quickly raised $300,000 during the uprising; since it ended, the flow of new funds has slowed to a trickle.
Access to healthcare is especially a concern on the reservation, which currently has just one hospital with 12 beds, no ultrasound machine and no intensive care unit to serve a population suffering from high substance abuse, diabetes and suicide rates. Life expectancy for Native Americans in the Great Plains region is 10 years below the national average: 67 years, according to this 2012 study.
Where these disparities are greatest, per InsideClimate News, is with housing:
A 2003 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan commission charged with overseeing civil rights enforcement in the U.S, produced some stunning statistics: Roughly 90,000 Native American families were homeless, more than 30 percent of Native American housing was overcrowded, 20 percent of Native American homes lacked full indoor plumbing, and overall, 40 percent of Native American housing was substandard.
One family, the Willards, had to wait nine years to get into public housing. They’ve dealt with their own substance-related issues and know firsthand what life is like on the reservation. But that doesn’t mean they’d want to leave it all behind either.
“This is my home,” said Sonja Willard, 46, a mother of seven who contributed time at the now gone Oceti Sakowin Camp. “This is my children’s home, my grandchildren’s home, I’d be scared to leave.”
Read the entire story here.