The Badlands of South Dakota are one of the most economically depressed regions in the United States. Though surrounded by commonplace social strife as a result, rich traditional culture survives, since much of the Badlands are part of the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota. Once led by the legendary war chief Crazy Horse, Pine Ridge is also where some 300 men, women, and children were slaughtered by the 7th Calvary at the Massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890, the tragic end to the Indian Wars.

October 26, 2011

The Badlands of South Dakota

Photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier

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The Badlands of South Dakota are one of the most economically depressed regions in the United States. Though surrounded by commonplace social strife as a result, rich traditional culture survives, since much of the Badlands are part of the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota. Once led by the legendary war chief Crazy Horse, Pine Ridge is also where some 300 men, women, and children were slaughtered by the 7th Calvary at the Massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890, the tragic end to the Indian Wars.

Conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation are comparable to the most impoverished nations in the world. Over ninety percent of the residents live below the federal poverty line, and the unemployment rate hovers between eighty-five and ninety percent. Life expectancy is 48 years for men and 52 for women. Faced with staggering poverty, the Lakota work to preserve tradition, culture, and maintain their community.

The Lakota are not the only people who struggle economically in the region today. Small towns across the Badlands suffer greatly as national economic shifts bankrupt and depopulate many rural communities. Broken-down ranches litter the landscape, while leather-faced cowboys seemingly as old as the soil itself pass in sun-faded pickups. Many ranchers in South Dakota are descendants of the land-hungry settlers who historically pressured the federal government to take Lakota territory and confine the Lakota to reservations. Now both Indians and whites live in isolation in the Badlands, forgotten communities left to survive as best they can.

- Danny Wilcox Frazier

 

With support from Leica Camera

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  • Black Enterprise – Black Street Gangs a Hit on Native American Reservations November 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

    [...] the same issues plaguing some of the country’s largest urban centers. A prime example of such is the Badlands of South Dakota, which is home to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Oglala Lakota [...]

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  • Black Street Gangs Hit Native American Reservations – Black Enterprise November 25, 2012 at 5:52 am

    [...] the same issues plaguing some of the country’s largest urban centers. A prime example of such is the Badlands of South Dakota, which is home to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Oglala Lakota [...]

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  • Street gangs gain foothold on Native American reservations | theGrio November 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    [...] the same issues plaguing some of the country’s largest urban centers. A prime example of such is the Badlands of South Dakota, which is home to the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Oglala Lakota [...]

    Recomendation (1)
  • A Conversation with Danny Wilcox Frazier on Facing Change: Documenting America « The Leica Camera October 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    [...] that I did for my Leica commission was published on MSNBC.com, of course it was first published at FacingChange.org, and it reached a lot of people. And I was afforded the time to go and do that work, and it’s [...]

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  • Arthur Meyerson July 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Very nice body of work, Danny!

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  • Nation building in the mideast? It’s long overdue for nation building for the devastated nations here in America. We’ve invaded, humiliated and decimated Native Americans. We are morally responsible to bring hope and propsperity to these original citizens of America. Write US Congress and ask to pass a bill creating a tax free enterprise zone or tax credits to establish manufacturing on the rez on the condition that the companies will eventually pass to the workers after the initial investors have recouped their investment.

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  • James G, Staples November 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Black Elk’s “VISION” is alive & well…ty…

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  • I found this info in a 2010 article – for those who’d like to help:

    If you’d like to contribute, you may call Alice Catches with the Pine Ridge Emergency Fund directly here: 605-867-5771 to donate. Also, you may ring the Lakota Plains Propane on Pine Ridge @ 605.867.5199 / 605.455.1188, from 8a – 4:30p to pay moneys directly to the accounts of those in need of propane. Below is a list of Elders / those in dire need. You should be able to give any of these customer’s names and pay directly to their accounts for propane delivery: – Emma Zemaga, 87 y.o., house #779 – Mary White- Desersa- Douglas Poorbear- Claire Rodriguez – Brian Red Elk- Stanley Goodvoice Elk, Jr. – Waverly Chief – Dwayne Ironcrow

    Here’s the original link: http://www.blogger-index.com/feed190107.html

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  • Whoah! Grim indeed. But then amidst all the poverty, beautiful grasslands. Perhaps they could get special federal assistance through the U.S. Parks Division. By maintaining/protecting the grasslands they could get subsidies. A small kickback I know, but seems symbiotic enough.

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  • Is there anything we can do to help. I mean if I did a fundraiser do you know where I could send money, food, clothing to help these people?

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  • The Badlands & Great Plains- Not so great and pretty bad for Lakotas | Bloggo Schloggo November 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    [...] Dakota. He’s been visiting the area frequently since 2008. See  the  complete story at FacingChange.org which commissioned the work in   conjunction with Leica Camera. Danny Wilcox Frazier for [...]

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  • Helen Grunewald October 27, 2011 at 1:28 am

    These are moving, beautiful, tearful and just wonderful.

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many thanks to our friends

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