The Church’s Deseret Industries Rushes to the Rescue of the Sioux

pine ridge reservation
"Shaw Dancer" at the Pine Ridge Reservation, image courtesy of Hamner_Fotos / Flickr

South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation was in desperate straits. The Oglala Lakota Sioux Native Americans suffered under conditions that the average American can’t comprehend. In fact, you’d have to travel outside of the United States, to a Third World Country, to see anything similar. Twila True of the Lakota Sioux sums up the situation via Deseret News:

“If Pine Ridge were a country it would be the poorest in the world.”

If that doesn’t rock your world, then maybe these sobering statistics will.

Pine Ridge Reservation
Image courtesy of NESRI / flickr
  • Population 30,000
  • Unemployment at 90 percent
  • Annual household income $3,500
  • Life expectancy at 50 years
  • High infant mortality rate
  • High rate of teen suicide

If it wasn’t for Twila True’s dedication to her people and a connection with some loving Mormons, the situation might not have changed—at least for the good.

pine ridge reservation
Image courtesy of NESRI / flickr

However, the LDS Church didn’t just come in with gifts of food and clothing and move on. The Church believes in self-reliance as does Twila True and her supporters. The answer was a self-sustaining thrift store, set up and stocked by the Church’s Deseret Industries. Now the reservation not only has an inexpensive source for everyday necessities—things that residents couldn’t find on the reservation—but a needed employer for the community.

pine ridge reservation
But the news isn’t all bad. The Lakota Sioux are slowly starting build. (Image courtesy of Hamner_Fotos / Flickr)
Housing Authority Johnson Holy Rock administration building in 2012 built by USDA Rural Development (RD) Recovery Act program (image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr)
pine ridge reservation
FEMA provides manufactured homes for residents of the reservation (image courtesy of Ellsworth Air Force Base)

Twila True hopes that this important step and her True Sioux Hope organization can help pull her people into the modern era and serve as a beacon of hope for other reservations.

Allison Weber grew up in the Great Plains of northeastern Colorado, decided to see some mountains, and went to Provo, Utah where she got her BA in English at BYU. Afterwards she did some writing and traveling, and then went to Minnesota State University for a Masters in Technical Communication. Now she freelances as a writer, works on her novel, runs regularly and travels when the mood strikes