Home of the Native American tribe of Lakota Sioux, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, is officially the poorest place in the United States, with 97% of the population living below the federal poverty level. On average, 17 people occupy a single and most families make under $4000 a year, putting them well below the federal poverty level. The reservation is isolated, with an extreme scarcity of jobs. Life expectancy on the reservation is 48, which is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.
Heart disease, cancer, suicide, infant mortality and alcoholism are widespread. Half of the Pine Ridge population over 40 has diabetes. Yet their diet consists of canned food “commodities”, high in salt, sugar, fat and starch, distributed by the U.S. government to the Native Americans. This case study brings together micro-economics and grass-roots strategies to allow the Lakota Sioux to restore sovereign identity through craft and culture and a heritage of living with the land through growing and producing their own food.
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