Native American tribes have long lived on the plains of the Dakotas. Eight recognized tribes maintain reservations in South Dakota, and American Indians make up five percent (~30,000) of the total population of North Dakota. Even these state names, meaning “friend or ally” in the Lakota or Sioux language, honor a proud heritage.
The native peoples in this area, like many tribal communities across the United States, share painful histories and face obstacles today. Recent controversy over oil pipeline access at Standing Rock shed light on a still tenuous relationship with government authorities. Tribal leaders work to cope with challenges of poor health and joblessness in many Native American communities, while protecting their unique status, cultures, and rights.