From the Badlands of South Dakota Jeff and I entered Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on our way to Wounded Knee. In Lakota the name is "Oglala Oyanke" for it is an Oglala Sioux (Lakota) Native American Reservation, home to almost 30,000 people.
Pine Ridge, the second largest reservation in the United States, looked fertile with rolling hills producing grassland, corn, cattle and other crops.
Compared to other reservations we had seen, Pine Ridge appeared lush. Looks are deceiving, though, for Pine Ridge is the poorest Native American reservation in the nation in the poorest county in the United States. The unemployment for Pine Ridge is about 80% or higher. According to reservation online information, the life expectancy for Pine Ridge men is 48 and for women is 50. Tuberculosis is prevalent.
Evidently this fertile land does produce income, but, in 2002 records, less than 1/3 of that income went to tribal members. I don't know the answers to the obvious question of "Why?"
What I do know that it is a naturally beautiful place. The people we met were beautiful and kind to us.
Their artists produced paintings, sculptures and jewelry like none other in the world.
Oglala Oyanke is a field of opportunity.
If any of us live in poverty, our whole society is impoverished.
The beauty of these sunflowers should not be hidden behind broken-down cars and homes without bathrooms or doors.
Each individual blossom is beautiful if given a chance to grow.
But there are fields of sunflowers who's beauty could easily be seen with just had a little help to hold their heads up so they could see the horizon.