Obama will see problems on reservations first hand

President Barack Obama's visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota Friday will let him get a first-hand look at the challenges facing Native Americans. And there are many.

The Census Bureau says 27 percent of Native Americans are poor. Helen Oliff of National Relief Charities says on the reservations her organization serves, the poverty rate is actually higher, which exacerbates another problem: many Native Americans have little access to fresh, healthy food.

“You have a lot of convenience stores on the reservations," Oliff explains. "Many people are 30 to 60 miles away from the nearest regular grocery store.”

That leads many people to eat the pre-packed foods the convenience stores sell. 

Unemployment is also problematic, partly because it's hard to reach jobs from remote reservations.

“When our reservation area was created, back in the day, it really put us in a box, literally," says Scott Davis, a Lakota Sioux and head of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission.

Davis says the Obama administration has given tribes more autonomy, and President Obama has included the Choctaw Nation in his Promise Zone program, which helps impoverished communities access federal resources. 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...