By: Noah Zaiser
This past week on the Cheyenne River Reservation has certainly been interesting. Seeing the youth of the community was very telling of Eagle Butte’s condition, and for this reason I’d like to create a top ten list alongside a bottom ten list. The fact of the matter is, many people in this small South Dakota area are struggling, but they do not demand assistance or aid, they are fiercely independent, and this alone sets them apart. With rich Native American culture pervading the space, a sense of strong connections to the past seep into the present, but with a much more broken condition. Multiple homes are negatively affected by alcoholism and a lack of nuclear family dynamic, with many children turning to one common focal point: sports; namely basketball. Whether this is used as a form of escape or as a general platform for enjoyment is up for debate, but one aspect of it all is for sure: the people of this community have been forgotten, but do not ask to be remembered, they are simply themselves. This is where I’ll start.
- Eagle Butte has a Dairy Queen
- The Cheyenne River Youth Project Building is well-maintained
- The Coffee shop is inexpensive and contains delicious, high quality food
- The kids we worked with were very responsive and attached to us
- The people of the community genuinely care about one another
- There is a graffiti park, and it is beautiful
- The staff we worked with is extremely dedicated to the people of the community
- A park located about half a mile from where we stayed contained some very happy people playing ultimate frisbee
- The stars outside are beautiful see at night
- We managed to take care of a pet cat for half the week
- Trash is everywhere; litter is very common to see
- Many stray dogs and cats are roaming about, and were occasionally aggressive
- At night, it is very possible to see at least 3 intoxicated people stumbling around
- Many children have violent or discipline-lacking tendencies
- There are very little recreational areas such as movie theaters, restaurants, etc.
- The older teens are often unresponsive or uninterested in engaging with others
- Many teens plan to drop out of high school and don’t know what they want to do with their future
- Stories of broken home lives were common to hear from the children we worked with
- Health and wellness did not seem to be a crucial value of the community with high obesity rates
- Basketball was the only sport that was played due to the expensive nature and low accessibility of other equipment and resources
From what one may be able to tell, there are a multitude of positive and negative aspects about the space I observed. The fact that this area struggles so heavily, yet continues to live on is very telling of the people that occupy it, and I am certain that Eagle Butte is on the rise, rather than declining. While health and family life struggle often, there is hope through the connections that the children make through each other through sports, conversation, or simple arts and crafts. I firmly believe that the kids we worked with are the future of the reservation, and there is much going on in the way of structuring a good environment for them. From here, life looks like it will only improve.