"The wind shrieks and blows the rain sideways on the prairie, but the townspeople standing with their heads bowed do not seem to care. Gathered between the rows of trailer homes, this small, isolated community is grieving for two lives lost—a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old, killed in a fire in their home.
In the charred remains of the house are scattered scraps of clothes and a heartbreakingly tiny tricycle, and in jail is the chief suspect—the siblings' 17-year-old brother, who had attempted suicide before the incident.
This is a forgotten settlement on a forgotten reservation in a remote part of the United States.
To get here, you fly into Rapid City and drive three hours northeast on roads that leave scars across flat, dry plains. You drive through the Black Hills, where a gold rush in the late 1800s prompted the federal government to push out the American Indian population, past trailer parks and biker bars, until you get to the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation.
Tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty, a 37-year-old with an easy, explosive laugh, said the biggest issue for his tribe is to get more funding from the federal government for everything from infrastructure on the reservation to health care.
He is proud that his community has become more politically active in recent years, and proud that his generation has been able to reinstate tribal traditions that their parents, many of whom were sent away to boarding schools, were forced to forswear.
But that is overwhelmed, in many ways, by his worries for the community, half of whom are under 18, growing up with little to do and little hope for their futures. Even with a curfew of 10 p.m., alcoholism and methamphetamine use are rampant, and the rate of teen suicide is more than twice as high as in the general population."
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Candidates visit, but hope stays well away
(The Chicago Tribune 6/3)