Geography & Location
The Crow Creek Sioux Indian Reservation, home of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, is approximately 358,000 acres with a land base of approximately 10 x 70 miles located in central South Dakota along the northern and eastern shores of the Missouri River. Of the total land base, approximately 270,000 acres is reservation tribal land within Buffalo, Hughes, and Hyde Counties. Another approximate 108,000 acres is held in trust by the United States government. The terrain consists of plains, hills, shoreline, bluffs, prairie, lakes, dams, rivers, and creeks. Tribal administration headquarters, businesses, and the largest concentration of population are located in the town of Fort Thompson, which is approximately 60 miles southeast of the state capitol, Pierre. The Crow Creek Reservation is organized in three defined district areas: Fort Thompson, Crow Creek, and Big Bend.
The Crow Creek Indian Reservation was established by executive order following what was known as the Minnesota Uprising, as a prison camp for the exiled Isanti Dakota and Winnebago people. These were the survivors, mostly women and children, of the largest known public execution in American History, “The Hanging of 38 Dakota Men at Mankato Minnesota.” From 1863 to 1866 approximately 300 died at Fort Thompson suffering from starvation, sickness, disease, exposure, hardship, and heartache. The Reservation is also the homelands to the Ihanktowana Dakota of the Oceti Sakowi (Seven Council Fires) commonly known as the Great Sioux Nation. In the years following 1863 bands of Dakota Chiefs including Sisseton and Wahpeton were forced and ordered to settle on Crow Creek by the U.S. Government. Dakotas from other bands including the Mdewakan, Hunkpapa, Yanktanai and Tetons also settled on Crow Creek when they were not allowed annuities at other reservation agencies.
Because the Dakota who settled on Crow Creek Reservation are descendants of all bands of the Oceti Sakowi (Seven Council Fires) or the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota Nation (Great Sioux Nation) they most naturally called themselves Hunkpati (Making of Relatives, To Live). The Hunkpati are identified as a distinct band with signature authority on the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty with the United States Government. The Crow Creek Sioux lost over 16,700 acres of land under the Pick-Sloan Act. The building of the Oahe, Big Bend and Fort Randall dams on the Missouri River had the most devastating and immediate effects on the Crow Creek Sioux’s subsistence, economy, food, geographical landscape, and natural resources.
The Dakota on the Crow Creek Reservation voted not to approve of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and were not formally organized until ordered to adopt a Constitution and By-Laws by the Secretary of Interior in 1949 to govern and manage tribal affairs. The Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Council is the official governing body of and for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. The Tribal Council, which consists of a Tribal Chairman elected at large and six Council Members, is empowered and authorized to enact resolutions and ordinances governing the management of all economic and educational affairs and enterprises of the Tribe and Reservation. The council also has authority to appoint committees and boards and hire department staff to assist in the day-to-day administration of services of the Tribe and Reservation.
A copy of the Constitution and By-laws of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is available here:
Constitution and By-laws
Current Economic Situation
The reservation has historically suffered from lagging economic indicators with few signs of development. In 2000, Buffalo County – where the majority of the population resides – was named the poorest county in the United States, with just under $5,300 per capita income annually. Astoundingly, the Native American income in the county was actually lower. In contrast, the per capita income of South Dakota and the United States was $17,562 and $21,586, respectively.
However, since 2000, there have been indications of improvement. In 2000 the median family income on the reservation was $13,750; in 2010, the U.S. Census set the number at $24,408. In 2010, 48.8% of all Crow Creek families lived below the poverty line, down slightly from the 55.7% measured in 2000, but still much higher than state (8.8%) and national levels (10.5%). Unemployment also continues to be a significant problem on the reservation, even though according to the 2010 United States Census, the unemployment rate was 17.7%, down from 21.6% in 2000. By contrast, the rate for South Dakota in 2010 was (3.3%) and for the United States was (5.6%).
While the difficulties of the current economic situation are important to understand, they should not be seen as the Tribe’s and Reservation’s defining characteristics. When Hunkpati Investments was established in 2009, only two privately-owned businesses existed on the Crow Creek Reservation. Today, with the help of Hunkpati’s small business financing program, over 20 businesses operate on the Reservation.