SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Overall poverty and health issues continue for the Native American people in South Dakota on this annual Native Americans’ Day in the state.

One example of health challenges faced by Native Americans is the high mortality rate for pregnant women. Pregnant women have a mortality rate of 121.77 maternal deaths per 100,00 births, according to a 2021 study called “Maternal Mortality and Health Disparities of American Indian Women in South Dakota” from the South Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The rate for white women is 44 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.

Contributors to the high mortality rate include obstructions such as a lack of transportation to pre-natal care and a lack of needed child care to attend appointments.

U.S. Census data shows that South Dakota has about 77,000 Native Americans. 8.5% of the 2020 population estimate of 886,677 909,824

KFF (formerly Kaiser Family Foundation) said in 2021, 52.6% of the Native American population in the state lived in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty threshold for a family with two adults and one child was $21,811 in 2021. The 2019 percentage was 42.7%.

The State Department of Health said in its 2023 state health assessment that 48% of the Native American population lived in poverty.

World Population Review said the poverty rate for the Native American population in January was about 49%.

In September 2022, the National Low Income Housing Coalition cited some particular challenges for Native Americans in rural areas. Those include limited access to employment
and development resources.

Contributing to the poverty rate is unemployment. The unemployment rate for some tribal lands in South Dakota listed by multiple sources are staggering. The U.S. Department of the Interior lists the unemployment rate for Rosebud Reservation at about 83%. The reservation has a potential labor force of 16,177. Several sources have reported the unemployment rate at Pine Ridge at around 80% for the past several years.

The federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported the nationwide unemployment rate for Native Americans in September was 6.9%. This applies to those 16 and older. While higher than the national average, it is lower than September 2013’s rate of 13.1%.

Counties in reservations in South Dakota are among the nation’s counties in persistent poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The Pine Ridge Reservation is in Oglala Lakota County, Jackson County and Bennett County. The Rosebud Reservation is in Todd County which is also on the list.

The Crow Creek Reservation is in Buffalo, Hyde and Hughes counties. Buffalo is on the Census list.

Native Americans are also more likely to die at a younger age than whites or other people of a different race in the U.S. The life expectancy is 71.8 years.

Research titled “Leading Health Challenges Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota Oglala Lakota Sioux” also cites higher risks of diabetes, alcoholism, suicide and other medical issues when compared to the overall U.S. population.

The DOH’s 2023 state health assessment said Native Americans generally have higher rates of most cancers than whites and the cancers are often detected at later stages than whites.

Specifically for diabetes, 20% of the Native American population in Oglala County and Todd County had diabetes.