American Indian communities are younger on average than the U.S. population at large. Tribal governments thus face some issues that are endemic to younger populations, such as gang activity, drug use, and crime than are facing much of the United States in general at this time.
The Rapid City Journal wrote about this issue recently: “tribal communities in South Dakota continue to have a significantly larger youth population than the rest of the state. Areas like Rosebud and Pine Ridge have nearly twice the state average, or 40 percent of their population represented by young people. Many areas with more children also land in some of the fastest-growing counties in the state, a fact that leads to more calls for youth services.
That call has been increasingly answered, according to Pigeon Big Crow, child care program director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “What we’re doing is trying to get more creative,” Big Crow said. “We’re starting to partner with a lot of other programs so our resources can be leveraged. That’s one way we can deal with the increase in enrollment for service.” . . .
A similar trend with a large portion of young people has occurred with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe with 41 percent of the population under 18 in Eagle Butte. There, collaboration is also the key, said Julie Garreau, executive director of Cheyenne River Youth Project.
“With what resources we do have, we’re trying to create a collaborative picture,” Garreau said. “Numbers don’t really scare us; we’ve always had a lot of kids. If they go up, we see it as a blessing. We also look at the silver lining. What an incredible power base, if we can reach them, educate them and give them options and opportunities.”