Poverty is worse on many American Indian reservations than anywhere else in the United States. Experts say the main causes are alcohol and drug abuse, dysfunctional families, and the failure of education programs.
On the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, one-half of individuals 40 years or older have diabetes. Two-thirds of adults may be alcoholics. Average life expectancy is less than 50 years. Fewer than 10 percent of children graduate from high school.
Employers do not invest in reservations because the work force is undependable. Good work habits, even getting to work on time, have yet to be developed. Family crises frequently cause workers to miss work. Alcohol and drug consumption are big barriers to change.
Tribal property laws discourage investments in reservation land. The land itself cannot support large populations.
Nevertheless, across the nation many Indians are getting good educations. Some tribes actually are prospering, usually because of gaming revenue or favorable geographic location.
Some experts believe the best chance for Indians to prosper is to leave their reservation.