Lakota Culture, World Economy

Lakota Culture, World Economy

Lakota Culture, World Economy

Lakota Culture, World Economy

Synopsis

Lakota Culture, World Economyuses extensive interviews with residents of the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations to present the first in-depth look at the modern economy of the Lakotas. Workers both in and out of the home, small-business owners, federal and tribal government employees, and unemployed and underemployed Lakotas speak directly about their economic prospects, the changes they have experienced, and how they cope with living in communities that are in many ways marginalized by the modern world economy. Kathleen Ann Pickering weaves these compelling first-person accounts with broader theoretical considerations to create a nuanced ethnographic tapestry of life today on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. Particularly enlightening are her consideration of the far-reaching economic significance of traditional Lakota households and her assessment of how Lakota identity- shaped by values, gender, ethnicity, race, and class- is inextricably bound up with the modern reservation economy.

Excerpt

I approach a small home made from layers of wood planks and mortar. The back is surrounded by tall weeds, the front is encompassed in mud. Black plastic garbage bags and duct tape cover one corner of the roof. A sixty-year-old man greets me, his face worn and wrinkled from hard living. “We had some bad winds come through here a few weeks back and just took part of the roof right off.” As we enter, a group of young children are told to go outside and play. The house is divided into two tiny bedrooms and one larger common area for three adults and five children. It is sparsely furnished with a hodgepodge of well-worn chairs. Nothing looks new. We sit on the portion of the sofa that still has seat cushions, and the man offers me coffee. In Lakota language, he directs his nephew, in his early thirties with long straight black hair in a ponytail, to make coffee. The white enamel stove is missing all its knobs and needs a match to light the burner. As we work through my questionnaire, the man recounts his work history. “I’ve tried hard to get something steady, but I only got CETA [Comprehensive Employment and Training Act] jobs, nothing permanent. I had a security job at the hospital, that was civil service, but then they changed it to a tribal contract and I was out. Then I was a janitor for five and a half years, but since 1984 it’s been off and on. I was a janitor in Minneapolis for three months. Now I get SSI [Supplemental Security Income].” He lights a cigarette. “We make beadwork to sell. Before my wife passed away, we’d make doughnuts and sweet rolls to sell. She was a good cook. I buy meat and dry it, like jerky, and we sell Indian food sometimes. If I had a trailer, then I could sell more, a food trailer, but they cost $1,700 and it’s hard to live on my income as it is.”

On a worn linoleum and metal table sits a 1970s vintage color television hooked up to cable and playing throughout our conversation. We get to the portion of the questionnaire that deals with potential sources of credit, and I ask if he has ever pawned anything. “No, I never did. I don’t got nothing to pawn. Except my poor TV, and I couldn’t part with . . .

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