The Lakota live somewhere between sovereignty and dependence—the resulting paradox of a reservation system with independent laws under the ultimate jurisdiction of the United States. Treaty rights, including “free” land, food subsidies and housing, maintain the tribe’s dependence on the United States. While the extreme isolation of the reservation can provide a welcome buffer from western life, it is also a repressive force that maintains poverty and prevents mobility. The reservation, unable and unwilling to integrate into western society, is simultaneously never free from its control.
Native States of America’s ‘real estate’ posters depict a very different situation than that seen in realty ads in the greater United States. The lack of a housing market, amenities and infrastructure are conditions comparable to those in developing nations.
Today, there is experimentation with local and sustainable building technologies on the reservations. Professional, cultural and technical leaders are making a difference with limited resources, though lagging infrastructure hinders growth. Despite the history of oppression that has faced the Lakota, a cultural resurgence is occurring.