One of South Dakota's biggest lies

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Notes from Indian Country

One of South Dakota’s biggest lies

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them)

The State of South Dakota and Governor Dennis Daugaard in particular have a misguided impression that this State has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Nation. Not so!

Daugaard was quoted recently saying, “In South Dakota we have the third lowest unemployment rate in the Nation.” He should have added, “If you don’t count the unemployed on the nine Indian reservations in the state.”

He went on say, “Because so few South Dakotans are unemployed we have a shortage of qualified workers to fill job openings.” We know where there are a lot of unemployed qualified workers.

The Indian reservations seem to be considered as somebody else’s problem. Indians are not a part of the mainstream in the State and therefore it is alright to pretend that we do not exist.

Unemployment is unemployment and one cannot couch that condition in any other fashion, but the politicians of South Dakota have found that the best way is to just ignore the problem. South Dakota has a unique way to make itself look good when it comes to low unemployment rates. If you are no longer actively seeking work you are no longer counted as unemployed. On the reservations where jobs are very scarce it takes only a few weeks for job seekers to run out of places to look for jobs so they stop looking. Now they will not be counted as unemployed. They will not be counted at all. Make sense?

Anyone interested in finding out the number of unemployed on each of the nine reservations in the state need only to Google “My Tribal Area” and statistics of every sort will pop up for you. Compiled by the US Census Bureau this new website can surely alert Gov. Daugaard to the realities of unemployment in his state.

If an honest assessment was made of unemployment in the State and all of the unemployed on all of the Indian reservations were counted an entirely different picture emerges. Nearly every reservation has an unemployment rate hovering at about 50 percent and some of the larger reservations like Pine Ridge usually lists their unemployment rate at about 80 percent.

If an honest jobs analyst would compute the number of unemployed on the Indian reservations and include it in the statistics compiled by the State a far different picture would appear.

At last count South Dakota claimed an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent. Now add the several thousand unemployed on the Indian reservations and that dishonest count would probably rise to about 10 to 14 percent putting South Dakota in the top bracket of states with very high unemployment rates.

For the past 20 years I have been writing about how these false statistics compiled by the state is damaging to the Indian reservations because it gives a false impression about the actual number of unemployed and severely restricts the funds an Indian reservation can raise in order to help alleviate its high unemployment rates.

The bureaucrats in Washington, D. C. see an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent and are convinced that any funds for jobs should go to states with a much higher rate of unemployment. They accept the unemployment rate submitted by the State Government as gospel.

This annual lie by the governor and his staff has gone on long enough. An honest employee of the state should sit down and crunch the actual numbers and then reassess the unemployment percentage so that it reflects the true number of unemployed people. One should not manipulate the numbers in order to make the state look good at the expense of those you are overlooking.

The Indian people are citizens of the state and although that citizenship was denied us until 1924 we are nonetheless citizens of South Dakota, America, and of our home reservations. This does not mean that for the sake of false statistics we do not exist. Hey governor, we are here, we are alive and many of us are unemployed. Please count us when you do the statistics.

Gov. Daugaard has been bragging about a new website at He calls it a state-of-the-art technology that creates an exceptional customer service by helping job seekers and businesses. He says it is a win-win situation. Well, let’s pray that it finds jobs for the thousands of unemployed Native Americans in the State of South Dakota who are not counted when the unemployment percentages are figured each year.

Honesty is the best policy they say so let’s start with a little truth from Gov. Daugaard. Please include the number of unemployed Indians in your next statistical count. You’ll be surprised at how fast your false statistics go up.

(Contact Tim Giago, Editor Emeritus of Native Sun News Today at