The unemployment rate on Cheyenne River is 85%. There are few jobs because of geographic isolation, the lack of natural resources, the lack of economic development and lack of training. Though many people believe that Native Americans receive a government stipend, it is not true. The median income per person per year is a shocking $2,926. Mostly, people live off of surplus food and welfare, if they qualify. Many Elders live off of $300 a month or less. There are only two banks, two motels and three grocery stores to serve an area the same shape and size of the state of Connecticut. There is limited public transportation and few restaurants. Many people do not have working cars and have to scavenge from one vehicle to another to keep a car running. This is a major barrier to accessing health care, education and jobs.
Most people live in overcrowded, deteriorated housing without the funds to make repairs. Black mold is endemic to the homes causing health problems and forcing some of the houses to be condemned. Electrical wiring is often dangerously old and needs replacement. Winters on the Rez are very cold and windy and many homes lack insulation. Combined with the high cost of heating, families face cold winters. The Tribal Chairman calls housing their number one crisis. Homelessness runs about 14 percent and many homes have three or more families sharing small spaces.
Education is underfunded by the Federal Government with some of the lowest rates found in America. To address the lack of school supplies, hawkwing has partnered with the Kids in Need Foundation to bring colorful, exciting school supplies to all students.
Schools are located in only four communities on the Reservation. Drop-out rates are 70% - there are few incentives to graduate with so few jobs and few able to go to college.
Nearly 100% of the children qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program which is sometimes the only meals they receive all day. Weekends, holidays and summer vacations are often times of extreme hunger. A hungry child cannot focus and learn.