"Indian country begins where the serene prairie of Custer county gives way to the formidable rock spires marking out South Dakota's rugged Badlands. The road runs straight until the indistinguishable, clapboard American homesteads fade from view and the path climbs into a landscape sharpened by an eternity of wind and water. At this time of year, the temperature slides to tens of degrees below freezing and a relentless gale sets the snow dancing on the road, a whirligig of white blotting out the black of the asphalt.
The first marker that this may be a part of the United States but is also apart from it, virtually invisible to most Americans, comes as the road descends on to the plains of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Here, an abandoned, half-wrecked mobile home, daubed with the name of a Sioux rebel who led the last armed showdown between the tribe and US authorities nearly four decades ago, stands as a monument to defiance and despair.
The signal from South Dakota's Christian radio fades as an agitated caller elaborates on her belief that God created global warming as a taste of the fires of hell awaiting humanity. After a time the reservation's own station struggles through.
The tribe's president, Theresa Two Bulls, is on air lamenting the death of a schoolboy, Joshua Kills Enemy, who hanged himself the day before. His funeral will be the second of the week, coming days after a 14-year-old girl took her own life in the same way. They are not the first.
Two Bulls wonders how it can be that the Oglala Sioux tribe's children are killing themselves. "We must hug our children, we must tell them we love them. A lot of these youth do not get a hug a day. They are never told that they're loved. We need to start being parents and grandparents to them," she says."
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Obama's Indian problem
(The Guardian 1/11)