Two years ago, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader published an eight-part series that showed readers what it’s like to grow up Indian in South Dakota. Reporter Steve Young ended the series with this observation about three-year-old Neleigh, the child of a teenage mother:
On the powwow grounds along the Missouri River, in her traditional Lakota jingle dress, Neleigh embodies all the beauty and strength of a culture whose spirituality and customs have sustained its people for centuries.
On the winding streets of her hometown, pushing a stroller or riding her bicycle, this is every little child in South Dakota who ever laughed and giggled and ran free in the innocence of youth.
At the kitchen table in Lower Brule, where mom is only 18, has dropped out of school, is pregnant again and living on welfare, a little girl waits at the intersection of three roads.
The dangerous traffic of reservation life is bearing down on her, veering wildly under the influences of alcohol, poverty, violence and despair.