Today, not all ranchers are white, and not all white people on the reservation are ranchers. As US agriculture continues to shift toward factory farms, the viability of family farms is diminishing. Unlike their better known and wealthier counterparts in Texas, South Dakota ranches are small, family owned operations, which generate only modest income. The rolling hills and arid soil of the Cheyenne River Reservation don’t lend themselves to industrialized agriculture. Ranching families are faced with the dilemma of continuing in an industry they can’t keep up with, or leaving the only way of life they’ve known. Many young people from farming families leave the reservation to pursue more lucrative work. Those who remain are steadfast in their dedication, often taking on full time employment in town to carry them through the unpredictability of farming profits. This project follows three ranching families to explore the history of ranching on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
This project was funded by a grant from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. It is a collaborative project, shot by myself, Dawnee LeBeau, and Sylvia Picotte (Lakota photographers from a ranching family, who live on the Cheyenne River Reservation).