For residents of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which stretches across a large swath of the central Dakotas, crime was an enormous problem a few years back. By mid-2008, violence on the 3,500-square-mile reservation was six times the national average. Residents had so little confidence in the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to do anything about it that they often didn’t even bother to report crimes.
Arnold Schott, both a mayor and coroner on the reservation, said at the time, “I can look out my door [and see] our little kids, 8, 9, 10 or younger” being lured into the drug trade. The director of the tribal health administration, Randy Bear Ribs, agreed that the crime problem was linked to drug and alcohol abuse. The reservation’s chairman, Ron His Horse Is Thunder, added that soaring crime was fueling “a sense of hopelessness.”