Rural telecom gets a boost

The graduation rate of South Dakota Native American students enrolled in public schools is about 60 percent. Students who attend Bureau of Indian Education schools graduate at an even lower rate.

Resident Martin Three Stars, 32, said the technology didn’t get to Standing Rock a moment too soon.

“Things were getting real bad up here,” he said. “But this new company has shown that the tribe is investing in our lives. They are doing something to make all of our lives better.”

With the average income of residents on the reservation at $10,000, he hopes the company can provide new opportunities even as that income level becomes a hurdle to creating a sustainable business.

“It’s a huge challenge. But one of the reason that income levels are so low is because there is less opportunity,” he said. “By us offering connections, which will enhance business opportunity, we hope those incomes will come up.”

The technology also will help local governments and emergency services on the reservation better serve the tribal members and local residents.

Last winter, there was a three-day period when communications were down at Standing Rock. Because the SRT system is backed up with batteries and generators, the reservation won’t have to experience that again, Shanley said.

“There were no phones, so to have a network like this … we will never lose communication,” she said.

“And we’re less likely to lose lives in situations like that,” she added, pointing out that “we have people on dialysis all over the reservation.”

McAllister said SRT has about 270 customers but hopes to grow to 1,000 by year’s end. About 8,500 people live on the reservation, and 14,000 Native Americans are enrolled in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.


U.S. Department of Education

National Museum of the American Indian – Education

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