August 14th, 2009
08:48 AM ET
5 years ago

King: Economic pain throbs on Lakota reservation

Herbert Hale lives on a check of a little less than $17 a week and whatever he can pick up from odd jobs.
Herbert Hale lives on a check of a little less than $17 a week and whatever he can pick up from odd jobs.

CHERRY CREEK, South Dakota (CNN) - The tiny one-room house rests on a hill; no electricity and no running water. A creaky metal cot and a rusting wood-burning stove is all the comfort Herbert Hale says he needs.

"All it is is logs, glue - dirt and water put together - then cement and the chicken string," Hale says of his home. "Long as the windows don't break, it's nice and warm in here."

The roof leaks a bit, and the floorboards are rotted in one corner, but Hale isn't one to complain.

"It's home," he says, almost under his breath, as he invites a visitor to have a look.

Firewood is stacked in one corner inside, and more outside as Hale uses the summer months to stockpile for prairie winters, where 20 below zero is not all that uncommon.

He also pulls bunches of long weeds in the prairie grass, to dry for use as a firestarter.

"I have to be careful," Hale says matter-of-factly as he pulls a few fistfuls. "Sometimes there are some snakes. Rattlesnakes. Nothing to mess around with."

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Filed under: State of the Union
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Thank God I grew up in the city and not in the country like this dude.

    August 14, 2009 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  2. Polly

    He does have something a lot of people don't have- integrity and the ability to survive. Great example when you look at all the people who want the government to take care of them. Good story. I hope God gives this man the riches of heaven.

    August 14, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  3. Joseph in Illinois

    I wish I had more neighbors like Hale.

    Hats off to you, Sir !!!

    August 14, 2009 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  4. strong

    This man is not living, he is merely existing. And that is not a life.

    Poverty sucks. And all during this time, the gov't throws billions of dollars out the window, wasted forever.

    August 14, 2009 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. g ontario

    and america is running all over the globe with tax payer money helping people with better conditions then there own country -billion of bollars in middleeast billions given to places like isreal iraq gazza africa and so on

    August 14, 2009 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. Billy from NC

    Why is this on the Ticker? There have been poor people since Day 1. I'm poor. Not exactly breaking news....

    August 14, 2009 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  7. MN thinker

    People like this make my heart cry out for them. It is hard watching someone that really wants to work and can't. We need to find a way to create jobs again.

    I do not have any answers, but someone has too help these people.

    August 14, 2009 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  8. Randolph Carter, the evil koolaid drinkin' Obamabot

    Typical. Nobody cares about poor people in this country. They're pretty much on their own. Take the growing disappearance of public housing as an example. One of the main problems is that local housing authorities are in bed with developers. Sometimes they're the same people. Public housing is torn down and replaced with "mixed income" developments. Residents are given vouchers and told to find housing in the private market. Do you think that landlords in affluent areas take vouchers? The "mixed income" developments basically take in seniors on fixed incomes in order to appear successful and diverse for the press release while struggling families are left to their own devices and cut off from their communities. This process basically deconcentrates poverty in these sparkly redeveloped parts of town and shuffles it off into parts of town you or I generally avoid. Out of sight, out of mind. But at least the developers make lots of money, and the city makes out on increased property tax revenue. Have a nice day!

    August 14, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  9. gt

    no wonder they lost all the wars.....

    August 14, 2009 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  10. FORMER republican, NEVER again!

    A decidedly red state, how interesting.

    August 14, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  11. bush Victim

    You can thank bush for destroying this country sir.

    August 14, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  12. Lynn

    Maybe the members of the Tribe should go to a town hall meeting, act like crazy people, shout down each other, bring weapons "cuz the constitution" says they can, and scream about how they want America back.

    Oooops! THEY have a legitimate claim to America, but what they have gotten and continue to get is a raw deal.

    It is people who are on the outskirts of the system – those unheard voices like these – that all of us who actually care about OTHER PEOPLE have to remind ourselves exist.

    These are the people who keep us focused, not on the vile ramblings of those who want health care only for themselves, but on the voiceless poor and children who need what so many of us take for granted. They need water. They need health care, They deserve a voice.

    So fight on Mr. President. We are behind you. We may not show up to scream and spit in the faces of other, but we vote, we care and we support you.

    August 14, 2009 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. makesUwonder

    If there's any group of Americans that deserve the most it's the Native American Indian yet they complain the least and get the least. I say we take some of these second and third generation welfare low life folks off the program and use this money to help the Native American Indian.

    August 14, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  14. Counting the days until the Obamanation is GONE and America can prosper again

    And this is how the government takes care of the people. Oh boy oh boy, can't wait until they take care of me.

    August 14, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  15. Shari, NY

    This article is quite long but very interesting, and I could not help noticing this particular paragraph:

    "A medical center is under construction, thanks to funding from the Obama administration's stimulus plan, and Bryce In The Woods says about 65 construction-related jobs so far have gone to tribal members".

    The plight of indigenous people all over the world should be of concern and it is shameful that the USA has been lagging in doing more for its native Americans.

    To those who continuously say that our President does nothing needs to get a reality check.

    August 14, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. Bob

    Economic pain and alcoholism has throbbed for generations at reservations. Get out more. This is nothing new and it is very sad. Thirty-five years ago I drove through reservations after college and it was pitiful. I traveled through some a few years ago and nothing has changed. I have given $ to some Christian organizations that have pitched in but rampant substance abuse kills drive and families.

    August 14, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  17. Aunt Bea and Opie

    This is how John King and the rightwing radicals think we should all live,under the thumbs of the Corporate Fascists that control all the major companies in the World today.

    August 14, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. Scott, Tucson

    Can this be a snapshot what America would look like after four years of Obama?

    August 14, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. Randolph Carter, the evil narcissistic Obamabot

    Nothing new here. Nobody cares about poor people in this country. They're pretty much on their own. Take the growing disappearance of public housing as an example. One of the main problems is that local housing authorities are in bed with developers. Sometimes they're the same people. Public housing is torn down and replaced with "mixed income" developments. Residents are given vouchers and told to find housing in the private market. Do you think that landlords in affluent areas take vouchers? The "mixed income" developments basically take in seniors on fixed incomes in order to appear successful and diverse for the press release while struggling families are left to their own devices and cut off from their communities. This process basically deconcentrates poverty in these sparkly redeveloped parts of town and shuffles it off into parts of town you or I generally avoid. Out of sight, out of mind. But at least the developers make lots of money, and the city makes out on increased property tax revenue. Have a nice day!

    August 14, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. LIP

    It's a life style choice that most of us wouldn't make even if we had to. You learn to do without when you are born to poverty and live all your life in a third world country which just happens to be right in the middle of the country. You may hold South Dakota responsible for these conditions, but South Dakota is not the culprit. We struggle to do what we can, but responsibility falls on the shoulders of the government. During every political campaign cycle, Democrats come here looking for votes and make promises that are never fulfilled, yet for whatever reason, these minorities fall for the line again and again and nothing changes once the cycle is over. All of these politicians should hold their heads in shame.

    August 14, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  21. Joe Smoe

    If any one people in this country should be disgusted it is the indian.
    The blacks have never walked in their shoes, they don't complain like the blacks do, how many have made it to the top as some blacks have, how many indians do you see in government, movies unless it is one about them and they are a thing of the past.
    How many indians do you see blasting everything under the sun because they have been mistreated so unfairly, it makes me sick

    August 14, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  22. Belinda Dewrell

    I feel sorry for people who live on a shoestring, but don't they know they can relocate to better themselves? Yes they can!

    August 14, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. Robert jay

    What a disgusting pity! Americans should be ashamed! Real Americans of course who care about people. Real Americans who understand the shameful neglect we show to the "Real Americans" We destroy and rebuild countries because we think it needs to be done, because some moron says so. But we can't take care of or help our original American people. We talk about racial equality and never mention native Americans. What racial equality do they get? What priority level do they fit in. People who call themselves Americans (not native Americans) should be ashamed at how native Americans are treated.

    August 14, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |