As part of his report on the geography of poverty in the United States, Matt Black how the pipelines and profits of the oil industry have failed to address the high poverty rate among American Indians.
Tribes have been forced to fight a series of losing battles to control and capitalize on the natural resources found on their land. In North Dakota, where an oil boom has bolstered the state economy and driven the unemployment rate down to just 3.1%, the unemployment rate in Standing Rock is 79%.
The thriving oil industry on or near the state’s tribal lands has created a tense tug-of-war between big industry and the tribes, some of whom have opted to work with corporations in order to claim at least some of what those corporations are sucking out of the earth. At the same time, there’s concern over what many native environmental activists call a con game, where corporations use loopholes and the messy state of tribal and government relations to push further into native lands for oil exploration.