Built Capital: Standing Rock Sioux



Built capital is defined by Greene and Haine as any “permanent physical installations and facilities supporting productive activities in a community.” This ranges anywhere between roads, airports, electric and gas utilities, police stations, drinking water facilities, wastewater treatment, waste disposal, and communications and technologies networks.

The Standing Rock Reservation does not have any form of public transportation, though there are a few highway systems, like the Lewis and Clark Trail (or historical highway 1806), highway 24, highway 6 etc (1). There are, however, charted buses and limousine services that come to the Prairie Knights and Grand River Casino daily (2). The nearest Greyhound bus station and airport are in Bismarck, which is 40 miles north of the reservation (3). The lack of public transportation limits job opportunities, health care, and general citizen convenience, as well as a greater need to own a car. According to their website, over half of the reservation are unemployed and of those who are employed, around 2/3 live below the poverty line (see Human Capital: Standing Rock Sioux). The lack of public transportation coupled with the high rate of employment means that transportation is a burden on the residents.

In terms of public utilities, the reservation gets its electricity and natural gas from the Montana Dakota Utilities Company and the Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Coop Inc., though the reservation plans to develop its own utilities and telephone company (4). Lakota energy, which is owned by a tribal member, supplies fuel and gas to homes (5). This is a good example of a locally owned utility, thus is good for the community. Energy, and specifically energy infrastructure, has been a controversial topic due to DAPL. Outside contractors wanting to build a pipeline through the Missouri river on the reservation does not benefit the community in terms of built capital, for the pipeline only passes through the reservation, and degrades cultural, political, social, human, and environmental capital. Fortunately, after months of protests, the Army Corps of Engineers finally rejected the pipeline plans going through the reservation. This is a win for the Standing Rock Sioux, but we must wait to see the final decision on the location of the DAPL.

Although most members of the tribe still use well water, there is a distribution system that also supplies water to these homes (6). Even though there is a water system set in place, many residents currently depend on poorly constructed or low capacity individual wells or have water hauled to underground cisterns (7). These sources are often contaminated with bacteria or undesirable minerals, provide an inadequate quantity of water, and are costly to maintain and operate (8). This is a human capital issue because of the public health distress that contaminated water has on people. Outside of wells, Standing Rock Sioux have historically used the Missouri river as their source of water. Without proper infrastructure, residents will not have access to safe drinking water, so this issue of built capital must be resolved.

The Standing Rock Housing Authority constructs and manages tribal member’s homes, while the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) build homes on scatted sites though the HUD Mutual Help home ownership program (9). Other housing in the reservation is low-income HUD Low Rent for individual Indian residents (10). The housing stock is very limited, so the tribe plans to build a number of apartment complexes in the future (11). On the Standing Rock website, they stress that the housing demand in Standing Rock is far greater than the supply, so this puts stress on the community to sufficiently house all of their members, for there is likely a lack of housing mobility due to this issue. They are also looking into Habitat for Humanity homes and the government Home Grant project (12). The lack of proper housing for the Standing Rock Sioux is a major community issue that must be addressed, though because Indian Reservations depend on government support, poor political capital (see Political Capital: Standing Rock Sioux), many of the housing issues cannot be resolved. Thus, the community must look to charity organizations like Habitat for Humanity to address these needs.

Ultimately, the Standing Rock Sioux lack much of the built capital necessary for a sustainable community. These issues stem from an intersectionality of plagued capitals, which is unfortunately ubiquitous for Natives. Better built capital, however, is a tangible change hat could improve the other disparaged parts of their community. The recent win over DAPL will hopefully change the community’s view of themselves, especially human capital in terms of self esteem. Since it is unlikely that this “win” will change much politically, the community has the inertia of change within it, so it may be time that the Standing Rock Sioux can become more independent and fight for more changes for their community. Only time can tell.