The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe was relocated to the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation after Little Crow’s War in Minnesota. They were originally designated reservation lands along the Missouri River recognized in a treaty with the United States was signed in 1863.
The Crow Creek Sioux Reservation was further defined and the boundaries expanded by the Act of March 2, 1889 which identified all the reservations in present day North and South Dakota. This includes all right-of-way, waterways, watercourses and streams running through any part of the reservation and to such others lands as may hereafter be added to the reservation under the law of the United States.
The original reservation was reduced to its present size (cut by approximately 50 percent) through subsequent Homestead Acts to provide land for non-Indian settlers.
The Crow Creek Sioux Reservation is located in the central portion of South Dakota, 26 miles northwest of Chamberlain, South Dakota, which is on Interstate 90. The reservation boundaries on the west and south include lakes Sharpe and Francis Case, the large reservoirs formed by mainstream dams, Fort Randall and Big Bend dams, on the Missouri River.
The reservation covers an area of about 400 square miles within Hughes, Hyde, and Buffalo counties. Of this area about 35 square miles are covered by major reservoirs and about 201 square miles are owned by the Tribe and Tribal members. The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe maintains the right and responsibility to provide environmental authority in compliance with Tribal and Federal law for protection of the land and resources within the exterior boundaries of the reservation through code development and regulatory mechanisms.
The average rainfall is 16-17 inches during the summer season. The growing season lasts three months, June to August. The snow fall averages from moderate to heavy for winter weather. The temperature in the winter is from 30 degrees below zero to 25 degrees above zero. The average temperature in the summer is 80 degrees but will range from 69 degrees to 110 degrees from June through August. The wind averages 14 mph per day annually. The area suffers from occasional droughts in the summer and severe blizzards in the winter. The spring and fall seasons are very pleasant.
The Crow Creek Sioux Reservation is served from the west to east by Highway 34 and north to south by Highway 47 to the Big Bend Dam to Interstate 90, and Highway 50 to Chamberlain, South Dakota to I-90. The historical highways run along the Missouri River from Chamberlain to Pierre, South Dakota. There is no public nor major transportation facilities existing on the
reservation. There are some charter buses and limousine services for patrons of the Lode Stat Casino in Ft. Thompson. The
Greyhound Bus services are located in Chamberlain and Pierre, South Dakota. The nearest commercial airline is in Pierre, South Dakota, 60 miles northwest of the community of Fort Thompson.
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe’s major economic occupation is cattle ranching and farming for 20 tribal operators. The Bureau of Indian Affairs NRIS data identifies a total of 15,121 acres of farmland on the Crow Creek reservation, including 3,480 of irrigated acres.
The Tribe operates a large irrigated farm under the Big Bend Farm Corporation, guided hunting for small game, big game, and a goose camp operation. The Tribe also operates the Lode Star Casino and liquor store.
Commercial business by private operators include a convenience store, laundromat, and a video arcade/fast food shop, hunting/fishing guide service, arts and handcrafts, and a small motel.
The majority of employment is provided by the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Lode Star Casino, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service.
Problems with water quality and inadequate supply are common throughout the reservation. This condition has a detrimental effect on health and quality of life as well as deterring economic growth. The availability of a plentiful and high quality water supply is vital to the health and well being of the people living on the Crow Creek Reservation. The level of health and quality of life of the general population is directly related to the quality of their domestic water supply.
Many residents currently depend on poorly-constructed or low-capacity individual wells. These sources are often contaminated with bacteria or undesirable minerals, provide an inadequate quantity of water, and are costly to maintain and operate. Many people wish to return to their family lands or relocate to rural areas to raise their families but are limited by the unavailability of water.
Agriculture is the primary industry on the Crow Creek Reservation and the key to the full development of this industry is water. Surface water in small streams, lakes, and dugouts is scattered throughout the area. Surface water, however, is unreliable year-round and generally available only during the wet periods of spring. During drought periods, these sources often dry up, and livestock must be sold or moved off the reservation.
Shallow groundwater is scarce and unreliable and deep groundwater, while generally more plentiful, is highly mineralized and of poor quality. This lack of an adequate water supply has also reduced the livestock production on the reservation. The grazing lands cannot be fully utilized and valuable resource is wasted. The lack of stability in the production of feeder-cattle also discourages related industrial development such as cattle feeding, packing plants, and other value added industries.
Shallow groundwater is not obtainable on most of the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, and where it is found, it is often of poor quality. Surface waters, with the exception of the Missouri River, though valuable and widely distributed resources, are undependable because of scanty and erratic precipitation. Artesian water from deeply buried bedrock aquifers underlies all of the reservation. These aquifers are not, and probably will not become highly developed sources of water because of the high-to-very-high salinity and other mineral content of artesian water in most of the area.
Surface water is the major water source for the reservation with the Missouri River providing by far the largest part of the surface water supply. Other reservation streams have extremely variable flow patterns and are not reliable enough for a year-round supply. Groundwater is not as abundant as surface water and where available it is usually adequate for only small scale use. For these reasons, the Missouri River is the obvious source for a reservation water supply system.
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe currently utilizes the Missouri River as the source for the Fort Thompson community water system at a current level of 150/200,000 gallons per day. Well water systems serve the Big Bend and Crow Creek communities located on the northwest and southeast corners of the reservation. The Tribe under a PL. 93-638 contract with the Bureau of Reclamation has completed a rural water needs assessment and plans to seek funds for a rural water system to serve the reservation.
Water is the key to increasing the quality of life and promoting full economic development on the Crow Creek Reservation.