Watchlist: BBC visits Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota

07.13.2022 Kamiah Koch Tribal relations


By Kamiah Koch

Social media/digital journalist

BBC News’ YouTube channel published a series in 2015 called “BBC Pop Up” in which journalist Benjamin Zand immersed himself in a community for several days to interview residents about their way of life.

In January 2015, a “Pop Up” video was posted from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, interviewing several young Native people about life on a Reservation.

The video cuts between interviews with Native Americans and statistics regarding poverty rates, suicide rates and negative stereotypes of Indigenous people living on Reservations.

“There’s not much to do around her,” Kelly Jo Bruce, who is a young restaurant worker, says. “When you do find something to do, you usually have to travel 20 miles or so.”

Shane Red Hawk, a Lakota community leader, says most teenagers on the Reservation have experimented with alcohol and drugs. In the next interview, student Savanna Killsnight is shown crying while talking about the effects of alcohol in the Native community.

Although the interviews describe the struggles of life on a Reservation, it also highlights the positive changes young Natives are making.

“We may live in this really rough situation, and it’s very real,” filmmaker Willi White says. “But there is hope and our culture is alive still.”

In another interview, the Native rock band Scatter Their Own from the Pine Ridge Reservation says they use their music as a way to express themselves and were recently offered a record deal in Los Angeles at the time of the filming. They said they pride themselves on being a role model for younger children on the Reservation that Native people can achieve their goals.

To watch the entire video for yourself, you can go to or find the video linked in the Smoke Signals “Watchlist” playlist on our YouTube channel.