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Third, the arid lands here just can't support many people. Rural areas throughout the great plains states, including those with overwhelmingly white populations, are losing inhabitants and are also among the poorest in the country.
Even though the reservation system is largely failing in the West, there are bright spots. One is the growing number of American Indians getting a good education. Another is that initiatives to emphasize traditional Sioux culture and spirituality seem to have boosted community pride and helped wean some families from alcohol and drugs.
My hunch is that these Indian reservations will have to shed people: They can't generate enough jobs, and a community with perpetual joblessness will always be stunted. But many American Indian communities throughout the United States have already demonstrated enormous resilience over the last two centuries — and that's a basis for hope.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.