Although the American Indian Population and Labor Force Report is federally mandated to be released no less frequently than biennally, the last report was released in 2007, with figures based on 2005. However, an updated report is supposed to be released this year.
These figures are based on tribes in the lower 48 states, only, who have at least 1,000 tribal members, of which at least 500 are unemployed. According to the 2005 figures, fifteen tribes have staggering unemployment rates exceeding 80%.
1. Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Tribal enrollment 1,274
Available for work 961
The Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake, Wisconsin has the highest percentage of unemployed tribal members at 93% with 894 unemployed. Out of those that are employed, 79% are still living below national poverty standards. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists Wisconsin as having an unemployment rate of 6.8%, which is 86.2% less than this reservation community.
2. Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians
Tribal enrollment 1,342
Available for work 595
The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians reservation territory lies in Temecula, California. Of those that are employed, none live below poverty standards. With the opening of the Pechanga Resort and Casino in 2002, the tribe expects to continue its development of the tribal economy. The BLS lists California as having an 8.7% unemployment rate, 82.3% less than this reservation.
3. Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge
Tribal enrollment 43,146
Available for work 29,539
Perhaps most infamous for its levels of unemployment and poor living conditions for the majority of its tribal residents, the Oglala Sioux of Pine Ridge also have the highest number of unemployed workers. Unlike South Dakota which has 3.9% unemployment, Pine Ridge has an approximate 85.1% higher unemployment rate than the state in general.
Though well over 1,000 residents on the reservation are employed, 34% of those are still living below poverty standards.
4. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
Tribal enrollment 15,376
Available for work 11,205
The Lakota Nation is comprised of more than 3 million acres of land in central South Dakota with approximately 70% of tribal members living on the reservation. Approximately 1,300 residents are employed that live on the reservation, 100% are still living below poverty standards.
5. The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
Tribal enrollment 1,860
Available for work 1,702
The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, also known as the Plains Apache and Kiowa-Apache is a federally recognized tribe located in Anadarko, Oklahoma. With 87% unemployment and about 1,700 tribal members available to work, only slightly over 200 are employed. Of that 200+, 100 are living below the standards of poverty. Oklahoma State’s unemployment sits at 5.3%, or 81.7% lower than this reservation.
6. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Tribal enrollment 6,461
Available for work 3,565
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe straddles the border of North and South Dakota and is the sixth largest reservation in land area in the United Sates. With tribal enrollment of 6,461 and more than 3,565 available to work, only 491 are employed. Of those employed more than 200 or 43% are living below poverty standards.
7. Little Traverse Bay Band
Tribal enrollment 4,073
Available for work 1,657
The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, whose traditional homelands lay on the northwestern shores of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, are number seven on the list with 86% unemployment. Though only 18% of those employed are living below the standards of poverty, Michigan’s relatively “high” unemployment rate of 8.8% is still 77.2% less than the reservation.
8. Round Valley Indian Tribes
Tribal enrollment 3,785
Available for work 1,450
The Round Valley Indian Reservation, which is primarily in Mendocino County, California, is number eight with 86% unemployment for its 1,450 members available for work. Only 209 are employed and more than half of that number or 54% are living in poverty. California’s unemployment currently sits at 8.7%, which is 77.3% lower than the unemployed on this reservation.
9. Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation
Tribal enrollment 3,724
Available for work 2,686
The Shoshone Tribe of the Wind River Reservation shares reservation territory with the Northern Arapaho. This reservation covering 2.2 million acres in Central Wyoming, holds the number nine spot with 84% unemployment for its more than 3,700 tribal members. Of the 2,686 available for work, 2,248 are unemployed. Of the 438 employed, 187 are living in poverty conditions. Wyoming’s unemployment rate is a low 4.6%, which is 81.4% less than the reserveration.
10. Rosebud Sioux Tribe
Tribal enrollment 26,237
Available for work 14,428
With 26,237 enrolled members and over 14,428 available for work, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota with 11,909 out of work members holds the number 2 spot in terms of number of tribal members without a job. It holds the number 10 spot in terms of unemployment percentage. Of the 2,519 that are employed, 1,920 or 76% are still living in poverty.
11. Walker River Paiute Tribe
Tribal enrollment 2,979
Available for work 850
The Walker River Paiute Reservation, located in Midwestern Nevada about 100 miles southeast of Reno, Nevada has an 83% unemployment rate for its nearly 3,000 members, with 850 available for work and only 145 employed. Nevada’s unemployment currently sits at a “high” of 9.5%, which is still 73.5% lower than this reservation.
12. Winnebago Tribe
Tribal enrollment 4,321
Available for work 1,055
The Winnebago Indian Reservation, which lies in northeastern Nebraska has an unemployment rating of 82%, with only 185 of the 1,055 available to work having a job. Of those working, 172 or 93% are living in poverty. Nebraska’s unemployment rate in comparison is currently 4.2%, or 77.8% less than the reservation.
13. Puyallup Tribe
Tribal enrollment 3,547
Available for work 12,437* (includes non-enrolled workers)
The Asa Coast Salish Tribe in western Washington State near Tacoma, now known as the Puyallup Tribe, has an 82% unemployment rate for its 12,437 available to work, translating to 10,250 unemployed. Of the 2,187 working, 1,412 are living below poverty standards. Washington State has unemployment of 6.9%, 75.1% lower than the reservation.
14. Bad River Band
Tribal enrollment 6,875
Available for work 1,800
The Bad River Band of the Ojibwe / Chippewa located on the south shore of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin has 81% unemployment. Bad River holds the number 14 spot with 335 employed out of the 1,800 available. Of those employed 273 or 81% are living below poverty standards. By comparison, Wisconsin State has unemployment of 6.8%, which is 74.2% lower than the reservation.
15. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes-Fort Hall
Tribal enrollment 4,796
Available for work 9,593* (includes non-enrolled workers)
The Fort Hall Indian Reservation of the Shoshone-Bannock is located in southeastern Idaho on the Snake River Plain. With more than 7,500 unemployed, the tribe holds the number 15 spot with 81% unemployment. Of those employed, 747 or 41% live below poverty. Idaho in comparison has an unemployment rate of 6.6%, which is 74.4% lower than the reservation statistics.