Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Overview


Last Updated: 6 years

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. 
At one time The Great Sioux Nation extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the east side of Minnesota. Canada is the northern boundary and the Platte River in the southern boundary. 

The reservation boundaries on the west and south include lakes Sharpe and Francis Case, the large reservoirs formed by mainstem 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 United States Government as defined by the United States Constitution has governmental relationships with International, Tribal, and State entities; therefore, Tribal nations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation signed treaties in 1824, 1851, 1863 and 1868 with the United States which are the legal documents that established our boundaries and recognized our rights as a sovereign government.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe consists of the members of the Isanti and Ihanktowan divisions of the Great Sioux Nation. The Tribe was relocated to the reservation after Little Crow’s War in Minnesota originally designated reservation lands along the Missouri River recognized in a treaty with the United States was signed in 1863.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe 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 by approximately 50 percent through subsequent Homestead Acts to provide land for non-Indian settlers.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe operates under a constitution and is governed by a Tribal Council. The Tribal Council consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer and four additional Councilmen which are elected by the tribal members.

The Tribal Council Chairman serves as the administrative head of the tribal government. The Tribal Chairman, Officers and Council serve a term of two years. One Council member is elected from two districts, Big Bend and Crow Creek, and two are elected from the largest district.

The majority of the population now lives in the community and district known as Fort Thompson.

Prior to the inundation of lands along the Missouri River, many of the people lived on the river bottom lands.

The entire community of Fort Thompson, schools and a hospital had to be completely relocated to higher ground. The infrastructure, schools and hospitals were never rebuilt as promised.

Tribal/Agency Headquarters: Ft. Thompson, South Dakota
Counties: Buffalo, Hughes, and Hyde, South Dakota
Number of enrolled members: 3,000
Reservation Population: 2,816
Languages: Lakota/Dakota and English
Land Status: Acres
Total Area: 225,000 acres
Tribal Owned/Use: 64,578 acres
Individual Allotted: 60,905 acres
Total Tribal/Allotted: 125,483 acres
Non-Indian Owned: 99,517 acres
Reservoir Taken area: 16,000 acres

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Land:

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 mainstem 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 maintenance and protection of the land is very important to the Crow Creek people and our future generations.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Culture:

The Crow Creek Sioux are members of the Great Sioux Nation. The people of the Sioux Nation refer to themselves as Lakota/Dakota which means friend or ally. The United States government took the word Sioux from (Nadowesioux), which comes from a Chippewa (Ojibway) word which means little snake or enemy. The French traders and trappers who worked with the Chippewa( Ojibway) people shortened the word to Sioux.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is composed of descendants of two Divisions of Dakota and Nakota people. The Ihanktowan, or Yankton and Yanktonais are called the Middle Sioux.

The Isanti or Dakota people are comprised of four bands that lived on the eastern side of the Dakota Nation.

The Isanti and Ihanktowan speak the ‘D’ and ‘N’ dialect of Siouan language. Both were a river-plains people who did some farming as well as buffalo hunting.

The government identified all the Tribes with similar languages as the Sioux people. The oral tradition of our people state that the Lakota and Dakota people were one nation. The Lakota people broke away and formed their own nation.

The Lakota/Dakota people still practice their sacred and traditional ceremonies which encompass the seven rites of Lakota Nation brought by the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

Social activities such as powwow, rodeos, and races are celebrated in the summer months.

Special powwows held for individuals who accomplished a stage in their lives such as graduation or acceptance in the arm forces with traditional honoring ceremonies, give-aways, and feasts to celebrate their accomplishments.

The oral tradition is still passed down from the elders to the youth.

The future of our people is in the hands of our children. The children of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe will bring us into the 21st century with pride and dignity.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation History:

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is part of the Great Sioux Nation which retains their land base in accordance with Treaties in the mid 1800’s which identified lands in eastern South Dakota and Minnesota.

The Treaty of 1863 established the original land base along the Missouri River. The reservation was increased in size in the 1889 Act referred to as the Great Sioux Settlement.

At one time The Great Sioux Nation extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the east side of Minnesota. Canada is the northern boundary and the Platte River in the southern boundary.

The eastern land holdings of the Dakota and Nakota were subsequently reduced by Homestead Acts, other Congressional action, and the courts.

The Great Sioux Nation total land ownership was further reduced in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty to the east side of the Missouri River and parts of North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana.

This includes all of western South Dakota in the middle of the treaty lands. Crow Creek retained land on the east side of the Missouri River.

The present day tribal lands are about one half of the original reservation due to Homestead Acts allowing white settlers to locate within the reservation boundaries.

The Black Hills are located in the center the Great Sioux Nation. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota/ Dakota people and today considered an important part of our spiritual lives.

A direct violation of the 1868 Treaty was committed in 1874 by General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry. The 7th Cavalry entered the Black Hills, the center of the Great Sioux Nation and found gold in the Black Hills.

The Gold Rush started the conflict between the United States and Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation opposed this violation of the treaty.

The United States Government wanted to buy or rent the Black Hills from the Dakota/Lakota people. The Great Sioux Nation refused to sell or rent their sacred lands.

The 7th Cavalry under General George A. Custer was requested to bring the Sioux bands in and place them on the reservation lands.

On June 25, 1876, the Battle of the Little Big Horn between the 7th Cavalry and Lakota Nation with their allies Cheyenne and Araphoes at Greasy Grass, Montana took place. The Sioux Nation won a victory over General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry.

The Great Sioux Nation scattered, some to Canada and others surrendered to the reservations. The United States Government demanded that the Lakota nation move to the reservations.

The people finally surrendered after being cold and hungry and moved on the reservations. The government still insisted buying the Black Hills from the Lakota people. The Sioux Nation refused to sell their sacred lands.

The United States Government introduced the Sell or Starve Bill or the Agreement of 1877, which illegally took the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation. The Dakota/Lakota people starved but refused to sell their sacred land.

The Allotment of 1887 also allotted Indian lands into 160 acre lots to adult male heads of household and 80 acre lots to adult males to further divide the nation. T

he Act of 1889 broke up the Great Sioux Nation into smaller reservations, the remainder of which exist today at about one half their original size in 1889.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Climate:

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 to 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.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Transportation:

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 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.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Recreation:

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe has some of finest hunting and fishing around with guided hunts provided by the Wildlife Management Department. Water sports are enjoyed by many also.

The Tribe operates the Lode Star Casino and Restaurant. Tribal organizations sponsor high stakes bingo games most nights of the week.

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe sponsors two annual pow wows, one in early June and the Lower Brule Fair and Pow Wow the second week in August. This event also includes a rodeo, horse racing, and a softball tournament.

The community of Fort Thompson has a campground near the Big Bend dam with several beach areas and boat ramps for fishing and water sports. During the year other sports activities such as softball, volleyball, and basketball tournaments are also held during the year.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Public Utilities:

Electric utility services for the Crow Creek Reservation are provided by Northwestern Public Service. The Midstate Telephone Company provides telephone service to the reservation. The Tribe operates the water department to supply clean water from the Missouri River to the communities of Fort Thompson while the Big Bend and Crow Creek communities are served by wells.


The Crow Creek Sioux provides an elderly nutrition program, youth recreational activities, and a rodeo club.

Health care is provided by the Indian Health Service at the Health Center Clinic and the Tribal Health Department Community Health Representative and Ambulance Service. The Health Department also provides examinations and eyeglasses to all residents at reduced rates.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Housing:

The Crow Creek Housing Authority manages about 350 housing units in the communities of Fort Thompson, Big Bend, and Crow Creek and on rural scattered sites through HUD Low Rent and Mutual Help home ownership housing programs.

Other housing is available through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service for their employees. Private housing stock is limited.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Future Outlook:

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe desires to continue their progress in providing for our people and the development of increased self-sufficiency.

The Tribe continues to explore means to expand the Tribal Farm operation and other business development initiatives. There are plans to develop cultural resources to preserve and educate Tribal members and non-members.

The development tourism will strengthen the economy on the reservation. The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe will continue to search for ways to maintain our culture and develop new economic opportunities for our future generations.

Crow Creek Sioux Reservation Environmental Summary:

Effect of Pick-Sloan Act: The following resources and infrastructure was lost to the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe as a result of the creation of Lakes Sharpe and Francis Case:

Subsistence economy 16,000 acres of land Medicine Housing units
Domestic water systems Fishing Hospital Tribal Office/Buildings
Food Acres of waterbed Ceremonial grounds Businesses
Ranch water systems Timber Schools 1 rodeo arena
Hunting Miles of main roads Burial grounds 1 race track

Reservation Water System: Water is the key to increasing the quality of life and promoting full economic development on the Crow Creek Reservation. An adequate supply of good quality water is needed by the 2,816 Indians and non-Indians living on the reservation.

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.

Hydrologic Setting: 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.

Water Availability and Use: 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.

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. A recent study completed under private contract will be researched for information on quantity of use.

Terrain: Rolling hills, woodlands, river breaks and stock dams dominate the reservation.

Tribal Lands Acres
Agriculture 15,121
Grazing 106,566
Forestry 1,390
Other 40
Total: 125,483

Environmental Problem Statement: In 1996, tribal environmental staff identified insufficient monetary and personnel resources to perform baseline data gathering functions to enable them to quantify their environmental resources and environmental problems as the major reservation environmental problem.