The president at Pine Ridge Once the president's 15-car entourage had left the landing field, local press was allowed to once again board the bus and go back to the school, where the president would later speak. The president, accompanied by the National Press Corps, toured housing developments in Pine Ridge and spoke with a few area residents. Local press, meanwhile, jockeyed for position once again, this time on a press stage in the outdoor arena where the president would speak while more than 4,000 audience members waited in the blazing sun. Wakonda resident Riva Sharples, a photographer and reporter for the Wakonda Times, was at Pine Ridge for the president's visit. Here is her visual essay of the event:
Last Wednesday, President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president in about 60 years to visit an Indian reservation when he spent five hours on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. The president's visit to Pine Ridge, home to the poorest county in the nation where many people do not yet have indoor plumbing, was part of a four-day, six-city tour of some of the nation's "untapped markets."
Speaking at Pine Ridge High School before a crowd of more than 4,000, the president promoted his New Markets initiatives, which will give tax breaks and bring money to places like Pine Ridge, which currently suffers from an unemployment rate of 73 percent.
Accompanying the president to Pine Ridge were political and economic leaders, including South Dakota Senators Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson, Rep. John Thune, Jesse Jackson, and the CEOs of 20 of the Fortune 500 companies. Several companies have donated supplies and money to help the reservation, including Gateway 2000 of North Sioux City, which plans to bring computers and the Internet to the reservation. Clinton noted that the nation's unemployment rate has been below 5 percent for two years, but the jobless rate on the reservation is estimated at nearly 75 percent.
"That is wrong, and we have to do something to change it," he said. "Good people live in Indian Country, and they deserve a chance to go to work."