Our Survey. Our Voice. Our Way. The Voices research project was founded on the premise, “We can’t change what we don’t know.”

The impetus for the Voices research project came from a desire to monitor the results of Tribal Ventures’ 10-year poverty reduction plan, but it has evolved into something more complex and fulfilling. The Voices research report includes baseline data for our people to make informed and educated decisions about our community and economic development strategies. The data revealed in the Voices research report provides a realistic outlook of our reservation’s current conditions, and has helped us identify how we can make changes at the individual, household, community, and tribal levels.

Until the Voices research report was published, we had to rely primarily on data from the US Census Bureau or the State of South Dakota to find information about the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation’s families and economy. Historically, these data sources have been limited, underreported, incomplete, and inaccurate. Additionally, the tribe’s data collection systems are not strong enough to fill the evolving data needs of our tribal leaders, organizations, and communities.


Until Voices, a research study on such a grand scale had never been attempted on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. The Voices research project was a two-year journey that took place from 2012 to 2014. The project was executed by a team of 38 people – 76% of whom were tribal members – that served in various positions, including principal investigators, project administrators, communications associates, database developers and administrators, research associates, data analysts, and reviewers. The Voices research project created employment opportunities, training, and experience for our people.

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The Voices research associates went into every community on the reservation and conducted face-to-face interviews utilizing a paper survey instrument. Nearly 20% of the surveys were also voice recorded. Contacting every fourth house on the reservation, a total of 819 families within 547 structures were surveyed. Up to five families per structure were surveyed. The Voices survey questions covered areas on community and home, land, household characteristics, household expenses, household income and expenses, and cultural support.


Comparing Various Sources of Data

The Tribal Ventures Voices research report revealed significant differences between our findings and mainstream data sources, such as the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demonstrating the value of research done our way. The data points below are just a few examples that Voices research participants provided us by answering a minimum of 160 questions.

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The data that was collected through the Voices research project is literally the voices of our people, collected by our people. Data is a story, and telling our story has always been a Lakota strength. Until now, we have never had comprehensive data about this many families on our reservation. Moving forward, this data can be used for many things, including:

  • accessing grant funding sources
  • developing a sustainable local economy
  • guiding efficient investments
  • expanding reservation markets to better serve our people
  • developing effective marketing strategies
  • building partnerships and networks
  • increasing understanding of our reservation by others

The Voices research should make us think about our communities, our tribe, and ourselves. This report will spark many questions, and hopefully additional research and data collection.