The Standing Rock Reservation is one of 326 reservations in the U.S. The reservations were established in the 19th century. The federal government and several tribes signed treaties stating which pieces of land would be ‘reserved’ for the indigenous people. Legally, the reservations are associated with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs rather than state governments. This means that, to some extent, the reservations are self-governing. Approximately 20% of Indians in the U.S. live in reservations. There are high unemployment rates and a large part of the reservation population live below minimum wage. The Native Americans are the poorest community of the U.S.
Originally, Standing Rock used to be part of The Great Sioux Nation, a much larger reservation. The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie between the government and the Indians, assigned almost all of North and South Dakota to the Sioux. The agreement was violated in 1877 when the Black Hills were seized after valuable raw materials were found there. The agreement was violated again in 1889 when the reservation was divided into six smaller reservations, including the Standing Rock Reservation.