Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

The Native American population has been gaining in the Black Hills' non-reservation counties.
The Native American population has been gaining in the Black Hills' non-reservation counties.
Black Hills Knowledge Network map
February 16, 2015

Large Native American Youth Population Spells Future Gains For SD's Largest Minority

Dashboard.raceseries.logo3American Indians account for a growing percentage of South Dakota’s population, especially West River and in the counties that make up the Black Hills region. Data from the U.S. Census, which is sometimes challenged by tribal officials, shows that the rate of increase in American Indians’ share of the total population has slowed in recent years. Nevertheless, given the high percentage of Native youth in key counties west of the Missouri River, the Native share of total population is likely to continue to rise.

The Statewide Picture

As South Dakota's largest racial minority, Native Americans increased their share of the state’s population from 8.3 percent in 2000 to 8.9 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, the total number of American Indians in the state, as estimated by the government, rose from 62,283 to 75,233.

These changes follow a steady increase during the 1990s in the population of Native Americans under age 18 in South Dakota when the population of Native youth rose from 23,489 (11.8 percent) in 1990 to 27,804 (13.7 percent) in 2000. Although the Native youth population continued to grow after 2000, reaching 29,414 (14.1 percent) in 2013, the growth rate slowed. The overall percentage of Native Americans is poised to make bigger gains in the future because individuals under 18 still represent a higher percentage of South Dakota’s population than all Native Americans.

Native Americans in the Black Hills

In the Black Hills region, the growth of the Native American population has also been significant. Since 2000, the number of American Indians in the seven counties between Butte and Shannon counties has grown from 20,704 to 25,917. As a percentage of the total population, the Native American share rose from 12.1 percent to 13.1 percent. In Pennington County, particularly, nearly one in ten residents, and nearly one in six youth, was American Indian in 2013. (See the table below.)

Shannon County's total population has increased, and so has the number of American Indians, from 11,743 in 2000 to 13,114 in 2013. But while the total population has been on the rise, the share of Native Americans has dropped from 96.1 percent in 2010 to an estimated 92.9 percent in 2013.

Rapid City’s Population of Color

Rapid City is home to the greatest population of American Indians living away from the reservations. In 2010, American Indians accounted for 12.4 percent of the city’s population.

The two tables below provide county-level details in the Black Hills region for both Native Americans and all people of color. Find more data breakdowns in the sortable, exportable charts on the Demographics page of the South Dakota Dashboard. 

Native Population By County


  2000 PERCENT

  Butte    1.6%    150    2%    202
  Custer    3.1%    227    3.4%    292
  Fall River    6.1%    451    7%    479
  Lawrence    2.2%    476    2.3%   569
  Meade    2%   495    2.9%   790
  Pennington    7.1%   7,162    9.9%   10,471
  Shannon    94.2%   11,743    92.9%   13,114
  South Dakota     8.1%   62,283    8.9%   75,233

Persons Of Color Population By County 

  Butte    5.9%    537    8.4%    872
  Custer    6.6%    481    9.3%    784
  Fall River    10.7%    797    14.3%    975
  Lawrence    5.4%    1,171    9.2%   2,289
  Meade    8.4%   2,041    12%   3,264
  Pennington    14.4%   12,768    19.6%   20,727
  Shannon    95.6%   11,912    95.2%   13,438
  South Dakota     12%   90,259    16.7%   141,230

About The Series 

The Black Hills Knowledge Network's Native Data Series examines what the available data shows about Native Americans living in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. As the state's and region's largest racial minority, the data often shows distinct differences from the white majority in some categories, while in other categories the data shows close similarities. This series seeks to examine both situations so we all can better understand, respond to and plan for decisions that would affect Natives and non-Natives alike. 


Related items

  • YFS Programs Receive $100,000 Grant

    The Girls’ Inc. and Health Connections Programs, both operated by Youth and Family Services in Rapid City, have been awarded a grant of $100,000 by…
  • Rapid City’s YMCA Expands Childcare Programs

    Rapid City’s YMCA has partnered with Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) to expand its childcare program, reports KOTA Territory News. The project, which began approximately…
  • New Grocery Store Opens In Pine Ridge

    The old Sioux Nation store building has recently reopened its doors in Pine Ridge Village, as Buche Foods was awarded the contract to operate the…

Get Involved!

  • Need more information? Rapid City Public Library associates are standing by to answer your questions! Ask away in the box below during business hours for live feedback.

    For more on this feature, click here.

  • bhkn donate

    Enjoy our work? Donate today to ensure that community members will have access to our wealth of news, history, and data for years to come.

  • 211 logoDid this post inspire you to get involved? Visit our partner 211's Volunteer Database to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

525 University Loop, Suite 202
Rapid City, SD 57701
(605) 716-0058   [email protected]