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Journey to Pine Ridge

<p>A ride across heartache, trust and hope</p>

Noel Brennan

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Waylon Belt traded his cousin a flat screen TV he won in a school raffle for the 34-year-old, broken-down trailer that has no running water or electricity.

“I think camping is like what you guys do, you know, on weekends in something like this.” Waylon said, standing in the doorway of his tiny home. “We’re living in it every day.”

The Belt family&rsquo;s trailer in the Whiteclay District of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Waylon shares the trailer with his girlfriend, Priscilla Rouillard, and their three children, 14-year-old Waylon Jr., nine-year-old Thomas and two-year-old Autumn Sunrise. The Belt family’s home sits on a 380-acre plot of land in the Whiteclay District of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Waylon, a native Oglala Lakota American Indian, said his family lived in the remote area of the reservation for generations.

“This is where we sleep,” Waylon said, gesturing toward the tiny room at the back end of the trailer. “Us three sleep back there and the two boys sleep up here on the floor.”

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Waylon, Jr. watched as his father walked to the opposite end of the trailer and removed a metal rod supporting a collapsible table. The table folded down against the wall, clearing a small space on the floor.

“There! Now we’re in our boys’ bedroom,” Waylon said, managing to crack a smile on his eldest son’s face.%

More than 40,000 Oglala Lakota American Indians live and struggle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a wounded place filled with great beauty yet little hope for families like the Belts.

Unemployment is believed to hover around 80 percent and nearly half of the people on the reservation live below the poverty line.