We all deal with unpleasant weather from time to time. Most of us do it in the comfort of our homes. I have been caught in the middle of a blizzard – the infamous blizzard of ’78 here in Massachusetts. I tried to be the good person and offered a ride home to a co-worker, so his pregnant wife wouldn’t have to come out to pick him up in the bad weather. My car died right near his home and I spent several days with his family until my husband could get out to pick me up. This was, of course, in an urban/suburban setting.
They are having an early blizzard in the central plains this week. The article I read this morning told of 10 feet of snow in Deadwood, SD. It also mentioned 20 foot snow drifts on the Pine Ridge Reservation. I also got an e-mail from One Spirit, the organization through which I sponsor my family.
There is a blizzard currently ongoing on the reservation. The
reports are that power is out all over the reservation and that while
the snow has stopped for the moment, there is a “ground blizzard”
with 60 mile per hour winds. John D – from Allen – reports that
the roads are blocked and they are not able to get through to people
who need help. People on the rez who have 4 wheel drive can’t move
right now but will at the first sign of a break in the weather. They
will need gas money to get to the people who are stranded without
food, water and heat.
I have contacted the Red Cross – they confirm that at present they
are not able to move to provide help. They will start to mobilize at
the first opportunity but will need the help of the people on the
reservation to reach the elders and families who need help most
I will be sending out an appeal via email for help to provide gas and
supplies to those who will be trying to get to those who are
stranded, particularly those who need medical care like oxygen,
dialysis, nebulizers, and other urgent care.
If you can help, please do so.
Pine Ridge is a far different setting to endure a blizzard than Central Massachusetts. Most homes in Mass have insulation and heat. We have crews at the ready to clean up the streets and repair downed electrical lines.
Pine Ridge Reservation consists of 2,000,000 acres of the poorest land in this nation. That’s right – 2 MILLION acres, in case you had any trouble with all those zeroes and thought I must have made a mistake. To put it another way, they have 3,468.86 square miles – more than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. On that land, about 26,000 people live – or maybe I should say survive. After all, they a part of two of the poorest counties in the country.
Paved roads a few. Good homes are even fewer. Most homes are either wood frame or mobile homes. Most are very old and decaying. Most have no insulation and many have holes in the walls or windows. The wind, which always seems to be blowing, is gusting to over 50 mph during this blizzard. It may feel nearly as windy indoors as out, with all the cracks in the homes. Water stored in a tank outside will not be accessible, nor will the outhouses many families use. If you take a look at the house in the photos in my post a few days ago, you’ll see that a 20 foot snow drift could swallow up that house.
There will be people who run out of what little food they had before they can get help. There will be elders with medical conditions who will be unable to get the medications they need. Perhaps they will have no electricity or heat. The current temperature is in the 20’s with a significant wind chill factor.
It’s so bad that the Red Cross has opened a shelter in Rapid City, SD for those with no power or heat. Too bad Rapid City is over an hour’s drive from the Rez in good weather. Homes on the Rez are either in the small cluster housing in the widely spread settlements or extremely isolated. Those who are isolated might have to walk miles to get to the nearest neighbor. Yes, I said walk – many on the reservation don’t have cars.
I came across an excellent photo essay about Pine Ridge Reservation. It is done by Aaron Huey, who has done work for National Geographic. It was amazing to me that he was able to capture both the sense of hope and sense of hopelessness that permeates the Rez. I encourage you to check it out at www.aaronhuey.com – I think you will find it enlightening. And yes, it is that poor. And yes, it is that contradictory. Trust your eyes and your hearts.
I have been trying to call my friends to see if they are snowbound in the “little blue house.” I have been unable to get a connection. I keep getting that rapid busy signal – all circuits are busy. I don’t know if that’s because the circuits are truly busy or the cell phone tower is down or what. I’ll keep trying.
In the meantime, I pray they have power and heat and food. But I doubt it. I know they have some blankets but no furniture. Come to think of it, they had no doors in some places. I wonder if there’s snow inside as well as out. That little blue house may become a little blue and white igloo.
If you want to help, make a donation to One Spirit and mark it for Blizzard Aid. And thank God for the wonderful things you have – power, water, sewer, heat and food.