In the middle of summer, when we are suffering through a hot and muggy spell, we tend to complain about the heat. But if we were pressed for the truth, most of us would take the heat over the unmitigated cold of a difficult winter.
I sometimes think of what our ancestors had to go through to live through winter in the “new world.” No running water, no bathtubs, water in the wash basins frozen, outhouses or chamber pots. Itchy wool, no fleece. I wonder if I’d have made it.
No whole home heating, either. Wood or coal stoves for cooking and heating. Before those, open fireplaces. The room where the stove or fireplace might be warm, but the rest of the house would be freezing. No wonder the wash water froze!
In New England, some folks got a taste of that life with the recent ice storm. The ice caused so many power outages that people had to live collectively in shelters. Some tried to heat with their fireplaces or wood stoves. They were using candles or battery operated lanterns. Nothing like camping out in the middle of winter in New England!
What they also had a taste of was life on Pine Ridge Reservation for many Lakota families.
My Lakota friends are heating their whole, uninsulated, drafty small house with one small electric heater that we had sent them to augment their heat. Instead, it has become their sole heat source. The wood stove in the house when they moved out was damaged by prior tenants. They have no money for propane heat, even if the house was set up for it. They have no indoor running water and use an outhouse. They finally got a small, dorm sized refridgerator to store a few perishables. They have no stove, just a microwave oven we sent a few years back.
But they are still doing well compared to some, especially since they have no small children or elderly to keep warm. I received a newsletter from a group I belong to and will put it here to emphasize the dire straits and extreme means some have to go to in order to stay warm.
I ask you to consider how comfortable you are in your home and ask that you consider contributing to the Lakota heating fund so that no one else has to lose their home because they were burning their clothing to stay warm after the propane ran out. Picture the desparation that drives someone to burn their clothing to keep their children and elders warm.
|HEAT APPEAL JANUARY 2009
Three houses have burned on the reservation in the last three weeks. Twenty people lived in those houses. The fires were started from efforts to keep warm by burning clothes and whatever was available.
During the past week, One Spirit volunteers found conditions that are difficult to comprehend: