I called a young woman on Pine Ridge Reservation today because she and her family had just moved from another part of the reservation to one of the areas I serve. I needed to get a few pieces of additional information in order to add them to my list.
She was a pleasant 23 year old woman who had 4 sons, aged 8, 5, 2 and 1. The family (the young woman, her 32 year old partner and the 4 children) had moved in with her mother and adult sister. I discovered later that they had been asked to move out of the house they had been living in due to allegations that her partner had been dealing drugs. I did not find this out from the young woman but from the person who does my job in the area in which they used to live. Oh dear! The pressure to support your family where job opportunities are very limited pushes you to do unfortunate things, I guess. I made a note of the potential problem. The family already has a sponsor, who knows of the problem, so I will not have the question of whether or not to assign a sponsor there.
I paused for a moment to think about the young lady’s mother, who has accepted this man in her home along with her daughter and grandsons. Was it a difficult thing to do?
I asked about the living accommodations, as I normally do. That’s when I started to be concerned. The home is a double-wide trailer. They used to heat with propane before the furnace gave out. They did call to have someone repair it but the maintenance people never sent anyone. The electricity only works in half of the trailer now, so they run extension cords to the other rooms and connect space heaters they have bought at yard sales to heat the trailer.
I know you do what you have to in order to survive, but all I can see is the fire hazard. The frightening thing is that I am certain this is not the only home on the reservation with jury-rigged heat and electricity. I have been told there are no building codes on the rez. It’s one of the questions I hope to ask when I visit there in early June.
To finish up, I asked if they had transportation. Her mom, who does have a job, has a car. They have to drive her to work and pick her up if they need the car for errands, doctor appointments, etc.. So they are luckier than some, not as lucky as most of us.
It bothers me that there are so many homes on the reservation with poor heating or no heating. It really bothers me that there are so many I’ve heard about that are fire risks. I keep thinking that the tribe ought to be more concerned about the welfare of the people. I know money is tight. But if you can pay the Tribal Council members as well as they are paid, surely you can do maintenance to prevent fire losses – material and human! I know, I’m on the outside but still . . .
As an aside, I read an article by John Stossel of FOX News a couple of days ago that really got me steamed. He was calling Native Americans freeloaders. I plan to reread it and write about it in the near future. But for the time being I will tell you that I have lost any respect I ever had for this man and his work. He did no homework on this at all. I doubt he has ever been on the reservation or done more than superficial thinking on the topic. He is just one more pompous, arrogant windbag to me now!
I’m brushing off my soapbox as I get ready to write that one!