Archive for the ‘Freezing temperatures’ Category

I have been pretty “quiet” lately thanks to the work volume all of the wonderful folks who have been stepping up to become sponsors for children and elders on Pine Ridge Reservation since the 20/20 episode aired.  I literally have not had time to write.

That is about to change!

This evening I called an elder to give her a sponsor for the 5 year old granddaughter she cares for.  The longer we spoke, the more I knew I had to share this story.  I’m sharing it because I am so far past angry I can’t keep this to myself.  It is difficult to type when all you can see is red, but I will give it my best effort.

[scrape … scrape … scrape … sorry, the soapbox makes a bit of noise]

I asked Grandmother how her granddaughter, who is in first grade, was doing.  She told me that the girl was happy but having some difficulty in school.  She was told the child may be dyslexic.  That will mean a struggle for her.

I told her I had a sponsor for the girl and she was very happy with the news.  We continued to talk as I confirmed the address information.  It was then that I began to steam.

This little girl’s family had moved away and left Grandmother with a trailer to live in with the girl.  If you could hear me, I would tell you to close your eyes and picture it as I describe it.  Instead I will try to paint you the picture with my words on this page.

The trailer is in a group of trailers.  It is very old.  Grandmother worries that the roof will come off in the wind that comes with storms – and in South Dakota that is often.  It seems that the wind is always blowing on Pine Ridge Rez.

The trailer has no running water or sewer connection.  They were using a nearby outdoor faucet for water, carting several jugs a day.  Some of the neighboring men “rigged” up the sewer pipe so they could use the toilet, flushing by pouring some of the water they had carried into the tank of the toilet.  HOWEVER . . . there was some kind of water line break in the area and the tribal water department had to shut off the water.  Yes, the outdoor faucet that they were using to obtain water is now dry!  The tribe has not made the repair that would allow the faucet to be turned back on.  Now they have to go to someone else’s home to obtain the water they need and carry it home.

Following the dotted line . . . or broken water line, let’s see the additional results of the lack of water and sewer connections. 

The most striking consequence is that Grandmother cannot get a propane tank without the water and sewer connected.  Is that important?  It depends on your perspective, I guess.  Do you think eating is important?  Do you think it’s important to have heat in the South Dakota winters?  Personally I think they are both things none of us would want to go without.  So how does Grandmother cook?  She uses a hot plate or electric skillet.  How does she keep herself and her young granddaughter warm in the poorly insulated trailer?  She uses several small electric space heaters.  The pair sleep in the living room.  Grandmother has hung a blanket in the hall doorway to keep as much of the heat as possible in their small living area.

Picture two old-fashioned thermometers, the kind with the bulb of mercury on the bottom.  One of the thermometers is measuring the temperature outside the trailer.  The second thermometer is measuring the electric bill.  As the mercury in the first thermometer drops (actually plummets at night) during the winter, the second thermometer’s mercury is exploding through the top of the stem like a volcanic eruption!  By spring, the electric bill will be too high to pay – causing the electric to be cut off and a $250 reconnect fee to be added to the next bill.  This is what will happen this winter as Grandmother tries to feed and warm herself and her granddaughter.

Are you beginning to get upset yet?  No?!  Okay then, it’s time for the clincher.

Do you remember that flimsy roof I referred to above?  That roof has another serious problem – it leaks badly!  When it rains, the water comes in through the light fixtures.  It comes down the walls.  Grandmother’s mattress in the bedroom can’t be used – it’s wet.  Even if they had running water, the bathroom would be unusable – the flooring and carpet is wet.  Besides, after her granddaughter got a small electrical shock when turning on the bathroom light to brush her teeth, Grandmother decided it was better not to use the bathroom at all.  So all bathing and tooth brushing and laundry is done in the kitchen.

I asked Grandmother whether she had sought any assistance to get the problems resolved.  She told me that she had.  She told the folks at housing.  A man came out and made one small repair.  He never returned, in spite of her calls.  Her district representative to the tribal council has tried to help her out but he has had as much success as she has had.

[okay, breathe . . . in . . . in . . . in very slowly, then out . . . out . . . out slowly, control the breath to control the rising anger . . . again . . . okay]


Is this how elders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the wise people of the Lakota, should be living?  Is this how they should be treated when they ask for help?

We ALL know the OST has no money, though why they don’t is harder to figure out.  But the fact is they have people.  They need to be training more people to do the very repairs that elders need and can no longer do for themselves.  The tribe needs to invest in their own vocational school to train plumbers, electricians, construction workers, carpenters, etc.  These trained workers could be licensed.  They could form companies and do work for an income.  They could also, in exchange for their education, give back to their communities by performing the repairs for elders for free, as a sign of the respect due to the elders.  The tribe needs to work at making it easier to do business on the reservation — especially for registered tribal members.

Lakota culture and values state that elders are to be respected; that women and children are sacred.  But it is only lip service that the tribe gives.  They spend more time with politics and nepotism guiding their decisions than the truth of their ancestors.

So I am left with the question of how I can help this particular Grandmother.  But I am also left with the bigger question.  There are many more grandmothers on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Many do not have the energy or ability to lobby constantly for the repairs they need.  I am trying to use the steam I am still feeling about this to brainstorm ideas on what would help.

If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.  It doesn’t matter whether they are feasible or not at this point.  I just want to know that you think this situation is abominable and how you think it could be changed.


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I received a call from a grandmother on Pine Ridge Rez the other day.  She was calling because she wanted to know if we could help her daughter, who had only days to pay her electric or it would be shut off.  There are 2 adults and 5 teens that live in the home.

I think Gramma was a bit embarrassed because they have always been able to manage before.  Her daughter had gone to the tribe to ask for assistance but was told there would be no money available for this until November.  I unfortunately had to tell her that ONE Spirit, the group I work with in their sponsorship program, did not include utilities in our program because of the vast amount of money it would take to do that.  We shared my vision of a wind farm on the plains there that the tribe could build.  The tribe could then supply free electricity to all residents and probably still have electricity left over to sell back to the electric company.  What a relief it would be to residents of Pine Ridge to have free electricity!  Paying over $200 per month when you have no source of income or live on Social Security is a huge burden.  It would be a blessing for the tribe to be able to accomplish this for their people as well, a place where they could begin to rebuild the hope and confidence of their people as well.

She told me about her health, which has improved since her back pain was finally properly diagnosed and treated.  She told me that her daughter, for whom she had requested the help, had been diagnosed with Graves disease in 1996.  That surprised me, because her daughter is full of drive and works harder than anyone I know to help others on the rez.

Gramma also told me about the windows on her trailer (which I have visited).  Apparently one of the severe thunderstorms this past summer blew out all the windows on the rear of her trailer.  The weather, including rain, now comes in her windows.  She said that she had managed to get a board across her bedroom window; however it doesn’t cover the whole window, so rain still comes in.  I asked if she had talked to the tribe about getting help to get them fixed.  She said that, since the trailer was not “tribal housing”, the tribe has no funds to help with things like that.  She noted that she had also contacted a non-profit group that is known for doing work like that all summer.  The group, Re-Member, hosts volunteer groups all summer.  Their last group was last week.  They would not be able to help until spring!  So Gramma will have to go without windows until next spring unless she “finds the money” to hire a private contractor to do the work.  I’m afraid it will be a cold winter.  Unless Santa decides his sleigh has the room and brings windows.

I told Gramma that although ONE Spirit did not have the resources to run a program for utilities, I would see what I could do among my contacts.  Gratefully, we were able to come through for this young woman.

The daughter called me crying when her mother told her I had found a way for it to be done.  It shouldn’t have surprised me, but I am still a bit surprised when strong people cry.  The tears, you know, were tears of joy and relief, not self-pity and woe.  That attitude is something that never surprises me about Lakota women — they never show self-pity and they are always trying to help a neighbor/daughter/sister/cousin instead of themselves.

Lakota women are so inspirational!

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I promised that I would keep you up to date on the AWARENESS WALK of Dan Ross, the Rockford, IL musician.  So here is the second installment.

Don’t forget that Dan is walking to raise awareness of the conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation and to raise funds for ONE Spirit to build a Safe House for youth on the reservation.  Raising funds mean Dan needs what? …..that’s right, SPONSORS!

You can pledge money per mile (2000 miles)  per town (70 towns), per state (6 states) – however you prefer.  Just remember that the money will go to build and furnish a home where young Lakota can go when they feel their own home is not safe for them.  I have written enough on the problems that these kids face (alcoholic family, domestic abuse, etc) that you can understand why they might need a safer place from time to time.

Donations can be made to ONE Spirit via PayPal or by sending check/money order to:  ONE Spirit, PO Box 3209, Rapid City, SD 57709.

If you are in the Cedar Rapids, IA area on Saturday, April 23rd, there is a fantastic fund raiser being help as Dan travels through that town.  Tickets are only $10 in advance or $12 at the door.  There is a link for more information ( http://heartforpineridge.webs.com/apps/webstore/products/show/2290972 ) but let me give you a bit of a preview – because I sure wish I was going to be there!

The main part of the program will be the appearance of Lawrence Swallow, a Lakota storyteller, singer and actor.  Dan Ross will also be part of the show with his music.

In March, Dan Ross spent a week on Pine Ridge Reservation to get to know some of the people he will be helping and to experience Lakota culture in a more personal way.

While he was there, Dan kept a journal, as he will continue to do when he begins his walk in about one week.  I found it very interesting and personal.  I will include it here so that you, too, may start to know Dan Ross and Pine Ridge.  I am also including a link here to an update that includes a set of maps so you can follow Dan along his anticipated route.  That link is http://mail.google.com/a/nativeprogress.org/?ui=2&ik=5bcc2b9c68&view=pt&search=inbox&th=12f44c39409152ad


Now I’m going to let Dan Ross do the “talking” – enjoy reading his journal of his first visit to Pine Ridge Reservation.

Recently Dan Ross visited Pine Ridge Reservation in preparation for his walk for Pine Ridge Youth in April. The following are some of the highlights of his journey.
Saturday March 12th, 2011
On the road leaving Rockford, IL by 8:00am. I decided to drive my walking route to the reservation instead of taking the interstate so I could see the places I plan to stay along the way. Driving on state highways amounted to less mileage, but it was still more time-consuming because of the stop signs, slower speed limits, and turns. However, these “cons” of taking this route were actually what made the drive more interesting, and kept me awake and alert.
Saw quite a few things worth noting: a bald eagle in flight, THOUSANDS (maybe 10,000) migrating geese in the air and on the ground in eastern SD, 2 separate herds of about 30 whitetail deer near the Missouri River, and I lost count of the Casey’s convenience stores.
Arrived in Kadoka, SD at the Dakota Inn Motel around 10:00pm, having gained an hour upon entering a different time zone (only to lose it the next day for Daylight Savings). The staff was nice, and the room cheap. I realized it was the first time I’d ever had my own hotel room all to myself. In fact, it was the first road trip I’d ever embarked on by myself. Slept well that night after so many hours on the road.
Sunday March 13th, 2011
Checked out of the motel by 10:00am, and made it out to the Badlands by 11:00am. I’ve visited the Badlands three times before, but always in the summer, so it was awesome to see them with snow. The feeling of isolation you get when you come to this place was magnified by the lack of tourists this time of year, which I enjoyed. Spent most of the day hiking on and off trails, making sure I didn’t get lost. Being the paleontology geek that I am, I was constantly on the lookout for fossils of ancient mammals, something for which the Badlands are quite well-known. My treasure hunting was successful too! I found a 10-12″ inch long lower jaw bone fossilized in a boulder near the “Saddle Pass” trail! After taking photos, I reported it to the Visitor Center and the rangers were excited to hear about it.
After hiking, I found a campsite in Cedar Pass and set up my tent with temperatures dropping into the 30s, with 20 degree temps forecasted for a low. Seeing as the lowest temperatures I’ll have to endure on the walk will most likely be in the 30s, staying warm this night would prove that I am well-enough prepared. So, I bundled up with five layers on my top half, three on my legs, a handkerchief around my head with another around my neck, and crawled into my 15-degree sleeping bag…
Monday March 14th, 2011

Though I did stay warm throughout the night, I didn’t sleep that well. Staying down in the sleeping bag gets stuffy, but when I let some fresh air in, it’s 20 degrees! I tried opening a small breathing hole, but after a while, my nose would begin to freeze – so it was a bit difficult. I awoke with the sun still below the horizon, packed up my tent (which was covered inside and out with frost), and slowly made my way out of the Badlands, making a few stops along the way.
Driving into Pine Ridge I didn’t really know what to expect. I felt like an intruder, or at the very least a foreigner. I spotted the sign for the Singing Horse Trading Post and slowed the car. The driveway was dirt and water had cut deep into some places, sculpting a sort of miniature Badlands landscape for my car to drive on. I made it past the worst part without scraping bottom, and parked in front of my home for the next five days. Rosie, the lady who runs the place, was outside. She greeted me with a big smile and welcomed me inside, making me feel less like an outsider.
In the afternoon I met John Dubray, a Lakota man who has been trying to get a youth center built in the Allen area on the eastern side of the reservation. He told me there are a couple youth centers in the towns of Pine Ridge and Kyle, but in outlying areas farther away the kids didn’t have much. John stressed to me the importance of receiving guidance in your childhood that would ultimately shape who you are and how you make decisions. As a result of the poverty, unemployment, and alcoholism, many of the kids lack this guidance and grow up in fear, never learning their own culture and the values of the Lakota people. The youth center in Allen would bring those kids opportunities in sports and the arts, and most importantly a safe place where they can learn and just have fun. Listening to John was eye-opening, and gave me much to think about after he left.
Tuesday March 15th, 2011
Slept well, as I was quite tired from my restless sleep in the Badlands the night before. Rosie’s three dogs are already my best friends, crawling all over me, competing for attention. I decided to go for a drive without any particular destination, and wound up in a place called Kiza Park. The road to the park became so muddy I had to pull over and walk some of the way. The park was also muddy because it had recently been flooded my snowmelt. The place seemed abandoned (partly because I was the only one there), but there was a basketball court, park kitchen, fire pit, outhouses, etc. As I was taking some pictures, a man in a truck drove by and yelled, “Is that you Bill?”, I replied, “No, I’m Dan…”. “Oh, you look like Bill from here”, he said. Not really sure what to say at this point, I walked over so we at least wouldn’t have to yell.
He asked me where I was from and I told him about my walk and why I was on the reservation. It turns out One Spirit had helped him build the park kitchen, and his whole extended family lived in the area near the park. The man invited me for a ride, so I accepted and off we went on the back roads. He told me how the Lakota people have large extended families and stay close usually, relying on each other in a small community. He stressed to me that although people from the outside might look at the trailers they lived in and feel sorry for them, they were actually quite happy, maybe happier than most. “We have a strong culture” he said, “Most Americans don’t have that, and that is why their lives are always about making money”. He laughed and went on to say that making money was a “nice hobby”, implying that it did not qualify as a culture. I would have to agree.
Wednesday March 16th, 2011
Today I met with an elder named Richard Broken Nose, who lived with his family in a house north of Pine Ridge. It was a little difficult to find the place, as there aren’t many landmarks to reference in the prairie, but I made it. I was first greeted by three happy puppies wagging their tails, then by the elderly man, who shook my hand and welcomed me inside. We began talking and he explained the problems the youth are having, focusing on the high drop-out rate and the fact that many of those who do graduate do so with very low grades. He said they don’t get the care they need as kids. I suppose it makes sense that when you receive little care from adults, you have less care to give for things like school. Talking to him reassured me once again that I’ve chosen a worthy cause to walk for.
In the afternoon, I met up with John DuBray again over at Porcupine Butte, where the local radio station called KILI Radio is located. He had reserved some radio time to talk about the youth on the reservation and how I’m going to help raise money with the walk. I was quite nervous before going on the air, still feeling like a foreigner, and hoping I didn’t make a fool of myself. We went on and John talked about trying to build the youth center in Allen to help the kids there, and then turned it over to me to introduce myself and tell everyone what I’ll be doing this year. After I got started, most of the nervousness went away and I ended up more or less satisfied with how things went.
That evening I had been invited to a sweat lodge, a traditional ceremony that would purify me before I leave on my journey. I was excited and a little apprehensive, not knowing exactly what I was in for. I drove to John Dubray’s house and from there he took me down the road to the sweat lodge. A large fire burned outside with rocks in the middle glowing so orange it was hard to tell them apart from the coals. After waiting for them to get good and hot , I entered the sweat lodge with at least ten others. The bright orange glowing stones were placed in the center, medicine was sprinkled on them, prayers were said, and then the water was poured. The steam was hotter than I had imagined, and the air difficult to breathe. I found myself holding my towel over my face, yet the others managed to sing loudly, seemingly unaffected by heat. Though it was difficult to endure by the fourth round of water and rocks, it was a very enriching experience. It was important to see it all the way through, as I will undoubtedly have to see my walk all the way through, no matter how difficult times get. During the ceremony, they had said prayers for me to give me strength for the journey. After that night especially, I began to feel much more comfortable being on the reservation. Any preconceived notions I may have had of Pine Ridge and the Lakota people had literally perspired right out of me.
Thursday March 17th, 2011
Yesterday I was thinking about meeting Merle Locke, a Lakota artist, but the day got so busy that we decided to meet today. I drove down by the town of Pine Ridge and he directed me over the phone to his house. He greeted me, welcomed me inside, and right away began talking about his art. Merle paints on century-old ledger paper, which was used by Indians on the reservations when they had nothing else to paint on. He was very good and the walls of his house were filled with his work. After getting acquainted, we drove to the Red Cloud Heritage Center and he gave me a tour of the art gallery there. I had a great time looking at all the paintings and beadwork, some of which was quite old. Having Merle there to explain the history and meaning behind the art was a special treat – it would not have been the same if I had just gone there by myself. He was a real easy-going guy, who I had no trouble relating to. He said he has always stuck to his own path in life rather than simply following the crowd, which reminded me of my own personal reasons for going on this walk.
Friday March 18th, 2011
Around 9:00am, Billy Jumping Eagle stopped by the Singing Horse, where I was staying. Billy is a school bus driver and had just finished his morning route. Off the job, he runs a “safe house” for kids. Basically it’s his and his wife’s own house which they open up to any kids who need a home away from home, be it temporary or permanent. Through One Spirit, they will be building a second house in addition to their own, so they can house even more kids.
Later on I went over to check out the safe house, which was quite close to where I was staying actually. When I arrived, there were some teenagers extracting an engine from a large van, and younger kids running around inside and outside the house. Billy invited me in and I distributed some of my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies to the kids, who enjoyed them immensely. It was a bustling and busy place, but eventually I found some time to tell everyone what I would be doing this year and all the kids seemed pretty interested. After answering their questions, some began joking around, telling each other they should go with me. The atmosphere was laid back and I didn’t feel like a stranger. After watching some “Wheel of Fortune” with Billy, I decided to head out. It was a good visit though – Billy and his wife Donna (who unfortunately I was unable to meet) do a great thing and it’s obvious they love kids and help them all a great deal.
Saturday March 19th, 2011
Today was my last here on the reservation, but I still managed to unexpectedly meet one more person – a man named Buck, who has been building a new trailer for Rosie at the Singing Horse so she can accommodate more guests. Buck (not Lakota, I think he was from Oklahoma) was down-to-earth and had a good sense of humor. He said he had been an alcoholic, but had been free of it for many years. He told me, “Alcohol doesn’t see colors”, referring to the fact that drugs don’t discriminate and anyone of any race can fall victim. Buck was excited to hear about what I was doing, and compared my walk to the sweat lodge – if I can see it through to the end I will be much stronger for it and it will renew me. I couldn’t agree more. Buck seemed to have a great deal of wisdom from his experiences. He told about how he used to hitchhike and walk long distances by himself, sleep under bridges, and live a hard life. He joined Rosie and me for a big breakfast (which Rosie made for us) and I enjoyed his company a great deal.
All in all, I got exactly what I wanted out of this experience, which is pretty simple really: to understand what I am walking for – not to tell everyone a bunch of statistics about the sub-standard conditions at Pine Ridge, which they could read in a book, but to tell them from my experiences here what kind of help the Lakota really want, especially for their youth. I look forward to walking through the reservation in June, and hopefully visiting many of these people again. Thanks Rosie for giving me such a nice place to stay for my visit, and John for inviting me to the inipi, and Alex, Richard and Linda, Merle, Billy and Donna, and Buck for helping me to better understand the Lakota people’s way of life.

More Updates will follow.

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Have you heard?  There is flooding in Pine Ridge due to the snow melt (caused by some brief, unseasonably warm weather), ice jams, clogged culverts and bridges.

You haven’t heard?  Why I am not surprised?!

There are 11 creeks flooding with White Clay Creek presently being the worst.  One man said he hadn’t seen anything like it in the past 50 years.

The reason I know about this is that I follow KILI radio (90.1 FM, the Voice of the Lakota Nation on Pine Ridge Reservation) via internet and Facebook.  I also subscribe to the Lakota Country Times (based locally near the reservation) via internet and follow their postings to Facebook and Twitter.

I read the Rapid City Journal online.  That is where I found an AP News article about the flooding and evacuation of residents in some areas.  The AP article states it is based on information obtained from the RC Journal.

So I decided to cast the net a bit wider.  I did a web search for information on the flooding in Pine Ridge 2011.  What did I find?

ABC News or an affiliate?  Nowhere to be found!

CBS News or affiliate?  Yes, a 1:40 clip on KELO TV – helpful.  Be sure to watch the clip!  There will be a quiz later.

CNN?  I’ll write again when I stop laughing.

FOX News?  Sorry, still laughing!

NBC News or affiliate?  Well, yes, if posting the AP article on their website counts; KXMB did that.

Here is what little I did find.  I’ll let you check it out if you want, before I continue . . . . . .

Rapid City Journal: AP Article http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e119e9e3-4060-5d41-93ef-4257649ffbeb.html

AP News http://www.kcautv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14062038


KELO TV News  http://keloland.tv/NewsDetail6162.cfm?Id=111005

KXMB TV CBS affiliate Bismark/Mandan http://www.kxnet.com/getArticle.asp?ArticleId=728059 (AP article)

The AP article was also printed in GoWatertown.net (Watertown, SD), IndyStar.com (Indianapolis, IN) and KTIV.com (Sioux City, IA).

Facebook page of Trees, Water, People with photos of flood:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=276007&id=11071758786

So again, the poorest people in this nation are experiencing a disaster and the national news media are nowhere to be found.

Is anyone going to declare the area a disaster zone so the residents are eligible for FEMA aid?  When?  By the time they get aid, it might be too late for some.  Is Oprah going to set up a charity for these folks?  I don’t think their in her radar.  Are there going to be celebrities vying to have a fund-raising telethon to help these residents replace what shabby homes they may have had?  Not holding my breath!

If you think that people on the reservation have homeowner’s insurance, think again.  A few maybe; the majority no.  Too expensive when you already can’t pay for the necessities in life (you know, food, heat, electricity).  Even KILI radio didn’t have building insurance when their roof caved during the past year!

What do you think will happen to poor people who have lost what little they have?  They will get leftovers, handouts, second-hand donations and start all over again trying to get back on their feet.

Mother Nature has decided to throw a curve ball to these residents who are trying to pick up the pieces.  She has pulled back the pleasant, relatively warm weather and replaced it with a reason for the National Weather Service to issue a Winter Storm Warning.

That’s right, in the midst of all the flooding, the temperatures are plummeting as we speak.  Right now it is about 18 degrees in Pine Ridge.  The wind will be blowing at 15-20 mph with about 6 inches of snow expected.  The wind chill temperatures will range from 3 degrees above zero to 7 degrees below zero!  Isn’t that a kick in the teeth from Mother Nature after this flooding which still exists?

I guess it’s time for the quiz.  Here you go:

What was the name of the man interviewed in the KELO TV piece?

(Jeopardy music plays . . . da da da da …da da da …)

Okay, time’s up.  His name is Henry Red Cloud.

Why is he important enough for me to ask you that question?  It is another piece of irony, if you will, in this disaster.

You see, Henry Red Cloud is head of Lakota Solar Enterprises, which is what you see in the TV clip.  Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is one of the nation’s first 100% Native American owned and operated renewable energy companies. LSE  provides training to enable tribal members to become Solar Technicians.  LSE also manufactures solar panels and installs them.  This is a budding company on the reservation that has hit a serious set back.  To learn more about LSE, you can go to the website of the not-for-profit organization Trees, Water, People (http://www.treeswaterpeople.org/tribal/info/tribal_lse.htm).  To help in the current crisis, you can go directly to the link that follows:

To donate to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center relief effort please visit http://treeswaterpeople.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/emergency-flood-relief-fund-created-for-red-cloud-renewable-energy-center/. We need to get people back to work!  To see a video of the flooding in this area, go to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1247074937634&oid=21578805928&comments

So, back to the original question.  Have you heard about the flooding in Pine Ridge, SD?

Yes, you have, no thanks to the national news media who are busy telling us about a lot of other nonsense.

Your job?  To pass the information on.  It appears that the only way there will be any help for these people who live in 2 of the 8 poorest counties in the United States (all in SD) is for those of us who care to pass it on until someone has to notice.

Are you willing to help?

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I’ve written about the cold on Pine Ridge Reservation before.  But I just saw a posting on Facebook by KILI Radio and I am really concerned about those who have no heat the next few nights.

This is what the posting said:

Get prepared relatives TONIGHT! Lows 17 below to 23 below zero. North winds 15 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 30 percent. Wind chill readings 42 below to 52 below zero.

This is DANGEROUS cold!!

I have written before about substandard housing with no insulation, holes in homes, no source of heat, no building codes.

I have written before about having met and purchased art from a man who later froze to death.

I am concerned that that kind of thing may happen in the next few days because there are so many I hear from with no heat – no propane, no wood.  There are others who have heat that is inadequate in this kind of cold – people who try to use electric space heaters to heat rooms and homes.  These are dangerous when overheated by overuse or when placed too close to clothing or bedding.

I am worried that I will hear about tragedies in the coming days.

I can only pray that people will donate to ONE Spirit to help with the emergency fuel program.

ONE Spirit ( http://nativeprogress.org ) accepts donations through PayPal.

In the meantime, I need to prepare for up to another 18 inches of snow here, 2000 miles away from the children and elders who will be shivering tonight on Pine Ridge Reservation.  At least I know I will have heat.


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This is the 10-day forecast for Pine Ridge, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation thanks to Intellicast.com .
10 Day Forecast –  °F | °C
tue wed thu fri sat sun mon tue wed thu
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
Snow Showers
Snw Shwrs
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
M Cloudy
M Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy
P Cloudy

Details for Tuesday, January 11
Partly cloudy. Very cold. Wind chills approaching -15F. High 6F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.
Evening: Bitterly cold. A few clouds. Low around -10F. Winds light and variable.

Intellicast.com: The Authority in Expert Weather


Now I know you are wondering why in the world I gave you the weather forecast for Pine Ridge.  Most of you don’t live there.  I want to use it to illustrate a couple of points.

I have had quite a number of calls from folks on Pine Ridge in the past week wondering if we had funds available to help with propane (which is used to heat many homes on the reservation).  These calls are from mothers, grandmothers and aunts who have small children in the house.  They have NO HEAT or they are trying to heat uninsulated, drafty houses with a couple of electric space heaters.

I don’t know if you can imagine the kind of cold that comes to South Dakota at times like this.  It is the kind of cold that can cause people to freeze to death.  It is 6 degrees, perhaps, but with the wind that is a near constant factor in South Dakota, it feels like 12 degrees below zero.

Imagine that you are a child with very little warm clothing.  You are probably wearing several layers of whatever you do have.  When you go to bed, you may huddle up with siblings to share the body heat.  Your mother gives you as many blankets as she can find in the house, which may not be enough.  You may not have a bed and your mattress or pallet may be on the floor.  You feel the cold seep up from beneath you.  Your mom puts one of the electric heaters in your room but you still feel the cold air drafts from the old windows.  You go to sleep cold and you wake up cold.  You look forward to going to school where at least it will be a little bit warm.

Today, school is delayed a couple of hours because it is too cold to wait for the bus at the usual time.  At school you feel warmer for a while.  But the heating system at the school is old and it can’t keep up with the cold outside.  They decide they will send you home because they can’t keep you warm.  But you know you will be cold at home too.

You wonder about your friend.  When you got to school, you heard that his family’s trailer had burned up during the night.  You heard someone say that some blankets caught on fire because they were too close to a heater.  The fire department did not get there in time and the winds made the fire burn fast.  You hope your friend is safe and not hurt, but no one seems to know.  You wonder where they will stay now.  Finding a home on the rez is not easy.

When you get home, it is still cold.  You can’t wait for spring.  You try to watch TV but the cold is very distracting.  Your little sister curls up next to you and you try to keep her warm too.  You are sitting under the blankets as you watch but they don’t help very much.

You know the whole thing will be repeated until your mom can get some money to buy propane.  You don’t know when that will be but she seems very worried.

You don’t know, as a child, that your mom is not only worried about heat but also food.  There is no money for that, either, and she is worried that she will not be able to feed you in the next day or two.  She is trying to find help for heat and food.  She can’t pay the phone or electric bills if she is to save for heat and food.  They aren’t supposed to shut off the electricity in the winter but they do sometimes.

If you are sitting in your warm home reading this, I hope you still feel warm.  But if you have a warm heart, you may be feeling the chill of that child.  I hope you do feel it.  If you do, then perhaps you will follow your warm heart and do something to help the children of Pine Ridge Reservation, where 90% live under the federal poverty level.

Speaking you cold, how would you like to travel 400 miles in that kind of cold in a car with no heater?  You wouldn’t like it?  Me either.

If you are a regular reader, you may recall a post about a baby who needs to get to Omaha, NE for heart surgery and her grandmother’s car was broken down.  We got a donation, but not enough for car repairs.  Grandma found another car to borrow to get them to Omaha, but the heater in the car gave out.  So they had a choice – drive to Omaha in the car with no heater (not a good idea with an 8 month old baby who needs heart surgery) or reschedule the surgery (not always easy to get another date soon and waiting is not a very good option).  Would you want to have to make that choice?  Me either.

But that’s rez life.  Hard times, hard choices for those who have no job, inadequate income to cover the needs and have young ones or elders for whom to provide care.





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I got a weather report from the Rapid City Journal earlier and have been trying to figure out which cliché I wanted to use to describe the cold there.  But I couldn’t think of anything cold enough to be fitting, so I’ve decided to let you fill in the blank after you read the post.

These are the facts:  the temperature is zero degrees F, the wind is blowing at 32 mph with gusts to 38 mph and it is snowing lightly.  The “feels like” temperature is -27 degrees F.  That’s right – minus 27.

That’s very likely the temperature measured at the Rapid City Airport, as many places use the airport to measure official weather statistics.  But let’s travel an hour and a half south, to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Now we’re on the prairie and in the badlands.  The wind has fewer obstructions and is really howling.

How cold does it feel here?  Let’s factor in a few other pieces of information.  Most housing on the reservation is of substandard construction.  There are many wood frame houses and trailer homes.  Most are not insulated.  In fact, many have holes and drafts.  Homes here are heated in several ways – propane furnaces, wood stoves and electric space heaters.  With the coldness of winter there, the propane does not last very long.  Those who heat with wood may run out, especially in bad weather.  There are those who have resorted to burning whatever will burn in the stove to stay warm – clothing, books, furniture.  Electric space heaters are extremely costly – not to purchase but to run.  They need to be on continuously.  The electric bills by the end of heating season often end up too high to be paid, so the electricity is shut off.  The electric company is not supposed to shut off the power in the winter, but it has happened. Trying to heat with wood or electric has also resulted in some catastrophic, wind-driven fires that destroy homes before the fire department can arrive.

I am not going to debate the causes of these circumstances here and I refuse to make this a political discussion as well.  It is, to me, a moral issue.  No one in this country should have to burn their clothing or books to stay warm.  No child should have to be under piles of blankets or clothing to stay warm while he or she tries to sleep.

I am going to make an exception to my rule, though.  It’s my blog and I can do that if I want to.  I will do it because of another article I read in the Rapid City Journal this morning.  The article by Mary Garrigan of the Journal staff was actually posted Thursday, Dec 10, 2010 and is entitled “Energy assistance payments vary.”

In a place like Pine Ridge, where unemployment is 80%-90% and 90 % live under the federal poverty level, you can be sure that energy assistance is a winter lifeline – literally.  People have frozen to death there, including one man I had personally met.

So what did the article have to say about energy assistance?  The first thing I found interesting is that there is a different amount available to people depending on whether they qualify for aid through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) of the State of South Dakota or must rely on the LIHEAP of their tribal government.

LIHEAP helps income-eligible families pay for heating and insulating their homes in winter and cooling them in summer.  It is a federally funded program which begins in October.  South Dakota’s allotment last year totaled more than $29.3 million; the amount of that set aside for Native American tribes in the state was $5.2 million based on a federal formula that uses 1990 Census data to determine the amounts.

Tribes have the option of administering their own LIHEAP programs and in South Dakota 7 of the 9 tribes have opted to do so.  There is an agreement between the state of South Dakota and the tribes that the federally calculated amounts (2.3% of the total) will be doubled (to 4.6%) because it is commonly agreed upon that the Census undercounted tribal residents.

So, we have the 7 tribes, including the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge Reservation, receiving 4.6% of the total funding.  In a state with such a significant Native American population, this seems insufficient – but that is just my non-scientific opinion.

What kind of amounts of money are we talking about, anyway?  Does it really matter?

The article tells of a resident of the nearby Cheyenne River Reservation.  He is enrolled with his tribe; his wife is not a tribal member.  Therefore their household is able to qualify for the state-run LIHEAP funds.  If both were tribal members, they would have to qualify for the tribal LIHEAP instead.  How much of a difference can it make?

This year, this couple expects to receive about $1661 in aid.  His cousins, brothers and other relatives will receive about $400 on the same reservation.  $1661 vs $400!  If you don’t belong to the tribe, you can get 300% more!

The amount available to residents on the Pine Ridge Reservation was expected to be $300 for the winter.  I don’t know why it is less.  I do know that is how much people have been receiving.  They have told me that when I’ve spoken to them.

The people I have spoken to have also told me that the money has already run out and that people have been turned away because of that! How can that be?

The Journal article notes that South Dakota’s LIHEAP awards vary according to primary heating source and geographic region.  The poorest families could expect approximately $427 per year for coal and wood, $1245 for natural gas, up to $1096 for electricity, up to $2082 for propane and $2333 for fuel oil.

I have no information on how these programs are administered.  I do not know where the money goes or why tribal members receive less.


I also know that, while the politicians (state, federal and tribal) are bickering about the responsibilities and trying to assess blame, I will be talking to people who are COLD and are asking for help to keep themselves and their children warm.

It really ticks me off!!

You can read the original article at http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_8056e9b4-13c2-11e0-b813-001cc4c002e0.html

In the meantime, don’t forget to fill in the blank – either as a comment here or in a Twitter reply to the link.

Colder than … ______________________

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