December 20, 2008

Help desperately needed on Pine Ridge Rez – people will freeze as temperatures drop to 60 below zero


South Dakota has been hit with yet another blizzard last night. This severe storm has brought low temperatures of -35 degrees with the wind chill factor. Tonight’s low is expected to be -60 degrees in many areas of Western South Dakota. These temperatures are expected to last through Tuesday evening, with more snow expected over the next few days. The rest of this week, evening temperatures will be around zero, or just above.

The people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are particularly at risk. Between substandard housing and pandemic poverty, elders are literally ringing heating assistance agencies’ phones off the hook as they face the very real threat of freezing to death.

The reservation is home to some of the worse housing in the country. The unemployment rate and median income levels are at Third world proportions.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is located within three counties. Shannon County is one of the poorest counties in the country. Pine Ridge is the second largest Reservation in the United States, roughly the size of the State of Connecticut. The unemployment rate is approximately 80-85% and the median income is about $3,500.00 a year. To make matters worse, heating costs have risen approximately 33% this year.

The old and the very young are particularly at risk on the Rez, particularly this time of the year. Many homes have no running water or electricity. Most have little or no insulation, as well.

A home with no insulation is a death trap this time of year, especially when heating oil has run out and there is no way to heat the home. For many of the Lakota who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the mantra is literally, “All I want for Christmas is a warm house.”

The very idea of expensive toys and the latest fashions has long since given way to just trying to survive the winter without freezing to death.

Many of us are worrying about what’s going to happen with the banks, and whether the President and Congress will come to an agreement on bailing out the car industry. We look at the long term potential for economic collapse and unemployment.

For the people on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the economy has already collapsed. With an unemployment rate of over 80% and the going rate for heating oil more than 30% higher than it was last year, catastrophe has already hit.

The question of the day is, “How many people will freeze to death for lack of heating oil, and what can we do to stop it?” When your car heater loses its mind and you cuss it to the next generation, or when your furnace gives up the ghost, just remember. Some people have no heat, and no means to obtain any.

For all of the toys that won’t be bought, for all of the overpriced tennis shoes, ridiculously expensive electronic games, toys and computers, think of what we could do, how many lives we could save, how many people’s lives we could improve if each of us donated the price of one toy or electronic game to a heating assistance foundation.

Wouldn’t you rather know in your heart that your donation saved a life, or kept someone from freezing, than prance around in overpriced athletic shoes assembled by under-paid factory workers in foreign sweat shops and slave labor factories?

If you want to help you can go to: WWW. SAVEOURTRIBALYOUTH. COM and make a donation via PayPal for wood heat, propane or charcoal brickets (yes many burn these for heat and cooking).

Whatever organization you choose to help – please just HELP keep someone on Pine Ridge Rez from freezing to death this winter!!

You might even want to sponsor an elder and help by sending them items directly. If so, please contact us at: and indicate your desire to sponsor (it’s free of charge). Send us your “real” name, mailing address and phone number, and we will match you with an elder or youth as you indicate.

help the people of Pine Ridge Reservation

Blessings and Pilamaya!

All of us at SOTY

EDITOR’s NOTE: S.O.T.Y. is a 501c3 non-profit organization – your donations are tax deductible!

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