Wednesday, December 30, 2009

State of emergency: Pine Ridge residents running low on fuel and food

Pine Ridge residents running low on fuel and food
Rapid City Journal, 30 Dec 2009

Lloyd Wilcox hauled groceries home on a sled Tuesday to a house without heat, days after a severe winter storm paralyzed the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and left an estimated 800 homes there without propane.

Five days after the storm hit on Christmas Eve, reservation residents are still facing unplowed roads, electrical outages, broken water pipes and diminishing supplies of food and fuel.

On Tuesday, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Theresa Two Bulls declared a state of emergency for the reservation. Two Bulls and the tribe’s Emergency Management Team conferred Tuesday with representatives from the state Office of Emergency Management and road departments in Fall River, Custer and Haakon counties to coordinate snow removal efforts.

Maureen Last Horse agrees that her broken water pipes, impassable road and lack of propane constitute an emergency at her isolated home about 7 miles southwest of Kyle.

“Our water lines broke because we ran out of propane on the 23rd,” Last Horse said. She and her family, including a 3-year-old grandson, were forced to move into her sister’s home 2 miles away on Christmas Day. The extended family of eight is still miles from a plowed main road and were told by tribal officials that help may still be days away.

“They didn’t grade our road yet,” she said. “They said it would be a while.”

Tribal headquarters in Pine Ridge Village is being deluged with calls for help. As of Tuesday, OST Emergency Manager Monica Terkildsen had a list of 800 people without propane. That list is expected to grow by another 200, said Loretta Cook, public relations spokeswoman for the tribe.

The OST Transportation Department is working to clear secondary roads and lengthy driveways around Oglala and Manderson as crews work westward toward Kyle and Wanblee.

Wilcox, who is unemployed, ran out of propane on Sunday and said he doesn’t know how he’ll pay for more even after his driveway is cleared for a delivery truck. He spent Monday shoveling a path from his home about 1 mile to S.D. Highway 44. On Tuesday, he hitchhiked into Wanblee to buy groceries and to seek emergency help from the tribe to buy more propane.

Wilcox received $400 in Low Income Energy Assistance Program funds that purchased about 200 gallons of propane. That’s gone now, and Wilcox was told by LIEAP officials that they can’t help him any more this year.

“We ran out of propane two days ago,” Wilcox said. “I was hoping the state of South Dakota would cut some emergency money loose to help out with propane and electric heat costs.”

On Tuesday, Two Bulls said she plans to “notify and negotiate with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service officials, and the U.S. Congress to obtain all financial and other emergency assistance needed to deal with the hardship and crises caused by the storm.”

Two Bulls said she is worried about children and elderly people who need medical care and livestock owners who cannot get to their cattle and horses to feed them.

Two Bulls will address the reservation on KILI Radio at 9 a.m. today.

Main highways on the reservation had been cleared in time to accommodate the Wounded Knee Anniversary ride, which saw about 150 horses and riders come into Pine Ridge Village on Tuesday to commemorate the 119th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or

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