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I know everyone's still celebrating last night's many victories.  So am I.  And I could not be more proud that our votes - NDN votes - were the deciding factor in ensuring the election of some Democrats.

But now, I'm able to turn my full attention to some very practical matters.  

Several folks asked me for a reminder as soon as the election was over, so I'm providing one.  I'm also fueled by a new sense of urgency, born of the coming winter weather.

I just checked the extended forecast for Rosebud, South Dakota; the rest of their week looks very similar to ours.  There, today's documented high was 69 degrees; tonight's low is expected to be 37.  And by Saturday, all that will change drastically, with freezing rain forecast, and a low of 15 degrees Saturday night.  Sunday's high is projected to be 29 degrees, never even reaching freezing, and the low is forecast at ten degrees.

Ten degrees.  And some people have no heat.

Last week, we raised several donations for propane.  Three brand-new heaters were purchased; one gently-used one was donated.  But with this weekend, winter is officially here.  And much more help will be needed.

Over the jump is a reprise of the important parts of last week's diary.  For those who haven't read the information contained in it before, it includes demographic context, with concrete information about how to donate.

A banner of a Lakota covering their face with their hands. Our on-going series Invisible Indians from Native American Netroots


This will be the fourth winter that Daily Kos and Native American Netroots have raised badly needed funds to keep Lakota elders and families alive.  The project began in January, 2010, in the aftermath of a series of catastrophic ice storms that hit South Dakota beginning on November 17, 2009.  [Yes, November 17 - early even by Dakota standards, and an anniversary that's now only sixteen days away.]  While much of the state was hit harder, no area was hit harder than the reservations.  The ice, several inches thick, downed not only power lines but entire rows of poles; it destroyed heaters and knocked out power for weeks on end; it burst pipes, flooded homes, and spawned toxic black mold during the thaw.  It, and the ground blizzards that followed, made the roads impassable.  Indian diabetic patients could not leave their homes to get to dialysis centers - which, without electricity, were closed anyway - and they had no power at home to operate home dialysis units.  And then-Governor Mike Rounds, a Republican [natch] would not take the one simple, but absolutely necessary, step of issuing a state disaster declaration needed for the federal government to get the ball rolling on millions of dollars' worth of aid . . . until Kossacks applied so much public pressure that it became politically impossible for him to continue to drag his feet.  [He did manage to wait until the very last possible moment, hoping to ride it out until the spring thaw, but we did force his hand.  And I have not the slightest problem in saying that he did so to avoid helping Indians, who vote mostly Democratic, because the non-Indian parts of the state were back to normal very early in the winter.]

To give you some idea of what winter in this part of the country is like, here's a photo from Rosebud from January, 2011.  This image does not reflect the results of any of the area's frequent blizzards or ice storms; it merely shows the early stages of  digging out from an ordinary snowstorm:

Sherry - January 2011 Snow

Now, multiply that by several orders of magnitude, and you'll have some idea of what happens when the really severe weather hits.


Those of us on the Native American Netroots team have written regularly about the economic devastation visited upon this part of Indian Country.  As we've noted repeatedly, it routinely wins the dubious distinction of "the poorest demographic in the country" - a product of the toxic fallout of the interment-camp "reservation" system.  Now, rez residents face long-term systemic challenges unrivaled in the rest of the country, coupled with health statistics that are truly frightening.  

Because of Pine Ridge's role in recent historical events, it garners more attention than Rosebud and Cheyenne River - with the result that more demographic information is readily available for Pine Ridge.  The statistics below refer specifically to Pine Ridge, but the other two reservations have numbers at or near the same levels.  That is to say, all three are subject to similar body- and soul-crushing economic destitution:

Employment Information

  • Recent reports vary but many point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
  • The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is said to be approximately 83%-85% and can be higher during the winter months when travel is often difficult and sometimes impossible.

    Note that South Dakota overall boasts of its 4.5% unemployment rate, which ranks it second-best in the nation.
  • According to 2006 resources, about 97% of the reservation population lives below Federal poverty levels.
  • There is little industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the reservation to provide employment.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota, is the nearest town of any size (population about 58,000) for those who can travel to find work. It is located 120 miles from the Reservation. The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado, located some 350 miles away.
Here's what this demographic deals with in the wintertime:

Sherry - Cardboard Skirting  

Cardboard skirting at the bottom of the home; broken panel at the top.

As I've also written elsewhere:

At Pine Ridge (like many other reservations), it is not unusual to find women as heads of household. Moreover, they're often housing and caring for multiple generations: children, grandchildren, sometimes great-grandchildren, as well as elderly parents or grandparents. Frequently, they take in uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and distant cousins who are in need. Large numbers of women are de facto guardians of and primary caregivers for their grandchildren. None of this is particularly surprising, given that the average household income is less than $3,800 a year.

Yes, you read that right: The average household income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is less than three thousand, eight hundred dollars annually.

Further complicating the situation are the inhumane living conditions on many reservations. I've seen statistics estimating the life expectancy of the average man at Pine Ridge between age 43 and age 48 - equivalent to that of the average Somali male. At a life expectancy of 52, Pine Ridge women don't fare much better. The reservation's unemployment rate exceeds 80%; its poverty rate is one of the worst in the nation; both chronic illness, such as diabetes, and acute illnesses, such as certain forms of cancer, appear at rates between 100% and 800% higher than in the nation as a whole; and the adolescent suicide rate is 150% higher than in the general U.S. population. Alcoholism and methamphetamine addiction long ago reached epidemic proportions.

And while in 2011, one in six adults and one in four children went hungry in the U.S. overall, those numbers were twice as bad for Indians.  In 2011, one in three Indian adults, and one in two Indian children, went hungry.  At Rosebud and Pine Ridge, those numbers are virtually guaranteed to be even higher.

But there's something we can do.  As navajo points out:

We have bypassed the middlemen; the 501c3s, the red-taped, strangled tribal councils and the pathetic federal LIHEAP program, which runs out of money three weeks into winter.

We've set up relationships with the propane companies that service Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations. The operators/owners know who needs help and can't get it from their tribal, state or federal government.

Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy is a hero.  Truly.  She's also a Kossack, although she spends so much time helping others in the real world that it doesn't leave her much time for participating here.  Here she is, last winter, delivering propane in freezing nighttime temperatures:

Sherry Pumping Propane

And again:

Sherry Pumping Propane 2

Sherry is the kind of person I only wish I could be when I grow up (yeah, I know; that's been a lost cause for decades now).  She's taken on the extraordinarily difficult job of making sure that she knows who, across the sprawling Rosebud Rez, most needs propane; processes our donations; and prioritizes them so that those in the most dire situations get serviced first. She delivers in the kinds of weather and temperature conditions most of us only read about in the news.  And she takes photos so that donors can see exactly what their contributions give to the people who receive them.


Here is how you can help buy propane:

The fastest way to help is to pick up the phone and call with your credit card information. A family will get propane delivered either the same day or the next day.

Telephone Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co. at:



Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations until they get enough for an full delivery. Credit cards welcome, and they are the only Indian-owned fuel company on the Rosebud, which is next to Pine Ridge and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you'd like to mail a check, make it payable to:

St. Francis Energy Co.

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co./Valandra's II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

Or visit the company's Web site:


Of course, all the propane in the world won't do you any good without a heater.  Many families don't even have working heaters - or ones that work safely.  Every year, there are house fires as a result of malfunctioning heaters that people can't afford to repair. Here's what results:

Sherry - Heater Fire

You can order a heater HERE and have it shipped to:

Sherry Cornelius

St. Francis Energy Co.

102 N. Main Street

Saint Francis, SD 57572

Here's what you'll be sending:

Mr. Heater Big Buddy™ Indoor/Outdoor Propane Heater — 18,000 BTU, Model# MH18B

You also need to include these accessories:

Mr. Heater AC Power Adapter for Big Buddy Heaters — 6 Volt, Model# F276127

Mr. Heater 12-Ft. Hose with Regulator for Item# 173635

Mr. Heater Fuel Filter for Buddy™ Heaters, Model# F273699

Order Total of $225.85 (includes shipping)

A note from Aji:  This heater is currently on sale for $109.99, plus tax and shipping (not including accessories).  I have no idea how long the sale will last; when I contacted Northern Tool last year, they told me that their sales typically begin on Tuesdays, if memory serves, and run for a week, but sometimes they'll extend them.  Last year, apparently some folks who ordered heaters told the company about the propane drive, which may have been why they extended last year's sale for several weeks.  It's worth a try again this year.

Last winter, some Kossacks began ordering heaters for Rosebud families in need of them. One example, brought to our attention by Sherry, is Lillian Walking Eagle, who helps care for her grandchildren. From Sherry's report:
Sherry - Lillian Walking Eagle and Granddaughter

Lillian Walking Eagle and grand daughter : Lillian's son Cornell said to put the caption "These two old ladies nearly froze."  they have an old faulty ummm lpg space heater? not sure what they're called.  housing is constantly being called by them and housing merely replaces the thermocouple.  i thought i heard liep had funds for furnaces so i told lillian about it.  i told my mom about lillian's situation, and she called the VP willie kindle.  he said he would do something for this gramma.  wks later nothing is done for them.
A generous lurker Kossack, kurt, promptly donated a heater and all needed accessories. Sherry's next report included this:

Sherry - Lillian <em>With New Heater

Lillian Walking Eagle with new propane heater.

THIS is the power of this project, folks.  THIS is what we make happen.  Sometimes a dollar at a time, but we save lives.


Telephone the Lakota Plains Propane Company


Monday-Friday only; 8-4:30pm MST.

Ask for Crystal. $120 minimum delivery. This company serves Pine Ridge Reservation.


If you live out of the country, please use our PayPal link at Native American Netroots. The donation button is in the middle right of the page. This process takes about two weeks for the funds to hit the reservations, so telephoning the propane companies directly is definitely the fastest way to help.

As I said above, I know that folks are currently focused on other things.  I know for a lot of folks, even a dollar is more than they can spare right now.  But for those of you who have a little extra, please consider this project when deciding where to put your hard-earned dollars. And for everyone, whether you can give or not, please share this with your own personal networks. Wings and I give out information to tourists and clients, including links to the Native American Netroots donation page and background information on the propane and food pantry drives. You never know who, when presented with an opportunity, will be the one to save a life.  

Chi miigwech.

Originally posted to Native American Netroots on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:47 PM PST.

Also republished by Okiciyap (we help), Invisible People, Barriers and Bridges, and Pink Clubhouse.

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