“They're out there melting snow and keeping a look out for any water they can use.”
“Schools have been out of session for a week and will likely be unable to open their doors for at least another week.”
“These events are showing just how painfully inadequate our emergency response capabilities are.”
In the midst of one of the worst winter storms in memory, the members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are struggling for survival. Located roughly 200 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Reservation is home to 10,000 residents who have been without electricity and potable water for days. Worse still, the storms have critically damaged what little energy infrastructure the Tribe did have, making restoration of power and heat even more difficult. Freezing rain and wind have snapped off wooden power poles carrying the transmission wires. “Because of one ice storm, we had over 3,000 downed electrical lines and mass power outages," said Tracey Fischer, chief executive and president of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a national nonprofit working on economic development in Native communities.
The problems from a lack of power in winter are compounded by the lack of running water. Although much has been said regarding the federal stimulus package and its components designed to assist Tribes with needed infrastructure, the Cheyenne River Tribe has for years asked Congress for funds to restore its ancient water system, which is decades overdue for an upgrade. The total cost would be about $65 million, but so far no allocation of federal funds has been made for the project.