South Dakota winters can be brutal, with wind chills dipping down to minus sixty to seventy below zero and temperatures falling to minus forty to fifty below. Hypothermia sets in when body temperature falls below 95 degrees, which doesn’t take long when your home has no heat or you don’t have the proper clothing. Small children and the elderly are especially at high risk. Unfortunately many needless deaths occur each year due to hypothermia, malnutrition and lack of basic human needs on the Pine Ridge reservation. Many people have said, “this should not be happening in America”, but it is! UN Special Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik reported in March 2010, “the poverty, housing and overall conditions on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are the absolute worst I have ever seen.”
The Pine Ridge Reservation, located in South Dakota, is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe the reservation land is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The reservation’s needs are immense, commensurate with grinding poverty. Unemployment is over 80%, the suicide rate, at 150%, is higher than the national average, life expectancy for men is only 48 years old and for women it is only 52 years. The weather is extreme, many families have no running water, lack of heating resources and are under constant attack from the utility companies because the State of South Dakota refuses to enforce the federal cold weather rule, allowing these companies to turn off the utilities at any time payment is not received on the due date, even if the occupants of the home are elderly, disabled, have babies or small children and the weather outside is far below freezing. Most families live on an annual income of only $3,000.00 to $4,000.00 and occupy homes infested with toxic black mold. The Infant Mortality rate is 5 times higher than the national average, death rate and amputation rates due to diabetes is 3 to 4 times higher than the national average and heart disease as well as high blood pressure are also an epidemic on the reservation. Under funded schools and other social issues keep the Pine Ridge reservation the poorest area in the United States.
The government has sold used FEMA trailers that were not properly insolated or meant to be permanent structures to the Lakota people. With no income, no resources and no hope of things changing, families struggle to do the best they can, but always fall short of even the barest necessities. In such conditions the problems of leaky roofs, rotting floors and frozen pipes due to inadequate heating add to the problem of toxic black mold growths.
The Lakota people are a proud nation who have survived in their land for thousands of years. But ever since our notion of “civilization” has been forced upon them, their ability to survive has suffered greatly. It is time that the self styled “civilized” race that came to conquer this land looks back to the time when the indigenous people helped the first settlers to survive in a foreign land.
The Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation Inc., willingly extends its hand to our brothers and sisters, in effort to overcome the tremendous hardships foisted upon them.
We currently have over forty (40) families on our list that are in desperate need of assistance with propane or electrical heating cost. Some of these families have small children or are elders that are disabled. Some of these children do not have winter coats, hats, boats or gloves to keep their little hands and bodies warm. The Elaine Adair Michalak Foundation Inc., is sponsoring the “Warm Winter” fund, that provides propane and electricity, which is the main source of heating for many homes on Pine Ridge. We are also collecting new clothing items such as hats, gloves, boats and coats for men, women and children of all ages and sizes. Please do not underestimate the importance of a small donation, a small contribution, which in combined with others, can make a huge impact for someone who has nothing.
Please, help us make a difference in the lives of a family or an elder who need help to make it through the winter. People may contact us for a direct mailing address to Pine Ridge for clothing items. They will go directly to our distribution center and will be immediately delivered to those in need.
Please remember we are all related in the circle of life. We thank you, for showing our brothers and sisters on Pine Ridge that you have warm heart opened in friendship.