The slow pace of energy-efficient housing development on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation leaves families and children literally "in the cold." People actually die from exposure in their substandard homes. Residents have a term for collecting these dead each spring: round-up.
“Our people are starving and cold – sometimes in stick houses that haven’t had updates in four generations,” said Henry Red Cloud, a Lakota Sioux citizen who works on Native American energy and housing issues. Last spring, Red Cloud and other Lakota activists trucked a rickety house to Washington, DC to drive home to Congress the depth of the housing crisis on the reservation. But their action failed to gain attention because it coincided with the Boston Marathon bombings.
The demonstrators had dismantled a home -- one of the first federal housing units built in the early 1960s -- and rebuilt half of it on the National Mall. Red Cloud said they did it "to make a point, to show Congress one of our houses and to get across the incredible need we have here on Pine Ridge.”
It is well documented, and no exaggeration, that the substandard housing on the "Rez" -- thin walls, peeling siding, black mold -- threatens the health and very lives of Pine Ridge Reservation families. “Our people are sitting in 2-3 feet of snow [and] need to keep a house like this warm, with high electricity bills and the high cost of propane … houses need to be upgraded to deal with the kind of weather we deal with in South Dakota,” said Kevin Yellow Bird Steel, Tribal Council Representative of the Wounded Knee district. Outdated federal housing on the reservation was constructed long before energy efficiency was a household term.
The housing demonstration took place just days after the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and as the White House and Capitol were receiving a new round of letters laced with the poison ricin. The nation's capital was unusually quiet, and traffic was thin. During the 24 hours that the dilapidated house was allowed to stand, the Capitol Building was in lockdown and no Congressional reps visited the site. Only about 100 people came by, and no Congressional or HUD staffers were among them, the organizers said.
The demonstration, dubbed the "Trail of Hope for Indian Housing," was supported by non-profit housing organizations, and a few media outlets covered it. Native leaders in DC also agreed to spread the message. The name "Trail of Hope" evokes the catastrophic Trail of Tears, the forced relocation/ethnic cleansing of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
"We continue to see a growing need for more houses on Pine Ridge and we continue to struggle to find enough resources,” said Paul Iron Cloud, executive director of Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing (OSLH), the official housing authority on the rez. OSLH is currently working on a rural innovation grant that will fund 18 houses -- two low rents for each of the nine districts. But that is barely a dent in the volume of need for an estimated 6,000 units.
“We continually try and communicate the problems that we deal with here on Pine Ridge -- substandard housing, two and three and sometimes four families in one house, sometimes houses with no water, dirt roads, no electricity, difficult to heat in the winter,” said Iron Cloud, “We have to find new and creative ways to get the message out there.”
Federal budget cuts hit rural reservations hard. For instance, on Pine Ridge, a local housing improvement program recently was defunded, leaving 1,500 poverty-level families homeless or in notoriously drafty trailers.
Iron Cloud testified before nine senators on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on April 10 to discuss the barriers to housing development on Indian reservations. Housing funds are tied up in a tangle of red tape that forces reservation housing advocates to compete with other transportation and housing lobbies for money, he said. As a result, Indian housing is often overlooked. The group donated the 2-bedroom, 1-bath shack to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to be used in a future exhibit.
Sources: Native Network News; Indian Country Today; Rapid City Journal, New York Times
Clothing: the nearest major city is over 100 miles from Wanblee, so gently-used clothing, footwear and accessories are greatly appreciated in these parts. We accept all clothing from newborn baby to adult plus size.
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Lakota Kidz, P.O. Box 49, Hull, MA 02045
Tel. (781) 214-0997
Bicycles & Skateboards: There is only one bus for the entire Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, so bikes are a great way to get around town. Given this, we’re working with a local non-profit (and an amazing bike guy, "Rich B.") to collect and ship out bikes, helmets and locks that still have a lot of life left to them.
Prom Drive: We collect gently used formal wear for teens all year long. We are looking boys' winter jackets dress shirts and pants (34-38" waist), ties and dress shoes (sizes 7-14). For girls, it would be gowns (sizes 10-24/3x), shawls, heels/pumps (sizes 7-12) & purses. If a member of your family has any winter "prom" suitable items they have outgrown or will never wear in the sizes above, please consider donating them to a great cause.
Winters on Pine Ridge are often 6 months long, with temperatures dipping to -20 to -40 below. We maintain an account with a reputable local propane vendor and keep a non-transferable account for each of the approved families. Each family is allotted a certain amount of fuel per season. We monitor receipts from the fuel company to ensure that fuel is distributed equitably and according to our specifications. In 2016, we provided emergency fuel assistance to over 300 residents.
Sports Equipment: sports such as football and basketball are very popular on the reservation, and encourage healthy exercise, so the next time you clean out that closet or garage of yours, we’ll gladly take the dusty sports equipment off your hands and get it to a child in need.
During the winter holidays, Lakota Kidz hosts a toy and gift drive for the kids on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. See the Lakota Kidz Wish List: http://amzn.to/2fRldbg.
For many children on Pine Ridge, there will be nothing under the tree this year. In fact, there won't even be a tree. Many of them have never received a new coat, blanket, book, toy or any holiday gift, for that matter, during their lifetime. Please include Lakota Kidz in your charitable giving. .
We are hosting an ongoing donation drive for school-age children on Pine Ridge. The goal? To donate a ton of school supplies, backpacks, toiletries and MOST IMPORTANT, library books. The kids love books there and they are hard to come by, so they pass them around until they fall apart. Please consider donating some much-needed supplies today. All you have to do is click on the link below, choose the items that you'd like to donate, and Amazon will do the rest. To donate school supplies, books and other requested items, please see our Wish List at Amazon.com, “Lakota Kidz Crazy Horse School Drive." or copy and past this link: http://amzn.to/2fw3E5Q
Thinking about upgrading your Kindle or Tablet? Lakota Kidz would love to take your old one off your hands! Books are tough to come by in Wanblee, and are shared and passed around until they literally fall apart. Given this, we are accepting donations of gently used e-readers. We can upload one e-book onto four devices at a time and don’t have to worry about the pages wearing out. Plus, we can add dozens of classics onto each device for free, courtesy of Amazon.com. If you have an e-reader you’d like to donate, please mail it to Lakota Kidz, P.O. Box 49, Hull, MA 02045.
Each holiday season our wish list on Amazon.com allows you to donate specific toys to be delivered to our K-12 school
representative for distribution to the kids that need them most. Our Wish List on Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/2fRldbg
-- lists gifts and warm clothing that the children themselves have requested. Shipping to Wanblee takes 10+ days, so we would be grateful if you made your online purchase no later than December 10th.
When you shop for anything through Amazon Smile (http://smile.amazon.com) and designate Lakota Kidz as your charity of choice, Lakota Kidz gets a small monetary donation. Amazon will donate .5% (one-half of one percent) of every sale that is made through the Amazon Smile link. For example, when you spend $200 on Amazon.com, Lakota Kidz will receive $1.00.
If online shopping is not your forte, you can still participate in our program buy making a donation to this program:
Happy holidays & 'pilamaya' - thank you for the blessings you send.
Sleds/Toboggans/Snowboards/Saucers/Snowtubes! Right behind the Crazy Horse School, there is a hill that is perfect for sledding. Help the kids get some fresh air and fun during recess by donating those unused snow toys your kids outgrew.
How to donate:
Your donation enables Lakota Kidz to assist many families in Wanblee, SD. Staffed entirely by volunteers, we work at home so there is no overhead. Except for printing and postage, virtually 100% of your contribution goes to purchasing emergency household fuel and assisting local education providers. Please make a tax deductible donation today. Your support will make an important difference in the lives of these forgotten American families.
Lakota Kidz relies entirely on personal contributions to fund its various programs. We are staffed entirely by volunteers. Except for printing and mailing costs, 100% of all donations go directly to support the people of Wanblee, South Dakota.
A gift to Lakota Kidz is tax deductible.