South Dakota is undergoing another winter disaster, the second year in a row. Reservations in the state have been locked down without utilities, water, and food since the 20th of December, when Cheyenne River Tribal Chairman Joe Brings Plenty declared disaster conditions. Last year, President Bush declared an emergency and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was brought in to the reservations to provide relief. So far for this disaster, the president has not declared an emergency.
South Dakota governor Mike Rounds declared an emergency for the expected storm of February 3rd. Meanwhile, no state aid has been available. Water systems have been knocked out, which have affected reservation and small towns nearby, all over the northern part of the state.
Cheyenne River's northern neighbor, Standing Rock, which straddles South and North Dakota,has had disaster conditions prevailing as well, placing sick individuals, the very young and the very old at greater risk of dying. Some deaths have been reported.
To date the Navajo Nation has sent crews to right the several thousand downed utility poles on Cheyenne River, a reservation the size of the state of Connecticut, The Wal-Mart chain has sent food, water, and some other supplies. But more than this is needed. When the Christmas 2009 storm is coupled with the expected second freeze and snow to come next Wednesday, the magnitude of the disaster will be doubled many times over.
Pine Ridge reservation, located in the southern portion of the state, has organized water delivery to Cheyenne River. Meanwhile, calls have gone out for the president to declare an emergency so relief and medical aid can begin to come on to Cheyenne River and Standing Rock.
The tribes in South Dakota have attempted to prepare for these disasters, but recent weather patterns have dumped huge snow falls in successive years. And, neither the state of South Dakota nor the federal government have indicated preparation for these disasters.
Help for the reservations is critically needed. Funds for Cheyenne River can be made to: Wells Fargo Bank, account number 5815904338, 1615 N. 7th Street, Rapid City, SD, 55701.
Laura Waterman Wittstock is president and CEO of Wittstock & Associates. The firm provides consultation in new projects, creative, development, assessment/evaluation, and governance. Read more about Laura Waterman Wittstock
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