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Photos show Rosebud Reservation residents thanking Daily Kos donors for propane and heaters last winter.
For many low-income members of the Lakota people of South Dakota, among them the Brulé on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and the Oglala on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the region's often brutal winters mean more than just a little discomfort. Unable to afford to keep their propane tanks full and often with no alternative other than inadequate, sometimes unsafe portable heaters, everyone suffers, but as usual children and the elderly get the worst of it in temperatures that can plunge to 20° below zero or worse.

Since ice storms devastated South Dakota in the winter of 2009-2010, Kossacks spurred into action by navajo and the Native American Netroots have raised thousands of dollars to supply those who need it most on the reservations with propane and small, high-output heaters. That first year, Keith Olbermann, then still at MSNBC's Countdown and himself a Kossack, saw one of the diaries and took the issue to his audience. He also chastised the Senate Indian Affairs committee for ignoring the situation, naming it to the top slot one night of his "Worst Persons in the World" feature. Ultimately that year, because of Olbermann's mention, nearly half-a-million dollars was raised for overall South Dakota relief. Some $250,000 of that made it to the Cheyenne River Reservation, once home to Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake, Sitting Bull.

American Indian Heritage Month Banner
The current situation isn't anywhere near as bad as in January-February of 2010. But then autumn still has nearly five weeks to run. Even so, night-time temperatures have dropped below freezing several times already. That's why we launched our fourth season of fund-raising for the propane project earlier than usual (at the beginning of American Indian Heritage Month) before winter really sinks its claws into the region.

The ongoing problem on the reservations of South Dakota is political, tied to poverty across all ethnicities in America but with its own unique attributes. South Dakota government's often malicious indifference to the tribes, the federal government's underfunded Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), tribal governments' favoritism and ineffectiveness—part of a long-standing conflict that put a few hundred of us at Wounded Knee in '73—and the invisibility of Indians to many mainstream charities all contribute to a situation that puts some Lakota at risk of freezing to death. Winter aside, the socio-economic statistics of the reservations are all too well known, an unemployment rate that is 10 times worse than the nation's. Grim health and education figures. Soul-crushing, as Aji has so aptly termed it. This could be turned around if the will to provide jobs and decent housing and a sustainable economy could be generated. But until the day the political obstacles are removed for that to happen, this annual fund-raiser is essential to—literally—save lives, to extend some warmth to people who would otherwise spend a cold, cold winter outdoors and in.

Sherry Cornelius on the job
On the Rosebud, we are fortunate to have Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy on the side of those we seek to help. The company is the only Indian-owned propane company in the area. That's Sherry in the photo on a delivery run last winter. Being part of the community, she knows who needs assistance most and gets it there quickly except in the worst storms. She not only delivers the propane and heaters on the reservation, she also processes our donations, both small and large, and makes sure the people who need help most get it first. She took the photos that make up navajo's collages you see here.

Some people have in the past asked why we don't run this project through a regular charity, which would mean donors could deduct their contributions from their taxes. The reason is that our contacts say they frequently don't see money meant for the reservations when there is a middleman involved. That makes this a unique project. You can learn more about the situation at the Rosebud Reservation and read some personal stories and see photos in Aji's post here.

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 St. Francis Energy Co. at:
Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy, but others can help you also. 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


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. So if you're flush or you have a few friends who can put your dollars together, a heater would be really welcome this Thanksgiving season.
You can order a heater and the necessary accessories from Northern Tool HERE and have it shipped to:
Propane Heater for Rosebud reservation

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 $235.85 (includes shipping)

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.

indians at Rosebud Reservation

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 01:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse, Invisible People, Community Fundraisers, and South Dakota Kos.

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