One natural phenomenon after another, the people on the Pine Ridge Reservation tackle extreme circumstances

The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Monday-Friday
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 10:40 AM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Last week’s storm had plow crews working around the clock -- until visibility was so low their safety was at stake. It was like that across western South Dakota and while many people have been mobile, conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation are otherwise.

People are still cleaning driveways and plows are doing their best to keep roads clear so people can get where they need. Now people are fighting brutal temperatures, one natural phenomenon after another.

“The winter’s just beginning, you know, the winter solstice is the 21,″ joked Guss Yellow Hair who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Winter began with a bang. On Pine Ridge, the recent snowstorm left 8-foot snow drifts in some areas. “Around the houses where drifts were occurring, you know people are still digging out,” said Yellow Hair.

The stress is getting to people. “In our community, the snow was really heavy, so it actually knocked over a few of the light poles down. My community was out of electricity for about 17-18 hours and of course, a lot of the homes were powered by electric,” expressed Yellow Hair. “So, they were suffering because of the cold; of course, the children and babies, some people that had health problems, that was a real issue”

In homes heated by firewood, there is another battle. Yellow Hair says there is a firewood shortage happening on the reservation, but communities are coming together to help one another. “Lending that helping hand, when they can and where they can,” said Yellow Hair. Keeping people warm is an issue across much of the Pine Ridge Reservation, with a firewood shortage and propane trucks jelling up from the cold.

Yellow Hair believes better preparation may have helped during the storm and the continuing cold. “Like in the past, we need to prepare during the good weather days for some hardships like this. I think because of – I’m really getting tired of the word – but colonization of our people has taken away the will to survive. Because traditionally our people were very industrial, they had to be industrious, because conditions are hard here.”

Yellow Hair says many organizations helped during the winter weather conditions, allowing people to return to their normal routines.