By Ariel Steinsaltz
On March 24, The New York Times reported on the state of emergency at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where a number of residents were stranded by severe flooding in the Midwest.
Residents have been stranded in their homes for nearly two weeks and emergency rations can only be delivered to some areas via horse, boat or helicopter. The Oglala Sioux Tribe manages the reservation and officials have said that they do not have the necessary resources or technical skills to deal with such a major crisis. Tribe officials emphasized that they simply do not have enough people to pull off the large-scale aid, according to The New York Times.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also declared a state of emergency after the Moreau River overflowed. About 50 people were evacuated, with some having to be airlifted by helicopter. The river was expected to crest at more than 30 feet, according to Argus Leader.
Henry Red Cloud of Pine Ridge has lost five homes, multiple vehicles and the location of his solar energy business, has described the situation as a “‘state of emergency,”’ according to The New York Times.
Pine Ridge is not the only affected area — many regions of the Midwest have been flooded, destroying small towns, killing three people and causing over a billion dollars in economic damages. However, while aid came quickly to Iowa and Nebraska, Pine Ridge was left in a state of chaos. Many accused South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem of being slow to act. The relationship between the governor and the state’s Native American population is already fraught, The New York Times reported.
The reservation is dealing with loss of equipment, jail inmates being required to fill sandbags and new mothers running low on infant formula. Some medical patients also required help and ambulances could not reach them, The New York Times reported.
Pine Ridge is one of the most poverty-stricken parts of the state, with 50 percent of people living in poverty and a 20-percent unemployment rate. The poor infrastructure exacerbated the problem caused by the flooding, as many residents live in aging houses far from any roads, according to the New York Times.
Eight-thousand residents lost clean drinking water as a result of the flooding. Many fear climate change will only make weather situations worse in the future, The New York Times reported.
Many residents were refusing to evacuate due to concern for their livestock and property, causing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe government chairman, Harold Frazier, to tell residents to take the threat seriously.
“‘You are placing not just your life, but the lives of those who will try to rescue you, at risk,’” Frazier said, reported Argus Leader.
The tribal government is gathering resources at White Horse and looking for water rescue teams. The Emergency Operations Center sent a water response team, and the Army Corps of Engineers sent a sandbagging machine, reported the Argus Leader.