Sadly, like everywhere, it’s always the elders and sick who
are the most at risk.
Robert Quiver, Jr., is the Elderly Coordinator for the
Porcupine District, one of the largest Districts on the Pine
Ridge Reservation. Quiver reports that the building used for
their Elderly Meals Program is nearly out of propane. They are
down to the last 10% of a 500 gallon tank. A full tank could
probably get them through the rest of the winter but at $2.20
per gallon, they simply don't have $1,100.00 to fill it.
This may be disastrous news for the 70 to 90 elders who
depend on the program for lunch each day, a meal which is
delivered to them at home and which may be their only real meal
of the day.
Increased gasoline prices for those deliveries made deep cuts
into the program's budget and now the increased cost of propane
has brought concern that the program will be able to continue.
Quiver stated that if anyone wants to help keep the program
going, they should call Crystal at the Lakota Plains Propane
Company 1-605-867-5199 and tell her they want to donate towards
propane for the Porcupine Elderly Meals Program using their
credit or debit card. For anyone with questions, Robert Quiver
can be reached at the Porcupine Elders Advisory Council office
Another service organization in need is the Porcupine Clinic,
the only independent, Indian community-controlled health clinic
in the United States. It is not connected with the Federal
Indian Health Services (IHS) program and is funded primarily by
grants and donations. They, too, are feeling the pinch.
The Porcupine Clinic opened its doors in 1992 and serves the
entire Reservation as well as the Porcupine District in which it
is located. Patients are billed according to their ability to
pay and many patients, many of whom are low-income Elders and
children, receive free health care there.
Stella White Eyes, Administrative Assistant, reports that at
least 120 patients per week are served at the Clinic through
their Well Child Program, Podiatry Program, Diabetic Program,
Midwife Classes, etc.
Additionally, their CHR Program tries to provide rides for
patients to and from treatment at the IHS Hospital in the
community of Pine Ridge 30 miles away (at a cost of $10 per
person + 65 cents per mile). The Clinic also hopes to re-open
its two-bed dialysis unit soon now that necessary repairs to the
building have been completed.
But the Clinic needs help. Ms. White Eyes says they are not
out of propane but they definitely could use help to make it
through the winter due to the increase in propane costs. They
have three tanks: a thousand gallon tank which services the main
clinic building and two five hundred gallon tanks servicing the
People wishing to donate propane for the Porcupine Clinic can
contact Loretta Margrave at Westco (Western Cooperative) in
Chadron, Nebraska at their toll-free number, 1-800-762-9906.
Minimum delivery is 200 gallons but donations can be of any
Another propane assistance program on the Reservation was
founded by Russell Mean, long-time AIM activist and Lakota
leader. He is spearheading the Republic of Lakotah Emergency
Propane Assistance for the Elderly. For this program, propane
can also be purchased and donated directly through the Lakota
Plains Propane Company by calling 1-605-867-5199. Questions can
be answered by emailing
Meanwhile, Robert Eagle Elk, District Coordinator for the
Oglala Sioux Tribe Heating and Energy Assistance Office as well
as Coordinator for the District CAP Offices, spoke recently on
NAMAPAHH internet blog radio about the effects of this severe
winter and the multiple blizzards on Pine Ridge. He noted that
not only were the elders suffering but also the many working
poor who cannot afford heat either.
He said the tribal assistance program was very low on funds
and would welcome donations. The Oglala Sioux Tribe
website notes that donations may be sent to the OST Energy
Assistance Program c/o OST Treasurer, Crystal Eagle Elk, P.O.
Box 2070 – Pine Ridge, SD 57770
When asked by this reporter, Eagle Elk responded that he was
not sure when the Federal LIHEAP low-income energy assistance
fuel allotments would be released but believed it would be in
January or February, 2009.
But historically, research has shown that LIHEAP allotments
have only been a partial help and never enough to last long
through the many months of winter in South Dakota.
Another program, non-tribal but serving the Pine Ridge
Reservation, is Link Center Foundation's Emergency Winter
Heating/Utility Assistance Program for the Elders, Disabled, and
This small, grassroots all-volunteer 501c3 non-profit
organization from Colorado was able to assist 220 individual
families in 2008 but still has over 200 qualified elders and
disabled from the Reservation on a waiting list for assistance.
The organization has been trying to assist those who qualify
with $150 in fuel one time. But sadly, donations have slowed
down to a trickle even though additional support came in from
other organizations such as NAMA (the Native American Music
Meanwhile, winter is barely at the half-way mark. Bitter
cold temperatures and snow still persist and are expected to
continue well into March. Anyone wishing to donate to this
program can visit the Link Center Foundation website and donate
securely with a credit or bank card.
There are also many other good non-tribal, non-profit
organizations trying to help with heating assistance. But with
the early onset of winter and the blizzards and extended frigid
temperatures creating extreme need, funding is low or depleted
at this point for most of them.
Additionally, the majority of these organizations operate
solely from donations and are usually unable to obtain grants
for their heating assistance programs, which are often referred
to as “band-aid programs” by the grant funders. Yet, while it’s
true these programs don’t provide permanent solutions, they do
address a very real and on-going need.
That is the ultimate point. There simply are no permanent
solutions at this time. Further, until such solutions arrive,
it will be the programs such as these organizations provide
which will continue to keep people alive and warm, one family at
And, if propane arrives for the Porcupine Elderly Meals
Program, at least some elders will eat as well.
This article may be reprinted, reproduced, and/or
re-distributed unedited with proper attribution and sourcing for
non-profit, educational, news, or archival purposes.
Stephanie M. Schwartz walked on to the Spirit World in 2009.
View other publications of Stephanie M. Schwartz at <www.SilvrDrach.homestead.com>