Winter weather posing particular challenges for South Dakota’s reservations

Winter storms ravaging South Dakota have posed particular challenges for the state's Native American reservations.
Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 8:14 AM CST
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ROSEBUD, S.D. - As a winter storm continues to ravage much of South Dakota, those on reservations throughout the state are still trying to recover from last week’s winter storm.

Issues like a lack of propane, and the inability to make it to a grocery store have made the extreme winter conditions particularly brutal for South Dakota’s reservations, particularly on the Rosebud reservation. Residents there have seen some of the worst that winter has had to offer in the last several weeks. Currently, Rosebud police are enforcing a No Travel Advisory, with the threat of a $500 fine if they have to rescue you.

Tribal officials say the complete inability to travel has led to at least a few deaths, particularly from medical emergencies where assistance could not reach a person’s home. Rosebud Sioux President Scott Herman says that he has been in constant communication with the state, but they will need more support when this weather lets up.

“We are just sitting tight right now, these winds that came in and this artic air is causing us to stay home and is probably clogging up the roads, and we will probably have to start all over when the wind dies down,” said Herman.

Wednesday, the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that they were working with the tribes in the state to provide a variety of aspects of support, such as helping to clear roads and moving emergency medical supplies.

“Our whole department in public safety, especially our office of emergency management, has been working closely with the tribes, to talk about needs and resources they have because of these storms,” said DPS Secretary Craig Price. “The partnerships we have developed across the state with contractors and other entities have made it so we can react quickly and get down to the tribes.”

But still, Herman and other tribal leaders say that the situation has gotten so dire, and the rural landscape provides so many extra challenges, they are going to need as much help as they can get.

Herman says that leadership from a fellow tribe in Nebraska was meeting to consider what support they could provide to their neighbors in the north.

“We were expecting help from the state, but we just didn’t get it,” Herman explained. “I have been in contact with FEMA and trying to get them to declare a disaster down here as well, so we are continuing to work on that.”

Members of the South Dakota National Guard are being activated to transport firewood from the Black Hills to Rosebud. They are expected to start later this week, with the potential for more Guard members to be deployed as necessary.