(Greater Dakota News Service) Conditions may have improved, but Native American tribes in South Dakota say they're still reeling from the recent blizzard that left many stranded without vital resources. That's prompted renewed calls for improved aid to make it through future weather events.
The storm cut off roads to areas such as the Pine Ridge reservation, forcing some residents to burn clothing and furniture to stay warm. State Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the conditions there were extremely dangerous, too. He said tribes already have limited resources and can only do so much to prepare.
"Considerable investments in roads and bridges and equipment," he said, "manpower is going to be needed if we're going to continue to have storms like this."
He called on local, state and federal leaders to ensure infrastructure needs and emergency planning for tribal areas receive priority. In response to the current storm, Governor Kristi Noem ordered expanded National Guard missions to help affected tribes, including hauling firewood from the Black Hills.
Heinert said that assistance was a huge help, but noted that residents are still having trouble getting to their livestock. Tribal governments have their own emergency preparedness plans, but often lack enough snow-removal equipment to prevent snowdrifts from swallowing up fields, as well as surrounding roads.
"What we found down here in Rosebud is we had no place to put the snow," he said. "There was so much and it was so deep, and it was so heavy."
Because first responders had trouble reaching homes, Heinert and other local leaders said, a 12-year-old boy died after suffering a medical emergency. Because of term limits, Heinert won't be back in office in the new legislative session, but he said he will continue to serve as a voice for remote tribal areas in need of additional support.