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SD Flooding Causes Food, Water Shortage on Indian Reservations

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Friday, March 29, 2019   

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Flooding that began in the Midwest two weeks ago continues to affect the 20,000 residents who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwest South Dakota.

About half of the residents there live in poverty, and heavy snowfall along with rain and a rapid melt this month led to overland flooding that has damaged roads and broken water lines. Tim Curns with the Native American Heritage Association directs relief operations for South Dakota and Wyoming reservations.

"Right now we're trying to take care of the people that are out of water, they're flooded out of their house,” says Curns. “We purchase food, we get donated clothing, we purchase new clothing, we purchase anything that we can get that will help Native Americans in need on the reservations we deliver to in South Dakota. "

Governor Kristi Noem has already sent National Guard soldiers to the reservation to help distribute drinking water. Tribal officials estimate water supplies for as many as eight-thousand people were disrupted and at least three people with medical problems died before ambulances slowed by floodwaters could get to them.

Curns says the guaranteed government financial assistance to tribes in South Dakota only covers about three weeks worth of groceries every month, which creates an ongoing need.

"There's 80 to 85 percent unemployment on the reservations where we deliver to,” says Curns. “That makes it an ongoing problem. People have an issue, they don't get enough food each month, and the thing that is worse is, each year probably the government gives less money for the health care, that's one of the biggest issues. "

There are reports this week that horses are being used to reach Pine Ridge residents who live in isolated communities. Some long-term residents say they haven't seen this much water from flooding since they were children.


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