Rising Fuel Prices – Pain at the Pumps
There’s no question that the rising fuel prices are hurting Americans everywhere. Still, I can’t help but think about the impact this is having for families on the reservations. So many of the communities where National Relief Charities works have high unemployment and limited job opportunities. It is not uncommon for folks to travel off-reservation and drive long distances to secure employment. For these folks, the rising fuel prices means more gas used and more dollars spent. This is one impact of the isolation that Kelly wrote about last week.
Further, many of our reservation communities such as Chilchinbito, Sweetwater, and Indian Wells (in AZ) or Tohatchi and Church Rock (in NM), are without gas stations. The people living in these reservation communities drive 30 to 45 minutes just to fuel up. Try adding that to your gas budget. (My own gas budget would increase by 50%.)
In addition, because of a lower gas supply on some reservations where NRC works, the cost per gallon can be higher than at off-reservation pumps. The impact of this on an already stretched income can also be great. Poverty rates are still higher on some American Indian reservations than anywhere else in the U.S. and an increasing percentage of fixed incomes are being used for fuel instead of food or healthcare.
The price of diesel fuel is also a factor, especially for charities such as NRC that are serving rural and remote communities. Each week throughout the year, we deliver goods to reservation programs on over 75 Indian reservations. We were recently looking at the cost of diesel fuel for our semis and large box trucks. Five days ago, in Ramah Navajo (NM), it was $4.19 per gallon. In Fort Yates (ND) on the Standing Rock Reservation, it was $4.39 per gallon. At 8 miles per gallon and over 300,000 miles driven a year to and from the reservations, this adds up – but the goods and services we provide are critical to the goals of our reservation partners and therefore mission-critical to National Relief Charities.