Winter Necessities Make Hope, Security for Elders in Need

Winter. It is a hard time for our relatives on the reservations for many reasons. December, alone, marks the anniversaries of the assassination of Sitting Bull, the mass hanging of the Dakota 38 and the massacre at Wounded Knee. These particular moments and others like them serve as heartbreaking reminders of why many Native Americans face countless hardships during the coldest winter months.

These events are directly linked to the systemic ending of self-sufficiency and a way of life Native Americans relied on for centuries. Now living in isolated communities, severe winter weather is a harsh reminder of the traditional ways of life halted by the reservation system – depriving many tribes of the ability to prepare for the winter months as their ancestors had done for generations.

Instead, the reservation system has created a situation where severe winter weather can leave households and families cut off from the basic necessities, many of them hard to come by even without the cold. Access to food and water, transportation, and propane or firewood for heating is notably more difficult in remote locations. The combination of isolation, substandard housing and extreme cold over long durations leaves some people such as an Elder living on a fixed income to choose between food and heat. Elderly, disabled and otherwise homebound members find themselves at risk when cut off from the basic resources they need. Some turn to burning clothes and furniture to stay warm when firewood becomes unavailable.

With warmer weather months away, we need to remember those most at risk during the many cold nights ahead. Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is doing our part by providing emergency services for Native American Elders, including firewood and winter fuel vouchers; home weatherization services; winter emergency boxes with food, flashlights, batteries and blankets; and emergency relief when disaster strikes. You can help, too,  by donating today to help fund these vital services.

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