Winter on the Reservation: Would You Choose to Heat or Eat?
Late October marks the return of cold weather, awakening us to early morning chills, frost on our windows and in some regions the first snowfall of the season. Cooler temperatures are manageable, and often enjoyable, for the average person in the average home, especially when you have cozy sweaters, running water and heat at the flip of a switch. Yet, the change of seasons is not as cozy for many people living on remote reservations across the U.S.
Many Native American Elders are at risk in their own homes, every single day. And winter is no exception. Winter storms in the Northern Plains and Southwest leave communities, such as Cheyenne River, Navajo and Hopi, without access to food, water, transportation and firewood.
Poverty brings its own kind of chill, adding to the winter risk. PWNA serves reservations across nine priority states, focusing on communities with the highest need in the U.S. Winters in the Northern Plains often come early and last longer, leaving Native American Elders in impoverished communities more susceptible to the risk and costly realities of winter. Even without a storm, running out of firewood or being unable to pay the electric bill is all too common in remote communities.
About four in ten Native Americans also live in substandard, hard-to-heat homes with incomplete plumbing and utilities and no funding to repair leaky roofs and uninsulated windows. Simultaneously, about half of Native American grandparents, living on fixed incomes, are also responsible for raising their grandchildren. This means more food to purchase and more use of utilities in the home. So, for many, winter often comes down to making the difficult decision: Do you heat or eat? What would you choose?
PWNA’s Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) program gives struggling Elders a hand-up for getting through winter. NPRA provides winter fuel vouchers or firewood – depending on what the Elders and program partners request – and winter emergency boxes that provide essential supplies for winter survival, such as socks, gloves, hats, blankets, nonperishable food, batteries and flashlights.
It’s terrible to imagine having to choose whether your family will have ‘heat’ or food to ‘eat’ when both are critical for survival. Your choice is much easier – you can choose to help Native American Elders today by donating to NPRA and contributing to winter warmth on the reservations.