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Standing Rock Members Thankful For Assistance

February 11, 2014, 6:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Standing Rock Members Thankful For Assistance
WAKPALA, SD -

Propane problems aren't over yet, but many living on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation say they're thankful for help they're receiving.

A Minnesota tribe is sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to South Dakota reservations.  Along with outside assistance, the Standing Rock Tribe has been stepping up to help its members.

The problem repeats from one home to the next in the small community of Wakpala in Corson County. Prices have made propane unaffordable for many. Even Marlo Free, who has a job, says the assistance has been a lifeline.

"I don't know what we'd do without it.  Without the emergency assistance, you know, we'd probably all have to move to one room in the house just to keep warm," Free said.

Federal funds through a heating assistance program have helped those who qualify. The tribe has made additional money available for those people and others who need help paying their propane bills.

Nicholas Cadotte is chairman of the tribe’s Wakpala District. He says the district recently received $15,000 from the tribe to help members dealing with problems related to the cold, such as broken pipes.

"It is a very serious situation, yes, and it's going to continue from now until we get our April thaw," Cadotte said.

The price of propane has been dropping and Cadotte expects that, along with some warmer weather, to help. Still district leaders will keep a designated shelter stocked with cots and other necessities in case it's still needed.

Cadotte is asking those in the community not to let their guards down either. Free says her family isn't.

"We've weatherized the home as much as we can with plastic and even one of the doors to the home," Free said.

Cadotte says people have already submitted applications for help with broken pipes and other cold-related problems.

A fundraising program dubbed "Heating the Rez" is being coordinated online.

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