Oglala Souix on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are feeling the coldness of winter closing in as temperatures plunge below zero degrees, -5 to -20 with the wind chill factor. Suicide rates among Native Americans are the highest out of all ethnic groups in the world. 1 out of 3 Native American children will commit suicide before reaching adulthood. Conditions on the reservations set aside for them to live on by the U.S. Government are surely one of the factors behind this sobering statistic.
At Pineridge, over half of the residents are without water or electricity, unemployment is sky-high with 8 out of 10 adults being without work and the nearest jobs to be had are on average over 100 miles away. Yvonne DeCory is one of two counselors providing suicide prevention services for the 40,000 Native Americans that reside within the reservations borders and reports receiving on average at least three calls per night by someone who is battling with thoughts of suicide.
The average family living on the reservation has to decide each month if they are going to spend what little funds they can scrape together to buy enough food for their family members to survive another month, or whether they are going to pay the heating bill so that they aren’t left freezing and in fear of developing hypothermia while shivering under blankets (many don’t have enough blankets for each family member) which don’t keep them even remotely warm enough. Most of the homes at Pineridge have multiple families living in them and consist of one room and thin walls which are hard to heat.
Programs like Lakota Kidz donate school supplies, clothes, blankets, and even enough funding for around 30 families to heat their homes for a couple of months during the winter time on the reservation, but it is not enough. With over 40,000 residents on the one reservation there are too many families struggling to stay warm or eat. With funding being cut by the Trump administration to federal programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provide the tribe with emergency funding to help with energy bills during the winter, the Native American people are left with no other choice than to try and do what they do best; fend for themselves and find a way to survive.