Column: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe weathers storm
"Not many Americans are aware that the blizzards that blew through the Great Plains last month left more than 30,000 people on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation without power or water for more than a week.

In this desolate, rural area 90 minutes northwest of Pierre, families are used to hard winters. They seal doors on the north and west walls of their houses with blankets and duct tape to shut out the wind. They load freezers with food and settle in for the long haul.

But recent storms, like those that hit the East Coast, were unusually severe. An ice storm Jan. 21 toppled 10,000 utility poles. Then a blizzard dumped several feet of snow, and wind chill dropped to 40 below zero, destroying the local water system.

Many families still are without power and clean water. They are low on propane to heat their homes. They can't afford supplies or repairs. The tribe doesn't own casinos and the unemployment rate on the reservation is 80 percent.

Yet Spangler's call was the first I had heard about their plight. That was her point.

"If thousands of people in California were affected, we'd have satellite trucks lined up from here to the Nevada border to cover the story," she said. "We raise millions for people in Haiti, but we don't do anything for people within our own borders.""

Get the Story:
Patty Fisher: Disaster victims close to home (The San Jose Mercury News 2/15)

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