The pun is the last refuge of the challenged writer, but there it is.
This volunteer writer for One Spirit lives in the Rockies of Colorado at 8650 feet elevation, on lands that once belonged to the Arapahoe. It was the Arapahoe who gave the area near my home the nickname of “the place where the wind gets its revenge.” This winter, this is not an inaccurate characterization. In fact, pretty much every year sees winds continually blowing nearly all the time from late October to May.
Actual temperature this morning- not including wind chill.
We are currently experiencing another combination of Pacific moisture and Arctic cold, as the folks back East have been getting repeatedly hit with. I spent a frigid hour in howling winds operating a snowblower to clear our drive. The ambient temperature was about ten degrees F. The wind gusts were 10-20 miles per hour.. The wind chill was profound, especially for my seventy-one-year-old bones. I was glad I am of Norwegian ancestry.
After I came in, to a warm house, hot soup, double pane windows and the like, it occurred to me, as it often does, to check on what my Lakota brothers might be feeling in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. What I learned made me want to reach out to our supporters and relate what I learned.
Celebrating the repair of a wood stove
It was 1:17 PM MST when I checked the Pine Ridge currents on Weather Underground. Up there, it was one degree F., with winds about like those I had just come out of, making the wind chill minus fourteen degrees F. Tonight’s forecast is for a low around minus ten F., with even nastier wind chills.
One of the salient differences between my situation and the average Oglala Lakota household is that I live in a well-built, insulated, heated home. I am personally well-insulated, if you get my drift. Many Lakota live in poorly built and all but non-insulated housing, often dependent only on wood for heating---and often short of fuel when the wind “get its revenge.” Wood stoves are often of the least efficient sort, and are sometimes not safely installed, which means every winter there are fires and fatalities.
One Spirit has partnered for several years with outside lumber firms to solicit the donation of wood to supplement what is available on the Rez. I would refer the reader to the excellent description of the program by Lakota leader John DuBray on the One Sprit website, in which he not only describes the benefits of the wood program in terms of providing warmth, but also in providing employment for some Lakota to saw, split, and deliver the wood. These citizens are not asking for someone to hand out free wood---they are facilitating it themselves. The donations we receive for the wood program, as with our other efforts, are designed to help the Lakota help themselves. In this case, the donations are providing lifesaving protection against the brutal cold of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Wood delivery truck leaving with a load before the sun is up!
I was raised a little to the west, in Wyoming, and I know from experience (both from that upbringing and my current home) what winter is like on the plains of the Old West. I can only imagine having to live in housing that is hard to keep above freezing in such weather.
I ask that those who read this and can find the means make an additional donation for the Wood Program, and its corollary the Wood Stove Program, which we began last year to try and provide better stoves and safer chimneys and ventilation for those stoves as we can afford to do so. Basic protection from the elements and wholesome nutrition are basic human needs---and rights. The help your generosity provides will make these necessities more and more available to the Oglala Lakota as they continue to advance and enjoy better lives, all within maintaining their amazing traditional culture.
As a changing climate seems to be increasing the number and intensity of weather events, it is a good time to begin to try and ensure a livable future for all of us, not least those who need help the most.