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Standing Rock woman dies with no propane to heat home

FORT YATES, N.D. (AP) — A woman with no propane to heat her mobile home has been found dead on an American Indian reservation in the Dakotas, as people around the country struggle to stay warm this winter due to a lack of affordable fuel.

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Debbie Dogskin's body was discovered Tuesday morning at her home in Fort Yates, N.D., on the Standing Rock Reservation, tribal and Sioux County authorities told The Bismarck Tribune and KXMB-TV.

Authorities have not specifically tied Dogskin's death to the lack of propane in her home, but the overnight low temperature dropped to about zero. A cause of death was not announced and the Bureau of Indian Affairs declined comment.

Dogskin was in her early 50s, according to Tribal Councilwoman Avis Little Eagle, who described the woman as a childhood friend.

The tribe earlier declared a state of emergency because about 5,000 homes on the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border are heated by propane. The fuel has more than doubled in price because of a nationwide shortage exacerbated by recent cold weather. Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II has told The Associated Press that many people on the reservation are on fixed incomes and can't afford the more expensive fuel.

The federal government last week released more money for a program that helps low-income people around the country heat their homes. Little Eagle said the tribe has put another $620,000 toward helping reservation residents in need buy propane. She urged tribal members to look out for one another, especially the elderly and the homebound.

"There's got to be a way we can help each other," she said. "In 2014 you would think our societies are advanced enough that there would no longer be such deaths, but here on the reservation it is still a reality."

The tribe with the help of the Red Cross last week opened public shelters in Fort Yates on the North Dakota side of the border and in Wakpala on the South Dakota side.