Dakotas reservation with propane crisis gets help
By Blake Nicholson
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An American Indian reservation in the Dakotas that has been hit hard by the nation's propane shortage is getting help from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux.
The Minnesota tribe that operates several enterprises including a casino and runs a charitable grant program is giving the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe $500,000 for propane.
As many as 5,000 homes on the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border rely on propane, and many residents can't afford the higher fuel prices tied to the shortage, according to Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II. The tribe has declared an emergency, and tribal and Sioux County authorities are investigating the death of Debbie Dogskin, 61, who died last week while house-sitting for a friend in a mobile home with an empty propane tank.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux also is giving $300,000 to the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and $70,000 to the Santee Sioux Nation in Nebraska for propane.
"The thought of people struggling during such a harsh winter is unbearable," Shakopee Mdewakanton Chairman Charlie Vig said in a statement. "We are happy to provide these grants, which will help ensure these tribes' members are warm and cared for."
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Monday that he has directed the Department of Human Services to help the Standing Rock tribe assess the reservation's potential need for more aid under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The tribe has received $1.5 million in LIHEAP money from the federal government for this winter, down from $2.5 million last winter due to budget cuts, according to Archambault.
Dalrymple said he will be following up with Archambault this week.
Propane shortages began late last year due to supply disruptions and a late harvest. The problem has been exacerbated by recent cold weather across much of the nation, which has increased demand and driven up prices.
Dalrymple and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard last month both issued waivers allowing commercial truck drivers who transport propane to work longer hours, since they have had to wait longer to load at terminals and have had to drive farther to obtain propane.
"We will continue working to get more propane into the local supply chain and to help North Dakota residents get the assistance they need," Dalrymple said. "Industry leaders are reporting that supplies in North Dakota should be improving."
A warm-up in the weather this week could help reduce propane consumption on the reservation, where temperatures early Monday were in the teens below zero. The National Weather Service forecast calls for daytime high temperatures the rest of the week to be about 40 degrees warmer.