South Dakota tribe: Storm deaths ‘could have been prevented’

A Native American tribe in South Dakota says several of its members died when December storms buried their reservation in snow and left them stranded.

Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe said this month that the deaths could have been prevented had it not been for a series of systemic failures. Tribal members are expressing anger at many people, including Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and the Indian Health Services — saying the little help that was offered came too late.

A 12-year-old asthmatic boy who spent days struggling to breathe was among the dead — because an ambulance couldn’t get to his home in time to help him.

As the storm raged, families ran out of fuel, and two people froze to death, including one in their home, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe said in a letter this month seeking a presidential disaster declaration.

The tribe also alleges Congress is at fault for not changing rules that allocate how money from a tribal transportation program is distributed among the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes.

Semans said the program’s reliance on making determinations based on tribal enrollment hurts the Rosebud Sioux because while its enrollment of 33,210 members is relatively modest, its land base of nearly 890,000 acres spread across five counties, is massive.

That meant there simply wasn’t enough equipment to respond.


January 23, 2023