Pain on the Reservation

By:  Annie Lowry

The New York Times

PINE RIDGE, S.D. — The Red Cloud-Bissonette family needs a new trailer. Frank, who is disabled, and Norma, his wife, are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who live on the sprawling grasslands of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Despite their constant efforts to patch the seams of one of their trailers that was hauled here in 1988, rot and mold continue to climb up the walls.

The family has punched a hole in the ceiling for a chimney for their wood stove, a necessity given the harshness of the winters but a fire hazard in the dry climate.

A second trailer a few feet away, where some family members live, including a grandchild, has no plumbing or running water.

The Red Cloud-Bissonettes are one of about 1,500 families on a waiting list at a local housing improvement program that was recently told that it is being shut down. “These are real, real low-income people,” said Andre Janis, the housing program’s director. “If we go away, a lot of people are going to be without these services completely.”

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