South Dakota Ice Storms Impact on Native American Communities

February 23, 2010

In response to a request for assistance; and in partnership with the UCC South Dakota Conference, National Disaster Ministries has provided emergency funds to the Dakota Association of the UCC South Dakota Conference. The Conference provided $5,000; and, $3,000 was sent from the One Great Hour of Sharing special fund Emergency USA.

Pastor Louis Blue Coat has provided this portrait of what happened and how communities have been impacted, and how they are moving forward.


On Thursday, January 22, 2010, a severe ice storm hit South Dakota creating a disaster area on the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. People woke up Friday, January 23, 2010 to no electricity, no heat. They still had water. As the morning progressed, the ice storm build-up on the power lines combined with the high winds to bring down 6,000 poles. About 12,000 people were without electricity. Every effort

is being made by the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and Tri-County Water to restore these basic essentials to the reservation.


Due to the power outages, the water treatment plant that supplies almost the entire Cheyenne River Reservation lost power. Back-up generators malfunctioned and

the system that runs the filters failed. Hence, the plant was pumping water in, but not out. This flooded the basement with about a million gallons of water. The water then froze, shutting down all of the equipment inside.  The system has since been repaired, but

the water needs to cycle through for 10 days with the added chemicals to be safe to drink again.


The Dakota Association is heavily involved in providing assistance, especially to the remote communities including Bridger, Red Scaffold and Cherry Creek. Thanks to the  team of Byron, Toni Buffalo and Louie Blue Coat, we have been able to acquire and deliver supplies to the folks. There are shelters in each community which are being served fairly adequately by Tribal resources.  There are many people, however, who refuse to leave their homes. These are the people about whom we are most concerned.


Now, the worst of the storm is over. The lights are turning of for more people in and around Eagle Butte. Yet, the communities of On-The-Trees, Green Grass, and White Horse are still dark and without water. With CRST setting up shelters around the  reservation, the majority of the assistance is being given to the individuals who are staying at the shelters.  With a reservation that consists of around 2 million acres, there are many families who do not want to leave their rural homes. There are some families who may not have transportation to the shelters. The Dakota Association is concentrating

its relief efforts on the Cheyenne River to those families not in then shelters who are in need of food and water. (See photos below of folks celebrating the gift of water).


We are most appreciative and humble-hearted at the outpouring of financial assistance that has come, not just to the Dakota Association, but also to the Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe. We, as an association of churches, recognize that Christ is at work among us, even during our trials and tribulations. It is friends such as you that put Christ into action and

enable us to take that message out to those who are suffering, feeling hopeless, needing

help and finding that help through our ministry. 


The Dakota Association has received donations from the South Dakota Conference  United Church of Christ, the UCC National  Disaster Relief Ministries, Armin Schmidt-former Executive Director of the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM), the Warm Embrace Inc, of Liberty Missouri, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Atlanta, Georgia. In our Lakota language, “Lila Wopila,” or (many thanks)! Your love and generosity cannot be repaid, but will never be forgotten. You will be in our hearts and

prayers and we ask that our Creator bless each and every one of you.

—Pastor Louie Blue Coat




1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by ice storms.

2.  To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts payable to your congregation marked for OGHS special fund Emergency USA with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.


3. Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion OGHS special fund Emergency USA to UCC Financial Services; Wider Church Ministries, Financial Services, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.


4. Make a secure on-line donation Donate Now 


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