Pine Ridge Reservation flooding highlights massive implications of climate change on Native American communities

Unfortunately, the newest damage is only going exacerbate the longstanding "third world" conditions of the reservation.


On Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, thousands of Native Americans are stuck in what is being labeled as a “state of emergency” and a “humanitarian disaster”, flooding resulting from an overwhelming amount of melted snow.

For going on two weeks residents on the reservation have been stranded in their homes, without access to clean water, food, or medical help. According to the New York Times, officials from Oglala Sioux Tribe, which administers the reservation, say they lack the training, manpower and equipment needed to deal with such a large-scale crisis.

This past month huge portions of the Midwest have been hit with heavy flooding from overflowing rivers as a result of the heavy rains and snow. While the effects of the flooding have been harsh everywhere, Native American reservations like Pine Ridge have seen devastating consequences due to lack of training, equipment, and outside help.

While many stuck in their homes ran low on food and water, volunteers on horseback attempted to try and deliver supplies. According to the Times, Pine Ridge remains a “place of long-strained relations with the state and federal governments, that help has been woefully slow to arrive, and that a few people beyond the reservation know or care much about its plight.” Finally this past week the National Guard stepped in to help transport food and water and help those that needed it to get medical attention.

Pine Ridge Reservation stretches across an area larger than Delaware and is ill-equipped to handle the massive consequences of climate change. The population of the reservation is scattered across vast distances and untamed terrain makes it difficult to reach everyone easily. To top it off the reservation is lacking in people and equipment, much of which was damaged in the floods, to reach everyone needing help. Damaged water lines have cut much of the community off from safe drinking water and roads are nearly impassable due to mud pits.

Unfortunately the newest damage is only going excaerbate the longstanding “third world” conditions of the reservation:

Pine Ridge is an example of how different, less fortunate, communities will be affected by climate change. As the Times points out, “Unlike in Nebraska, where the National Guard rescued 111 people…outside help for Pine Ridge was conspicuously scarce at first.”


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