Propane: Can’t Heat With It, Can’t Heat Without It

Did Debbie Dogskin of Fort Yates, ND freeze to death? My deepest sympathies go out to her family, especially her mom. A mother never forgets the death of one of her children. Especially if death could have been prevented. It’s easy to think there’s nothing anyone can do to help the approximately 5,000 residents who live in Fort Yates and use propane to heat their homes.

But that’s dead wrong.

I’m not a chemist, but as an historical novelist I read a lot. So when I saw how certain Dakota Standing Rock  Indians are suffering this arctic winter because the price of propane has skyrocketed, I piled on another blanket and did some investigation.

Getting Personal

Propane is not a topic I would normally undertake, but there’s another reason for my interest; my parent’s old oil furnace must be replaced. Because they live in rural area where natural gas is not an option, the family is considering propane despite its shortage.

Like all commodities, the price of propane fluctuates with supply and demand; this week the price of one gallon of propane is about $3.90, while last year the cost was only $2.29, yet for those Native Americans who live in Dakota, earlier this winter the cost of went as high as $4.65. Multiply that by a 1,000 gallon tank and the cost can be prohibitive. An alternative heat source in the form of pellets (manufactured from natural materials like cherry pits, wood, and grass) is well-worth the consideration, but the added equipment expense must also be deliberated.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton have stepped up to assist three tribes to purchase propane. The SMSC sovereign Indian tribe’s commitment to helping those in need, their generosity and their concern warms my heart. Thankfully, it will also warm the bodies of those who need it most. When you live where wind chills can register up to 50 degrees below zero, heat is essential for survival. The Shakopee Mdewakanton know it, and they’re doing something about it.

You can too.

If you’re interesting in making a contribution for Standing Rock, a fundraiser is underway. Here’s one way–visit and in the search button, type in Heating the Rez.

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