Burning coal in your home is not a good idea
— December 28, 2012
— Updated December 31, 2012
While most of us are warm and toasty this holiday season, there are others shivering inside their homes because they cannot afford propane or to pay their utility bill.
This morning I received an email from a person who was worried about friends on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who might be freezing. She wrote, “I have Indian friends on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota who are freezing and they wanted to come to Gillette or another city you may recommend and bring their own pickup trucks and get some coal donated to their tribe.”
After a series of calls I can recommend that anyone on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in need of energy assistance should contact the Oglala Sioux Tribal Low Income Energy Office at (605) 867-5169, or Tribal Headquarters, (605) 867-5821, or contact their tribal council representative. Unfortunately, if there’s an immediate need, now is an extremely difficult time to get ahold of officials. But don’t give up.
As for donating coal to help keep people warm in their homes; it’s not a good idea. I know, I know; people have been burning coal to stay warm since the beginning of mankind. Poor communities all over the world burn coal or charcoal for heat and cooking. An estimated 3 billion people worldwide rely on “solid fuels,” including coal and wood, according to the World Health Organization. And about 2 million die prematurely each year due to indoor air pollution from solid fuels.
Cooking food with coal causes people to ingest a long list of deadly toxins, including mercury.
This morning I contacted Joe Red Cloud, coordinator for the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s utilities department, and he said it’s been many, many years since he’s heard of residents burning coal in their homes to stay warm.
“Most homes on the reservation are heated by propane or electric,” he said. “If they can’t afford it, they can approach the tribe’s energy office and get fuel from them.”
While I’m certain that many folks in northeastern Wyoming are eager to help, it might not be in the form of coal. In fact, if you have advice on how folks can get some immediate assistance with staying warm this weekend, please let me know.
— UPDATE (Monday December 31, 2012): Today I spoke with Garry Rowland, Headsman of the Fire Lightning Tiospaye in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. He explained that many tribal members who live in government housing on the reservation have access to energy assistance, and their homes are typically heated with propane. Others who live out in the country, however, have limited access to energy assistance. Rowland said he’s coordinating help, and wants to hear from people who can donate wood so he can help get it to households in need.
You can contact Rowland at (605) 407-7024, email him at [email protected], or send a letter to; Garry Rowland, PO Box 208, Wounded Knee, SD, 57794
If you enjoyed this report and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.