"All it took was a one-minute commentary. On February 9, 2010, Keith Olbermann told his viewers about a humanitarian crisis affecting 50,000 people. It was so bad, college basketball fans were being asked to share their soles. "Haiti?" he asked. "South Dakota. The shoe donations are being sought at the University of South Dakota and they are for the residents of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation."
On January 21, 2010, a devastating blizzard and snowstorm hit the area, one of the poorest in the country, knocking down over 3,000 utility poles. Residents were without electricity, water or heat in subzero temperatures for weeks. The tribe declared a state of emergency. "The government has done next to nothing for the Native Americans, who on a nice, sunny spring day there still face unemployment of 85 percent," Olbermann said sternly. "Doing nothing for these people, an American tradition since at least 1776."
He then directed viewers who wanted to donate to the Countdown website, where they would find a link to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe storm relief fund.
There were no videos or photos of the devastation. There was no interview with a tribal member. It was a one-minute commentary. According to Tribal Chairman Joe Brings Plenty, Olbermann's call for donations, coupled with community efforts and matching money from the Bush and Northwest Area Foundations, brought in $975,000. Daily Kos blogger Bill in Maryland posted a diary with donation links for neighboring tribes.
Chairman Brings Plenty said the response was overwhelming. "It was crazy. It had a huge effect compared to what we were doing to get coverage and people in DC to take notice. The government had to take notice because of the phone calls that were coming in.""
Get the Story:
Olbermann's Support for South Dakota Tribe Points Way to More Inclusive Indian Country Coverage