Native Sun News: Chasing Cheyenne River storm recovery money
The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk . All content © Native Sun News.

EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA – The severe winter happened in January this year and people are still wondering where the donated money went.

During the week of Jan. 20-26 the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation was hit with a winter ice storm that caused a reservation wide blackout. Then during the week of June 16-24 the reservation was hit again suffering one of the worst storms, devastating tornadoes, and flooding the area had seen in years.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stepped in and the reservation was designated as disaster area and became eligible for disaster relief monies.

During the first disaster, when ice covered most of Northwestern South Dakota and downed thousands of power lines, countless members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe were left stranded without water, power, food and heat.

The Tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty declared a state of emergency and immediately began relief efforts and set up the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief Emergency Assistance Organization.

“The Tribe has depleted its emergency budget with the two blizzards that already hit the reservation since December. It needs funds to help buy food and supplies for the community and volunteers, to pay for gas and overtime for the workers, to replace the motor at the water pump station that was destroyed, etc. Any financial donations are much appreciated. The Tribe is also trying to set up on-line donations but that may take some time,” Brings Plenty said in a press release.

Internet sites calling for disaster relief were set up including one on Facebook at:

Stories went out on Huffington Post, Char-Koosta News a publication of the Flathead Indian Nation,, MSNBC, Native Sun News, The Cherokee One Feather, Native American Times and countless other news sources asking for disaster relief and assistance to meet the needs of the isolated communities.

Native Americans in Philanthropy set up a $25,000 match from the Archibald Bush Foundation, and accepted donations on behalf of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. You could visit their page on the website and give online donations at More information was available at

“Countdown” viewers raised $185,000 in 24 hours after host Keith Olbermann appealed on behalf of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief Emergency Assistance, an organization meant to help what Olbermann described as a “humanitarian crisis at home.”

“Two weeks ago, the reservations of the Dakotas were hit by blizzards and ice storms. Twenty five hundred utility poles fell. Electricity and water, and, thus, heat and light, were cut off. And dozens are still cut off,” he said. And 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. Doing nothing for these people is an American tradition since at least 1776. I mentioned this in worst’s last night, and many viewers advised us they were horrified. It’s not Haiti. It’s not three million people affected. It’s more like 50,000. And it’s 450 miles away from St. Paul, Minnesota.”

The next day Olbermann reported to his viewers, “You overwhelm me, as usual. Last night, continuing our coverage of the humanitarian crisis on the ice storm and blizzard-ravaged reservations of South Dakota, I mentioned the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief Emergency Assistance Fund and we linked to it. They were hoping by the end of the month to have raised $35,000. In 24 hours, you donated approximately $185,000. They thank you and I thank you. Every time I feel the futility of not knowing what to do about one of these crises, I forget to ask the most reliable people I know: you guys.”

However on May 25 during a District 5 council meeting CRST member E.J. Bruguier asked for accountability of the donated money. He complained that he had heard that much of the donated money had been divvied up between volunteers many of whom had been on administrative leave. He called for a resolution from District 5 to make public a list who had received money and how much.

“I heard some of the volunteers received $7,000 and that even some of the council members got money,” Bruguier said. “I helped haul wood for people and I didn’t get anything.”

District 5 Councilman Derek Bartlett spoke up and said that although he volunteered during the storm he refused to accept any of the donated money. He also demanded the list be made public.

A resolution was called for and passed by District 5 to have the list made public.

However, according to CRST District 5 member Robert Chasing Hawk, it was never taken before the CRST council.

“They have not discussed any district resolutions, they are all collecting dust and that district resolution has never been on the floor yet,” Chasing Hawk said. “There is no accountability of $950,000.”

Then during the week of June 16-24 more than 14 tornadoes tore through the area nearly wiping out the town of Dupree, destroying numerous farms and trailer homes and Chasing Hawk said the donated money was gone.

FEMA stepped in and is currently in the process of replacing many of the homes that were destroyed with trailer homes and is paying for the set up costs.

However according to Bartlett who is vying with Kevin Keckler for the chairmanship of the tribe there has not yet been accountability for the money collected during the first disaster.

According to Chasing Hawk members of the tribe still want to know where the money went.

Bartlett agrees, “We are still trying to get this report but administration won’t release it. They are not telling us anything. There are still sites up on the internet asking for donations.

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at: