American Indian Council
the night, a winter wind screams and howls around the plywood and tar paper
shack that is their home near Wounded Knee.
Elders, two Lakota old ones lay on their bed covered with blankets and one star
quilt that was given to them by their daughter who has moved to Rapid City.
Shivering, Grandmother tries to console her thin sick husband of over 60 years
by softly telling him that the storm will be over soon.
A three day blizzard from the North creates drifts four feet deep while a few
flakes have found their way under the door as cold air snakes across the room
seeking out anything that is warm.
Cracked single pane windows completely covered in frost and ice, the floor feels
like a frozen lake...a single light bulb on the ceiling flickers and then goes
Must be the storm Grandma says quietly. In a little while I'll get up and put
more wood in the stove yet she knows the last of it was burned away yesterday.
The stove is cold and dark.
Our Grandson will be here tomorrow won't he, Grandpa asks once again? I heard
him say that he was bringing commodities out for us.
I'm sure he will be here, she answers....he is a good young man. She decides
against telling him that storm has made their Grandson two days late.
Do you remember that hot summer day when we first met at powwow, she asks? Do
you remember how the sun warmed our skin and we were so happy?
Yes, says Grandpa from under the blankets, I do. It was a good day, a very good
day. We were young and you were so pretty in your new jingle dress.
still see the sunlight on your shiny black hair she said, and that sly wink you
gave me in front of my Mother.
a weak smile even with his wrinkled lips stiff from the cold. Ha!, he said. She
didn't like me very much then.
Thirty-five below zero with banshee winds that drive a deep cold into their home
like spikes from a giant's hammer.
horses and deer stand still with their tails to the bitter wind, some nearly
losing their grip on life as the temperature falls.
homes, only five hundred yards apart....in this storm they could just as well be
from the stove pipe, no light in the house, no way to stay warm. How does this
Ice forms in a bucket used to melt snow for water and yesterday's morning
plastic stapled over the windows heaves in and out as the cold finds every
opening, invading everywhere.
propane tank outside has been empty for a week...no one came. A small wood
burning stove has done it's best with pieces of wooden pallets and half rotten
winter continue to claw and bite at the walls.
It must be almost morning Grandma says to herself. Even in the darkened room she
can see her warm breath mix with cold heavy air.
Surely Grandson will be here soon. Someone will come for us. In the old
squeaking bed she moves closer to her husband for warmth and pulls the quilt up
to her eyes.
Are you ok
she asks him? Yes, he replies very slowly, but I am feeling colder...did you put
more wood in the stove?
she whispers...yes, just a minute ago while you were sleeping. It'll be warming
up soon and in a few hours I will make you a good breakfast. Go back to sleep
It all seems like a long hazy dream...into sleep...no cold, waking up....the
cold again. The roar of a freezing wind that enters your soul and then cries for
release. Even in their dreams they hear it, there is no escape.
Why are we
here alone at this time? Will we live through this? How are all the animals
doing? Is our family thinking of us? Are they as cold as we are?
Time goes by so slowly, how much time?....Grandma can hear the ticking of their
old wind up clock nearby. Grandpa dreams of Sun Dance.
Then, in a
glowing light they see each other and realize that they are warm and the wind
A day later the big yellow road grader fights it's way out to their home.
Behind, a propane truck and Grandson driving his old Ford pickup.
through the drifts and opens the door.....snow on the floor, quiet, cold, then
Grandmother! Are you ok?
Silence...is all that greets him.
Old Ones die in the cold every year on the rez. Much of the housing is in
terrible condition. Many run out of propane and can't get their tanks filled.
Some have wood stoves but maybe little or no wood. Thin frame houses and
trailers are often no match for powerful and unforgiving blizzards. Sometimes
their families have moved away or passed on and for one reason or another, they
are left alone.