Tonight! “Hidden America: Children of the Plains,” ABC 20/20 Special

TONIGHT, at 10 PM Eastern, ABC is airing a 20/20 special called “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” featuring Tashina Iron Horse, a 5 year old from Pine Ridge Reservation.

Tashina Iron Horse

       Young Tashina Iron Horse is a competitive pow wow dancer. (credit: Elissa Stohler/ABC News)

Pine Ridge residents live amid poverty that rivals that of the third world. Forty-seven percent of the Pine Ridge population lives below the federal poverty level, 65 percent to 80 percent of the adults are unemployed, and rampant alcoholism and an obesity epidemic combine with underfunded schools to make it a rough place to grow up. Tashina lives in government housing in Manderson, 30 minutes north of downtown Pine Ridge. She lives with her grandmother, parents, siblings and uncles – sometimes up to 19 people live in the three-bedroom house, which has seen better days.

In the decades following President John F. Kennedy’s pledge to fund public housing projects on American Indian reservations, a construction boom began in Pine Ridge. Today, most of these units built in the 1970s and 1980s are in varying degrees of disrepair – a result, critics say, of steep cuts to the Housing and Urban Development budget made by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Public housing dollars today are largely spent battling black mold in reservation housing rather than constructing new homes.

Amid the despair, there are youth across the reservation – like Tashina – who are breaking through the hopelessness with huge dreams and powerful stories.

Check out a sneak peek – Tashina teaches Diane Sawyer some of her moves – below.

[Video will not post here. Click at ABC link at top to view video.]

Video Transcript provided by the lovely Cedwyn:

ABC:  At one of the dance competitions, we saw little Tashina Iron Horse, so joyful.  We were intrigued by her life.

(cut to house)

Tashina:  See, mom!  I got that book.

ABC:  Her house has so many people living in it, even her grandmother and uncle find it hard to keep track.

Grandma:  Five in Bobby’s room, two in mine, and the two boys downstairs.  And then Amy and her family, there’s five of them.  Then Amber, her and Baby will be coming back, too, so there’s two, three of them.

ABC:  So in total, it’s about, what, 15?

Aunt:  Yeah.  Gee, 19, I guess.

ABC:  Tashina sleeps in one bed with her mother, her father and two other children.

AJ:  Comb your hair and look into the camera.

ABC:  Tashina’s dad, AJ, is getting ready to apply to be a firefighter.  He gets little Tashina and her sister Shante ready for school.

AJ:  If there was enough housings for us, I think we would get our own house just so me and my little family could have our time.

ABC:  And it’s her uncle Matthew who makes those intricate little costumes Tashina loves to wear for the dances.  This is beautiful.

Tashina, five years old, with a giggling invitation to join her in the dance.

Please watch the special tonight and let us know what you think in the comments.

We at Native American Netroots thought this would be a good time to kick off our winter fuel fundraising efforts.

Here are a few photos of the grateful recipients of the fuel you bought last winter that I haven’t posted before:

These photos were all taken by Sherry Cornelius aka lpggirl of St. Francis Energy who personally delivers the propane. Everyone pictured is saying THANKS to Daily Kos for helping them with heat.




PLEASE Share with family and friends and ask them to share.


My earlier diaries explain in more detail why and how we are helping:

Here we go again: Blizzard hits Dakotas

Band-Aid for the Lakotas

Pine Ridge: American Prisoner of War Camp #334

Revealing Pine Ridge Rez Demographic Information

Employment Information

  • Recent reports vary but many point out that the median income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 to $3,500 per year.
  • The unemployment rate on Pine Ridge is said to be approximately 83-85% and can be higher during the winter months when travel is difficult or often impossible.

    Note that South Dakota boasts of a 4.5% unemployment rate and ranks #2 in the Nation.

  • According to 2006 resources, about 97% of the population lives below Federal poverty levels.
  • There is little industry, technology, or commercial infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.
  • Rapid City, South Dakota is the nearest town of size (population approximately 57,700) for those who can travel to find work.  It is located 120 miles from the Reservation.  The nearest large city to Pine Ridge is Denver, Colorado located some 350 miles away.

We have bypassed the middlemen; the 501c3s, the red-taped strangled Tribal Councils and the pathetic Federal LIHEAP program which runs out three weeks into winter.

We’ve set up relationships with the propane companies that service Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservation. The kind operators/owners know who needs help and can’t get it from their Tribal, State or Federal government.

Help buy propane for Lakota families in South Dakota:

The *fastest* way to help is to pick up the phone and call with your credit card information. A family will get propane delivered either the same day or the next day.


Sherry Cornelius of St. Francis Energy Co.

at  6 0 5 – 7 4 7 – 2 5 4 2


Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations to a minimum order. Credit Cards welcome and they are the only Native owned fuel company on Rosebud.  Rosebud is next to Pine Ridge Reservation and in the same economically depressed condition.

If you’d like to mail a check:

[make check payable to: St. Francis Energy Co.]

Attn: Sherry or Patsy

St. Francis Energy Co. / Valandra’s II

P.O. Box 140

St. Francis, South Dakota 57572

NOT tax deductible


You can also call Sherry’s cell phone: 605.208.8888 if the above line is busy.



Good idea from  Aji in the comments :

…for $230 plus shipping, Kossacks can get them an LPG safety space heater.  We’ve used this model; very effective; stable and low for safety and energy efficiency; multiple heat settings so you don’t waste gas; and a built-in O2 sensor auto-shutoff.

You can order a heater  here  and have it shipped to:

Sherry Cornelius

St. Francis Energy Co.

102 N Main Street


Mr. Heater Big Buddy™ Indoor/Outdoor Propane Heater – 18,000 BTU, Model# MH18B

You also need to include these accessories:

Mr. Heater AC Power Adapter for Big Buddy Heaters – 6 Volt, Model# F276127

Mr. Heater 12-Ft. Hose with Regulator for Item# 173635

Mr. Heater Fuel Filter for Buddy™ Heaters, Model# F273699

Order Total   $222.84 (includes shipping)


The Lakota Plains Propane Company

at  6 0 5 – 8 6 7 – 5 1 9 9

Monday- Friday only 8-4:30pm MST

Ask for Crystal to contribute to someone from Autumn’s list. $120 minimum delivery. This company serves Pine Ridge Reservation.

NOT tax deductible

If you live out of the country please use our PayPal link at Native American Netroots, the donate button is in the upper right of the page. This process takes about two weeks for the funds to hit the reservations so telephoning the propane companies directly is the fastest way to help.

A special thanks to Miep who recently donated $500 to this season’s effort.

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