From Pine Ridge to Puerto Rico Trump Administrator Fails

Residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have suffered from lack of safe drinking water.

Guest Commentary

Published April 29, 2019

As president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, I write today to thank you for supporting my nation through an extremely difficult time these past weeks. The generous spirit you have shown us has been strong medicine for my people. We still have a long way to go, but with your compassion, we are making real strides. You have made it clear that Pine Ridge is not alone in our time of need.

A resident of Puerto Rico cleans up just after Hurricane Maria struck the island on Set. 20, 2017
Angel Valentin for NPR

Neither are we alone in our struggle. The US Congress recently went on recess without having decided on an urgently important item: communities throughout the Midwest, California, and Puerto Rico are all still reeling from the fallout of climate-related catastrophes, but the legislature remains gridlocked on providing relief. The hangup? President Donald Trump refuses to endorse any aid package that includes more than a pittance for Puerto Rico.

In the new video from the Lakota People’s Law Project, you’ll see how recent storms have affected our Oglala Nation’s families. I know that many in Puerto Rico still face similar problems. A few weeks back, I watched as Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, described the ongoing struggles for her island. I was heartened that, even given her own dire situation, she took time to mention the emergency here at Pine Ridge.

Our mutual situation makes you wonder: Why does President Trump refuse to send needed aid to poor communities of color in the aftermath of natural disasters?

Trump wants to prioritize funding for certain areas of the Midwest at the expense of Puerto Rico. Since, as a sovereign nation, we have our own relationship with FEMA, the threat of federal neglect remains very real for us as well.

Julian Bear Runner

Last week, I sent a formal letter to Mayor Cruz expressing our tribe’s solidarity with Puerto Rico. It’s possible we can work together to increase awareness of our twin emergencies, bolster the chances of federal relief, and provide for our citizens. It is my sincere hope that both Puerto Rico and Pine Ridge will receive all funding needed to rebuild.

Please join us and pray for Congress and FEMA to provide essential aid for underserved communities throughout our country. With compassion and cooperation, we can build together toward a brighter future — for Pine Ridge, for Puerto Rico, and for the world we share.

Wopila tanka,

Julian Bear Runner is the Oglala Sioux Tribal President

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