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Locals reaching out to help Pine Ridge

Sarah Hamilton, owner of Trail Center Lodge on the Gunflint Trail, is following up on her recent “Camp Chow to Puerto Rico” campaign, which resulted in over 2,000 meals being shipped to the hurricane-damaged island.  Hamilton is working to help another community in distress, a bit closer to home, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Recent news reports have drawn attention to the Lakota American Indians in South Dakota, where winters are a time of desperation—and danger. CNN reports that temperatures there drop as low as minus 25 degrees. And homes on the reservation are often substandard, without central heat or proper electricity.

A charity is trying to make it easier for Lakota families to make it through the winter. One Spirit is a non-profit organization that provides firewood to hundreds of people on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

CNN talked to local activist Bamm Brewer, who explains that people struggle to get the wood because of the poverty. He says, "No gas money to get out there. No vehicle."

CNN explains that the reservation landscape is dry terrain with hardly any forests. One Spirit volunteers drive miles to find the nearest deadwood. They haul wood back to their shop, split the logs, and deliver truckloads to homes.

Before One Spirit's firewood program, some families worried they wouldn't survive the winter. One resident, Ronald Robert Red Cloud, tells CNN, "We would have to burn anything -- burn clothes, burn shoes, just something to keep warm."

Brewer's goal is to gather and stockpile firewood all year long.

That’s where Sarah Hamilton of the Gunflint Trail comes in. She learned from Jeri Baker of One Spirit, that the organization has less than 10 people cutting, splitting wood and delivering to homes by pickup. They are working with two wood splitters, two chain saws and one set of safety gear. Workers are going out to cut wood in frigid weather without adequate winter clothing.

Hamilton wants to help, as she did for the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. She reached out to Hedstrom Lumber in Grand Marais for a contact for a lumber mill in the area, to see if it could provide waste wood. And, she has launched a GoFundMe website called “Fire for Life.

For more information, email Sarah Hamilton at trailctr@boreal.org or call Trail Center at 218-388-2214.