40% of reservation housing is considered sub-standard

Winter Fuel Service

Winter is a tough season for many, but for those with a meager income, it can be threatening. During long Northern Plains winters, Native American Elders living on fixed incomes struggle to stay warm.

Our Winter Fuel Service brings immediate relief from the cold to Native Elders on Northern Plains Reservations like Rosebud and Pine Ridge via vouchers to help lower the cost of their electric, propane, or natural gas bill.



The Challenge

Photo of Audrey, a Native American Elder.
“It gets really cold, into the negatives (below zero) at night. When the wind blows, you feel it through the whole house. It’s terrible; hard to stay warm in the winter, and space heaters are too expensive to run. I needed the [Winter Fuel] voucher because it costs too much money to get propane, and I’m the only one in the house with income. It’s a challenge keeping up on bills.” Audrey, Oglala Sioux, Pine Ridge

Audrey was recently diagnosed with a serious health issue and is worried about having money to travel for treatment. She drives 90 miles one way from Kyle to Rapid City, South Dakota, for her treatments.

Reservations in the Northern Plains are often bitterly cold with nightly temperatures dropping well below zero with regular wind gusts up to 50 mph.(1) In these conditions, exposed skin can freeze in just a matter of minutes.(2)

Many of the Elders in our service area find it difficult to sustain sufficient heat during the winter. About half of them are raising their grandchildren, often facing the choice of buying food or heating their home. Many are diabetic or have other health conditions and may need to choose between medications, food, or warmth.

When the money runs out, local residents have been known to burn clothing or furniture — a health hazard in itself — in anxious attempts to stay warm.

Additionally, transportation is an issue. Many Elders’ homes are so remote or located off of dirt roads where snow, ice, and flooding can make them impassible.

Did you know:
• 37% of Native families with children are living in poverty.
• 1 in 5 Elders in our Northern Plains service area is living in poverty.
• 40% of reservation housing is considered sub-standard — posing a risk to the health, safety, or physical well-being of its occupants, neighbors, or visitors — and is typically inefficient to heat.
• Many tribal energy assistance funds are depleted before the long Northern Plains winters end.


Our Solution

With the help of our generous donors, NPRA’s Winter Fuel service helps our Program Partners assist Elders in their communities who are at risk of being without heat.

We provide winter fuel vouchers to help Elders lower the cost of their electric, propane, or natural gas bill.

Our Winter Fuel service brings immediate relief from the cold to
Native Elders during long Northern Plains winters.

Photo of Marlene, a Native American Elder.
“It's a struggle to heat my home, especially when I can't get wood for the stove. I’m really good at budgeting money, but the electric voucher will help financially. Thank you very much to donors!” Marlene, Oglala Sioux, Pine Ridge

With the money saved on electricity, Marlene will buy canning supplies to preserve food from her garden. She sells canned jam to supplement her income.      Learn more about Marlene >>

Every two years, NPRA brings the Winter Fuel service to a different reservation to avoid creating dependency and to promote self-sufficiency. We help show each tribe the value of outside resources and encourage them to seek alternative means to continue the service when we move on to assist other reservations. However, if funds were available, we could assist more Elders each year.

In 2022, 111 Elders received winter heating assistance totaling nearly $15,000 in relief through NPRAs Winter Fuel service.

Caring for Elders is a strong value in Native American culture, and winter fuel provided by NPRA helps communities honor this enriching opportunity.

Your support of our Winter Fuel service is critical to Native American Elders living in substandard housing on remote reservations. Your gift today can help keep an Elder warm on the reservation for a little bit longer.


(1) https://www.accuweather.com/en/us/pine-ridge/57770/december-weather/340689?year=2022
(2) https://www.foxweather.com/learn/how-long-until-frostbite

Other Services:
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Holiday Support

Our Mission: Serving immediate needs. Supporting long-term solutions.
Our Vision: Strong, self-sufficient Native American communities.

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