Restoring hope and resilience: Cheyenne River’s journey to recovery

“The grant from CDP acted as a catalyst, attracting support from other funders, volunteers and partners. This collaboration expanded our resources and network, magnifying our impact.” – Art Rave

In the spring of 2019, disaster struck South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Reservation, leaving its residents isolated and in dire need of assistance. Floodwaters engulfed the region, cutting off thousands of people from essential resources. As if the flooding wasn’t enough, a massive snowstorm buried the reservation under three feet of snow, accompanied by relentless winds.

Then, in 2022, disaster struck again when winter storms devastated the Cheyenne River community, with winds gusting over 60 mph and snow depths ranging from 18-36 inches. A bitter cold front followed, with wind chills as low as 55 degrees below zero, closing major roads and limiting access to food and medical care.

With unwavering determination, Four Bands Community Fund (FBCF) stepped in as the fiscal sponsor for the newly created Cheyenne River Long Term Recovery Group (CRLTRG), dedicated to rebuilding the Cheyenne River Reservation. Their mission: assess needs, provide case management, strengthen the LTRG and forge partnerships to address the lingering effects of the weather-related disaster.

CDP awarded a grant from the Midwest Early Recovery Fund to CRLTRG to assist the community in recovery efforts. The grant enabled the hiring of local community members, provided essential training, offered technical support and supplied the necessary office equipment for the LTRG’s work. Additionally, the grant supported community meetings and training, setting the stage for a comprehensive recovery plan.

CRLTRG sprang into action, addressing unmet needs head-on. They repaired homes, restored critical infrastructure and ensured essential resources reached affected households. In doing so, they eased immediate challenges and instilled hope and stability within the community.

Since 2019, high winds, flooding, and winter storms have repeatedly impacted the area. The list of homes with damages continues to grow, now topping 1,000. Even as the LTRG works to provide temporary patches and mitigate future events, the poor housing stock and a history of marginalization and dis-investment have led to a challenging setting for the LTRG to work through. Yet CRLTRG is determined, and its efforts are creating an impact that will last for generations.

CRLTRG’s efforts yielded incredible results. An astonishing 41 tribal members gained ownership deeds to their homes, offering security and access to resources previously beyond reach due to lack of ownership proof.

Community outreach and engagement events reached more than 500 people, fostering unity and shared responsibility while tailoring initiatives to meet specific needs.

Perhaps one of their most remarkable achievements was the establishment of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in partnership with Partnership with Native Americans, boasting more than 60 certified FEMA responders. This initiative bolstered the community’s ability to respond effectively to future disasters.

“Through times of disaster, the Cheyenne River Long-Term Recovery Group emerges as a steadfast source of hope and resilience. Their unwavering dedication reminds us that even in the most challenging moments, collective determination and structured support can lead our community towards healing and restoration.” – Cathy Gray, Director of Environmental Health for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

CRLTRG also hired an expert in grant writing, project management and development, ensuring their initiatives were culturally sensitive and effective, deeply understanding tribal dynamics.

This project’s impact was transformative, touching individual lives and fostering community-wide change. CDP’s grant, combined with Four Bands’ sponsorship and Cheyenne River LTRG’s dedication, profoundly affected the community and the organization. Its effects reached beyond immediate relief, contributing to long-term sustainability and resilience in the disaster-affected area.

CDP is proud to support CRLTRG’s efforts to help the Cheyenne River community recover from recent disasters and better prepare for future ones.

Photo: Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training individuals to become certified responders. Courtesy of Four Bands Community Fund