The winter storm also caused extensive damage to drinking water system, and many of the businesses and schools have remained closed. Repair costs from storm damage have drained the reservation's $175,000 emergency fund. All of this has only compounded the problems in the reservation where half of it's residents live in poverty.
From this Associated Press article that we found at the Connecticut Post, writer Wayne Ortman relays the story of one family that lives on the reservation.
Sonny Brave Eagle and his family spent six days in the dark without a phone or working radio before law officers found them in their home after a fierce winter storm cut power across South Dakota's impoverished Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
"We didn't know what was going on," said Brave Eagle, among hundreds of people on the sprawling reservation amid a second week without electricity as utility workers struggle to make repairs. The storm brought down power lines, iced roads and led to water outages.
Tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty estimated that 1,500 to 1,700 homes were still without power Monday, and said it would take "better than three weeks" to get the reservation up and running again.
Ice coated roads and electrical lines, and forced shops and schools to close. Then before residents could recover, a blizzard tore through the Dakotas with wind gusts between 25 and 50 mph.
The frozen ground complicated efforts to replace power poles, and snow had to be cleared away to allow utility crews to get close enough to rebuild transmission lines, said Brings Plenty.
The power outage led to equipment malfunctions at a pumping plant in a pipeline system that provides drinking water to the reservation. Water service and pressure must be restored gradually in an old system with weak pipes, the tribal chairman added.
About 8,000 people live on the reservation, which is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and the outages affected everyone, Stites said.
But the reservation faced difficulties well before the storms. The unemployment rate is 80 percent, tribal leaders say. More than half of Ziebach County and 38 percent of Dewey County lived in poverty in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The reservation spans both counties.