Propane for Freezing Temperatures in New Mexico
At 85 and 75-years-old, respectively, Nina and Ellis have been married for 48 years and both were born and raised on the Mescalero Reservation. Elders like Nina & Ellis were so grateful for the assistance.
With Native Americans much more likely to have incomes below poverty than whites, affording the rising cost of heat and other utilities can be a challenge for families on remote reservations. This is why Southwest Reservation Aid (SWRA), a program of Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA), offers a Winter Fuel voucher service, where Elders in selected communities receive a credit of $200 toward their heating bill. The vouchers are good for electric, propane or natural gas, depending on each Elder’s needs.
Our program partner Cindy works at the Mescalero Elderly Program on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. She received SWRA Winter Fuel vouchers this year for 94 Elders in her community. Apache Elders Nina and Ellis are using their vouchers for propane heating this winter.
At 85 and 75-years-old, respectively, Nina and Ellis have been married for 48 years and both were born and raised on the Mescalero Reservation. When asked what her childhood was like, Nina responded, “we didn’t have nothing” and said the reservation was “nothing like it is today.” Often gathering firewood in their wagon and hauling tap water inside with her siblings, Nina shared that her parents “traded with non-Natives” and “grew everything we ate… We were poor, but we were rich in what we really needed.”
Ellis worked in forestry for most of his career but also held various roles in conservation for the tribe and was even part of the EMS team at the Ski Apache resort. He is now retired after experiencing knee problems and hearing loss, rendering him unable to chop wood or do other types of manual labor. Nina ultimately worked her way up from secretary to director of programs in the tribal courts over 25 years. Medically retired due to arthritis but unable to sit still for long, she returned to the courts as a temporary judge and has served on the board of the gaming commission for 12 years. Cindy added that, after a lifetime of hunting, Nina is also their resident senior Olympian for archery.
Nina shared that it’s tough to depend on family these days, even with five children and four grandchildren. One of her grandsons, however, has stayed in the area and helps with chores like gathering firewood for their home. Quickly mentioning how absurd the prices for a natural resource like firewood are these days, Nina added, “anyone who’s a tribal member should not have to pay for wood.”
Nina explained their social security income is only a few dollars above baseline, and they “don’t qualify for anything else,” like Medicaid or food stamps. “We have to stretch our money through the month; we work all our lives just to suffer in the end.” She added, “As an Elder, though, you have to think about others… there are a lot of young people who need help, too.”
While they already experienced their first frost in mid-October, Nina said their fuel voucher will “help a lot because it gets really cold here.” Extending a sincere “thank you” to our SWRA donors, she added, “I really, really appreciate what the donors are doing for our people — Elders or others.”
Make your donation to SWRA today to continue providing comfort and warmth for Native Elders on the reservation like Nina and Ellis.