- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

PORCUPINE, N.D. (AP) - An easement dispute has for years forced a North Dakota couple to live without water, sewer service or electricity in a small trailer on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Douglas Skye, 81, and Darlene Wells, 79, have had to live without utilities because the two-track lane to their trailer crosses a few acres of private land between them and the pavement, the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/10LpQwF ) reported.

Skye and Wells heat their home with a small propane heater and heat water on a propane grill. Their bathroom consists of a bucket they take outside to dump and bury the contents. They keep perishable food in a cooler inside a horse trailer parked in the yard. And a lantern provides some light at night.

“I hate to think about another winter. It’s hell, hell, hell. It’s cold, and you can’t do nothing,” Skye said. “I’m getting nervous. It’s nice enough now, but it’s going to be cold.”

A long dispute over a utility easement hasn’t been solved even though a tribal court judge recently ruled in favor of the couple, saying the neighboring landowner did sign an easement agreement. But the order signed by Judge B.J. Jones requires the landowner, Candace Eagle, to provide access. Eagle, however, insists an easement was never signed.

Skye said the original document has disappeared at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He keeps meticulous records and a journal, and now deeply regrets not making a copy of the document that would make life so much different.

The newspaper could not reach Eagle at either of the phone numbers she provided in court records.

The BIA is aware of the dispute. Standing Rock’s BIA superintendent, Sheila White Mountain, and the regional director, Tim LaPointe, recently inspected the couple’s living situation.

White Mountain said the access and utility easements should have been agreed upon before the BIA gave Skye the trailer. She said the former superintendent gave it out of compassion because Skye had been living in the horse trailer.

“But in the meantime, he’s going through someone else’s land,” she said. White Mountain added that she’s aware of the court order, but she is waiting for an opinion on whether a tribal judge has jurisdiction over federal trust land.

Meanwhile, White Mountain added, the BIA and others are looking at alternative routes to get utilities to the couple’s home.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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