Disaster Relief by a First Responder for the Reservations
Disaster strikes, and PWNA responds with emergency relief for tribes adversely affected by environmental situations. In these situations — through its various programs such as Southwest Reservation Aid, Navajo Relief Fund, Southwest Indian Relief Council and Northern Plains Reservation Aid — PWNA provides immediate disaster relief such as nonperishable foods, water, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products requested by its reservation partners.
But, I’d like to bring attention to three particular cases that occurred in 2016 – each one affecting lives and homes for the Lumbee Tribe, United Houma Nation or the Bad River Tribe over the past few months – each well beyond PWNA’s regular service area.
Going first to North Carolina, in October, Hurricane Matthew made landfall and the Lumbee Tribe was hit hard by flooding, with approximately 50,000 people affected. Residents were evacuated and many families were left “homeless or without electricity, and businesses were destroyed…” By October 11, emergency aid was requested from PWNA to assist families with clean up and displacement from their homes. PWNA was first contacted for aid by the American Red Cross, on behalf of the tribe, and responded with about $630,000 in critical supplies, including more than 25,000 pounds of food. The Walmart Foundation supported PWNA in this effort, providing $25,000 worth of supplies. Local residents impacted with longer term needs may apply for FEMA aid.
Moving on to Louisiana in August, severe storms caused widespread flooding that impacted the United Houma Nation. The flooding led to the destruction of homes, displacement of families and loss of vehicles and personal effects for up to 250 tribal citizens. The tribe requested food, water and cleaning supplies. PWNA responded with $1.2M in aid, including more than 36,000 pounds of food and coordinated relief efforts with the American Red Cross who supplied about $65,000 worth of water. On a September 28 follow-up call with Chief Thomas Dardar, he noted, “every product was a great quality product and everything sent was needed and appreciated. The blankets in particular were so appreciated by the Elders.”
Finally, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Wisconsin experienced heavy rains in July that led to widespread flooding. Several counties were named in disaster declarations, including Ashland County – home of the Bad River Tribe. Four of the tribe’s main communities were affected, with 590 homes either damaged or destroyed, roadways washed out and utilities disrupted. Some residents were without electricity, others were under advisories to boil water for home use, and many lost their food due to power outages – restoration was slow as each home was subject to individual inspection. PWNA responded with more than 100,000 pounds of food, as well as emergency blankets and cleaning supplies, and coordinated the local distribution through the Bad River Community Center in Odanah, Wisconsin.
A national member of VOAD – Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster – PWNA provides emergency relief to reservations within its 12-state service area. As a state member of VOAD in Arizona, South Dakota and Montana, PWNA concentrates its emergency relief in these areas but evaluates other disasters on a case by case basis, if requested by the tribe.
Life on the reservation has its hardships every day, but when disaster strikes, it can bring extended hardship to geographically-isolated and economically-stressed communities. Fortunately, many partners know PWNA as a first responder for the reservations and PWNA is often the first organization that reservation programs call for disaster relief.