Disaster Response for State of Emergency on Montana Reservations

The winter of 2018 has been relentless in Montana, bringing extreme cold, heavy snow and blizzard conditions. So, when Montana Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency for the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne Reservations, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) knew requests for emergency response were soon to follow.

A month earlier, the Blackfeet had already declared a state of emergency on their reservation, and it was still in effect. Located near Glacier Park and the town of Browning, Montana, schools were closed for days on end and high winds had caused huge snow drifts that shut down travel at times – making it difficult for residents to shop for food and other essentials – and impacting animals, as well.

On March 1, Roy Crawford, our program partner from the Blackfeet Food Bank, called PWNA requesting supplies for 500 households in Browning and Heart Butte, in need of items such as blankets, water, bread, baby formula and diapers, toilet paper and personal hygiene items. PWNA coordinated delivery of supplies to the food bank warehouse on March 20 when the roads became passible, with support of the UPS Foundation.

On March 12, Patricia Ramos, our program partner from the Environmental Health Office (Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health), requested similar supplies for 600 households in Birney, Busby, Lame Deer, Ashland and Muddy Creek. In this case, the Northern Cheyenne picked up the supplies from PWNA’s distribution center in Rapid City, South Dakota on the same day.

Roy and Patricia shared this feedback:

“The supplies that PWNA sent made a huge impact. We were able to help Browning and Babb communities, and Heart Butte next. 500 individuals were served. Our southern communities were hit the worst, and plow crews were stretched pretty thin. Some families were stuck longer than 14 days due to drifting snow and help was not getting to them. Snow mobiles were utilized by law enforcement and Game, Fish and Parks to help us get the PWNA products to the homes.” — Roy Crawford

“In collaboration with PWNA, we were able to obtain the much needed resources to help our community. The quick response and working together to get the products from Rapid City to here was great. By having the items readily available, we were able to distribute them quickly to those most in need. We have a high population of low income families here; some were already without power, All of the PWNA products were well received.” — Patricia Ramos

PWNA’s goal as a first responder for the reservations is to provide a rapid response to remote reservation communities that request emergency aid and to raise mainstream awareness for much needed support. When weather and other events arise in communities that are already economically-stressed, it can bring extended hardship and challenge. PWNA partners like Roy and Patricia turn to PWNA during these times because they know we can quickly mobilize to provide emergency supplies for immediate impact. Through our programs — Northern Plains Reservation Aid, and Native American Aid — PWNA provides emergency relief in our 12-state service area and evaluates other disasters on a case by case basis, if requested by the tribe.

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