Unprecedented Flooding Hits First Nations Hard
North Dakota tribes have been affected by ongoing flooding since February of this year. On May 10, President Obama declared the North Dakota flooding a major disaster, which opened up Federal funding to state and local governments for emergency work and repair or replacement of facilities in nearly 40 localities, including the Spirit Lake Nation, the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Reservation where we work.
Indian Country Today Media Network also reported about the Peguis Nation flooding as one of at least 50 reservations that are prone to flooding. In addition to the short-term challenges of weathering a flood, repeated flooding can be especially problematic for tribes. This brings into focus that repeated recovery funding from state and federal entities is not automatic and not always quick. Please watch our video on the misconceptions around disaster funding for some tribes.
In 2005, hurricane Katrina and Rita hit hard the tribal lands along the Louisiana coastline and caused Bayou flooding. During the time, the focus was largely on the damages in New Orleans. In September 2008, hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit the same region again, this time turning even more tribal land into open waters. NRC Program Partners in several Bayou tribes described the problem of not having a sufficient land base to relocate an entire tribe and not having all tribal members willing to relocate because their livelihoods depend on the coastal waters. Similarly, one of our education partners in Alaska told us about the evacuation and relocation happening with rural villages there, because global warming has made a subsistence living impossible.
Being prone to flooding is also a concern for the Havasupai Tribe, the traditional guardians of the Grand Canyon for hundreds of years. When heavy rains lead to a breached dam and Supai flooding forced evacuation of tribal members, they were able to temporarily seek respite with the Hualapai, their sister tribe at the Canyon rim. This is not the first time lives were put at risk due to Canyon flooding. National Relief Charities was able to respond to the North Dakota, Supai, and Bayou flooding through our disaster relief service, which is available to every tribe in our service area.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of North Dakota and Canada. We encourage folks again to watch our video and get informed about some of the special challenges reservation residents face in disaster situations.