From small towns to big cities, American Red Cross volunteers are recognized for their effective work with disaster response in local communities across the nation. However, the depth of their desire to work with all communities and people, specifically in Oklahoma, may run deeper than some might think.
“The Native people are as much a part of this land as the land itself,” says Chele Rider, the Division Disaster State Relations Director for the Red Cross in Oklahoma and Arkansas. “They have been practicing preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation here and around the world for thousands of years to protect the tribe and provide for its survival. There is a lot we can learn from the Nations and their traditions. With one of the largest per capita native populations in the country, partnership is integral and mandatory for successful Disaster Cycle Services.”
Considering disaster preparedness is a priority for many after the May 2013 destructive tornado season, people are looking to install shelters in the case of future tornados. With the Red Cross, Native American Tribal Nations are certainly not exempt from this crucial element in preparedness. Currently, five tribes are eligible to receive grants for the establishment of shelters, with some programs pending approval and others awaiting construction. These tribes include: the Seminole Nation, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, the Caddo Nation, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. As safety and tornado preparedness is a high priority for anyone living in Oklahoma, Tribal Nations are responding very positively to this opportunity.
“The grant assistance allowing us to furnish 92 tribal households with a storm shelter is very important as some of the tribal members have been on a waiting list for years in the hopes that one day the Tribe would be able to provide them one,” says Linda Day, the Emergency Manager for the Absentee Shawnee Tribe. “We are a smaller tribe and have not had the resources to make that happen. We have had two major tornadoes that affected our tribe and that has made the need for storm shelters a high priority. This opportunity provided by Red Cross is very important as it will definitely promote life safety, prevent injuries and save lives.”
“The severe weather events of May 18th through June 2nd of 2013 disrupted the lives of several Seminole National Tribal Members and came to close to comfort for others,” says Mickey Douglas, Emergency Manager for the Seminole Nation. “These storms changed the way tribal members think and act with respect to severe weather and especially tornado preparation. Having these Red Cross funds to install storm shelters for our people will provide them with a sense of protection and a peace of mind that they have never had before.”
While the Red Cross is definitely making progress with disaster preparedness, they have also been recognized for their involvement with tribal nation disaster relief in recent years. After a December 2013 ice storm, the Choctaw Nation was able to initially respond to peoples’ needs by setting up two shelters stocked with some supplies; however, with deteriorating road conditions hindering the delivery of extra necessities, the Red Cross was ushered in for help. Soon, the Red Cross was on the scene delivering cots for shelters in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief’s meal distribution setup and the Salvation Army.
“Ultimately, we were able to provide over 3000 meals and shelter approximately 30 people throughout the event because of the partnership with American Red Cross,” says Jeff Hansen, Emergency Manager for the Choctaw Nation.
The American Red Cross values its relationship with the tribal nations in Oklahoma, and it looks forward to further developing a future of successful disaster preparation, prevention, and recovery efforts. For more information about the Red Cross please visit www.Redcross.org. Join the Red Cross as a volunteer today at www.redcross.org/volunteer.