When Hurricane Sandy made landfall, devastating parts of New Jersey and New York, the American Red Cross disaster response effort utilized diverse partnerships to reach out to many different communities in need. The Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Long Island, an 800-acre reservation, home for the federally recognized Indian Nation, consisting of approximately 150 homes, 1,400 residents and numerous businesses, was among these communities.
Shinnecock Indian Reservation Partnership
The homes, shoreline enterprises and sacred cemetery of the Shinnecock Indian Nation had suffered severe damages and destruction from Hurricane Sandy’s raging winds and salty flood waters.
Seeing enormous challenges facing the Shinnecock people, Tribal Chairman Randy King reached out for assistance. On a National Tribal Assistance Coordination Group (TAC-G) conference call–sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and facilitated by the Department of the Interior—Red Cross representatives asked how they could help.
The Red Cross response was immediate in the form of Cruz Ponce. Ponce, King and others quickly identified their needs—shelter, meals, blankets, generators, diesel fuel and kerosene.
The Red Cross established a shelter that offered meals, warmth and relief supplies. In addition, the Red Cross provided supplies to the Tribal Hall warming center where people sought comfort and shelter. FEMA and the National Guard responded to the fuel and generator needs. Tribal members volunteered around the clock to accompany emergency response vehicles to various locations and identify residents’ needs.
Committed to Serving Diverse Communities
The Red Cross’ culturally competent action, service, and delivery are attributed to years of relationship building between tribal representatives and FEMA representatives through the Red Cross Disaster Services Native Community Partnerships Initiative. The group meets monthly to support the development of 19 projects designed to increase the resiliency of Indian Country in the U.S.
“It really helps to have Red Cross present and visible even before disasters occur and equally helpful to partner with others in order to expand our reach,” Cruz said. “As we provide services – whatever they are – it’s important that we form a lasting impression of a Red Cross that respects tribal culture.”
Motivated by their mantra "Strength and Spirit", the initiative creates materials supporting local tribal outreach and coordination projects before and after a disaster. From local mass care capacity building projects, to Tribal Preparedness programs and Tribal Disaster Action Team development, they aspire to provide better services to all Tribal Nations.
Over the years they have generated many tools, such as Tribal Relations training to a Tribal MOU model. They have also hosted successful pow-wows, which has opened the gates of communication and given them an opportunity to offer Red Cross services and have regular engagement with Tribal Nations. The initiative also helped open the doors of communication between FEMA's Special Advisor on National Tribal Affairs and other Tribal representatives and experts.
Cruz hopes to see this partnership model adopted in all of the work the Red Cross does with diverse communities. ”Success in delivering our services becomes easy when things are in place,” he said.
Learn more about the Corporate Diversity commitment of the Red Cross.