Answering the Call When Disaster Strikes on the Reservations

   By Helen Oliff

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we all must be ready for anything! This is easier said than done for some families, such as Native Americans living in rural reservation communities. These tribal communities are impacted significantly when any kind of disaster happens, be it weather emergency or pandemic, because they’re facing geographic isolation and continuous lack of access to even the necessities. On top of that, when something major happens, Native communities face a longer recovery period – months to years – than other communities across America because they start from a poverty threshold.

In 2021, Hurricane Ida endangered Native Americans living in southern Louisiana as it destroyed their homes, disrupted their culture and left many without the financial means to recover. Because of your past generosity, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) had its warehouses stocked and quickly transported three separate deliveries to mitigate the impact, including one shipment with over $590,000 worth of emergency supplies through our Native American Aid (NAA) program.  

Also in 2021, we responded to a water shortage impacting the Northern Cheyenne in Montana and two wildfires impacting the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Hays, Montana. As the coronavirus spread, PWNA and NAA provided more than $1.9 million in COVID relief, bringing nonperishable food, water, PPE and other essentials to thousands of members of the Northern Plains tribes. Today, we continue to receive requests from our tribal partners for COVID relief.

The increased frequency and severity of natural disasters such as tornadoes, blizzards and wildfires are leaving Indigenous citizens without access to food, water and electricity. Having a 3-day emergency kit of extra food, water, medications and batteries does little to shore up families in need. So having our warehouses stocked and ready is crucial as a first responder for the reservations, but we need your help to do this. A donation ahead of time can make all the difference when the next disaster strikes.  

Who knows when the next fire, flood or pandemic will happen? We do know this: To answer the call, we must prepare before it happens! We’ll need to distribute at least 350,000 pounds of emergency supplies by this time next year, and we’re calling on you to help us be ready for what’s to come. Please donate today.  

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