Katrina's Forgotten Victims: Native American Tribes
By C. Stone Brown
© 2005 DiversityInc.com
September 09, 2005
The early news headlines for Hurricane Katrina highlighted some black New Orleans residents "taking" goods from businesses. Days later, the coverage shifted from "looting" to sympathetic coverage of black evacuees and criticism of President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But despite the constant media coverage, Native Americans have become Katrina's forgotten victims.
Native American tribes that stretch across the Gulf States of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi affected by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina largely have been ignored.
"What we are hearing is there has been no contact or minimum contact with most of the tribes," said Robert Holden, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), who estimates there are several thousand Native Americans living in the hurricane's path. But like other news accounts regarding the dead, there are no firm numbers on the death toll.
What we do know is there are at least six federally recognized tribes located in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. They include the Poarch Band Creek in Alabama, Coushatta India Tribe, Jena Band of Choctaw and Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in Louisiana, and the Chitimacha Tribe and the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi.
Although communications with the tribes has been very limited, Holden said there was one particular tribal area near in Chalmette, La., that had a gruesome story. "This tribal representative said they were using Chalmette High School as a morgue. Evidently, they are in proximity to New Orleans, and they have heard from no one in five or six days."
Chalmette is located approximately nine miles east of New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish, one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina.
"They were inundated with water, completely washed away, not only their homes, but their livelihood … fisherman, shrimpers, folks who everything they had was destroyed," said Holden.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians remains unreachable by phone; however, news reports indicate power outages on the reservation with evacuees seeking shelter at the tribal hotels, according to the NCAI.
The Native American community has taken action. Instead of waiting for relief efforts by local, state and federal government officials, the NCIA has teamed with the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) to raise relief funds for Native American tribes in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
The goal is to raise at least $1 million. NIGA started the fundraising effort by contributing $5,000. "The word is beginning to go out … many tribes have already implemented relief efforts. Some have sent trained responders, police, law-enforcement folks," said Holden.
For more information on the NCAI relief fund, go to <http://www.ncai.org>www.ncai.org <http://www.ncai.org>.
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