Hurricane Sandy Passes, Tribes Begin Assessing Damage
As the Eastern Seaboard sorted out the devastation from the worst storm in U.S.–recorded history, tribes affected by the winds, tidal surge and rain of Hurricane Sandy assessed damage and called for assistance.
Parts of New York City and environs were devastated by the storm, which left millions without power and killed nearly 50 people, the Associated Press reported. A fire in Breezy Point, Queens, destroyed 80 houses, and the southern half of Manhattan Island, where the Lenape once lived, was without electricity. The transit system was shut down indefinitely, and both the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Con Edison, the main utility company, called it an unprecedented disaster.
Reports were trickling in from the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Mohegan Tribe of Indians and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, all members of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), and the Lenape tribes of Delaware and New Jersey were also still checking in with one another late Tuesday.
“Widespread power outage, downed utility lines, and mobile phone towers out are making communications difficult for some tribes,” USET said in a press release on Tuesday October 30.
On Sunday the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Mohegan Tribe of Indians and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation had declared states of emergency. The Shinnecock Indian Nation was completely evacuated after losses of power, Internet and cable even before the storm hit on Sunday.
“Shinnecock, out on Long Island in New York is reporting all power is down, damage to several homes, and homes that are still standing have flooding,” USET said after the storm. “Shinnecock is also requesting a large number of generators, fuel and food.”
Several Indian Health Service clinics were closed, USET said, though inland clinics from Seneca up to Micmac were open.
More updates were coming following an afternoon conference call with the Tribal Assistance Coordination Group (TAC-G), a group of U.S. Government agencies that cooperate on emergency management for the 560 federally recognized tribes as well as American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific and Atlantic Islanders, USET said.
The Shinnecock reservation is on the water in Southampton, Long Island, less than a mile from the beach. The tribes of Delaware and New Jersey may have fared a bit better because they front the bay, not the ocean directly, said Pastor John Norwood, a tribal council member of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape.
“When we heard it was coming, our tribal council began immediately canceling our weekly events,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network. Aside from some basement flooding, he added,“we haven’t had any damage to our facilities.”
The three communities around Delaware Bay comprise the Nanticoke-Lenape, a confederation between the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation in New Jersey, the Central Delaware Lenape Indian Tribe and the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, the latter two in Delaware. About 4,000 enrolled members stood to be affected, Norwood said, 2,000 in New Jersey and 1,500 in the two Delaware communities.
“The community in New Jersey is on the bay closer to the mouth of the Delaware River, kind of away from the New Jersey Atlantic Ocean coastline but is on the Delaware Bay,” he said. “We’re all pretty close to a coastline but it’s the bay. So we’re not right on the ocean itself.”
For the most part, the news seemed good for the Lenape tribes, Norwood said.
“Facilities closest to the bay for our tribe seem to have weathered the storm,” he said. “We haven’t gotten any information about major damage. Our community center seems to have weathered the storm.”
Some people had evacuated, moving to higher ground with neighbors or family, though Norwood didn’t have firm numbers because many of them were without power.
“I did receive word back from the two communities in Delaware,” Norwood said on Sunday evening by e-mail. “Both indicated that there was minor flooding, downed trees, and some scattered power outages. Apparently, our position in regard to the Atlantic spared us from the worst of it.”
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