AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
An aerial view of a portion of the destruction caused by an EF-5 tornado that slammed Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013.

Oklahoma Tornado Destroyed 20 Indian Families’ Homes; Tribes Mobilize Relief

Suzette Brewer
May 24, 2013

As it emerged that the homes of 20 American Indian families had been destroyed in Moore, Oklahoma, earlier this week, tribes across Oklahoma and the nation began gathering resources in support of disaster relief efforts in Moore and the surrounding communities.

At the close of a week that began with one of the worst tornado disasters in U.S. history—an E5 that reduced a 17-mile-long, two-mile-wide swathe of the Oklahoma City suburb to rubble—dozens of other families were also displaced and forced to find emergency shelter as the cleanup effort began.

On Monday May 20 the Oklahoma City area was still reeling from a spate of tornadoes that had run through Norman, Shawnee, Little Axe and other communities on the weekend of May 18–19, killing at least two people. (Related: Tornadoes Slice Through Midwest, Threatening Indian Country)

Monday’s tornado killed 10 children, seven of them at Plaza Towers Elementary School, and 14 adults. It leveled that school and another elementary school and took out a new hospital, in addition to flattening dozens of neighborhoods and leaving scores of families homeless. (Related: More Than 50 Dead as Tornado Decimates Moore, Oklahoma, Hometown of Rep. Tom Cole, and Levels School)

Oklahoma's tribal governments, many of whom have their own mass transit and EMS divisions, are on standby with offers of assistance as local emergency management teams assess and prioritize their most immediate needs.

“The Cherokee Nation is in constant contact with emergency management teams in the area, and we have offered every available resource to assist with rescue, recovery and ongoing support,” said Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “Teams of volunteers, including the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, first responders, Cherokee Nation employees and our Cherokee Nation Businesses entities, are ready and standing by. However great the need, it will be met. We stand committed to our fellow Oklahomans and will do everything in our power to help lift them up during this time of immense tragedy.”

The Oklahoma area office of the Indian Health Services has also helped by organizing two deliveries of medical supplies to the Moore site, according to John Farris, the service’s regional director.

“But we will also be going out to Shawnee on Saturday to assist with cleanup and recovery of the smaller communities,” said Farris. “We don't want to forget the smaller areas that were hit last Sunday. They also need our help.”

The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is working with the Choctaw Nation’s triage team.

"We'll be providing immunizations, including tetanus and so forth, along with behavioral health services and grief counseling," said David Toahty, chief development officer of the Indian clinic. "We will also be providing long term services to any member of the community who needs it."

The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference Disaster Relief Team is also helping to provide direct support, care and assistance to American Indian victims of disasters. Those seeking assistance or wanting to help can call 918-724-1966 or 405-632-2006. Donations can also be made via the group’s website. Checks can be mailed to The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, 3020 S. Harvey, OKC. OK 73109, Attn: Disaster Relief.

The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma also began the process of identifying and assisting its tribal members in the disaster region. On Saturday May 25 the Kiowa Tribe will be at the Glorietta Baptist Church at 7308 South Western Avenue, just north of 1-240, with assistance, information and supplies for its tribal members. Kiowa tribal employees will be there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a cookout and to feed victims and their families from 1p.m. or until the food is gone.

The Kiowa will also be accepting emergency supplies, including water, Gatorade, boots, backpacks, nonperishable food items, gloves, diapers, wipes, toiletries, trash bags, plastic trash bins w/lids, stuffed animals and pet food.

Across the country, other tribes have also joined in the effort with disaster relief and financial assistance. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota sent nearly 3,000 bottles of fresh water, while the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut has donated the proceeds of any ticket sales of its WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun, sold between May 21 and 25 in the home opener against the New York Liberty at the Mohegan Sun casino.

Related: President Obama to Oklahoma: Every Resource Is at Your Disposal



Holly Gomez's picture
Holly Gomez
Submitted by Holly Gomez on

I am a disabled artist , I take part of the money i make and donate to non profit orgs that benefit children. I want to help in the OK disaster for my people. I will call and set something up. I am hoping to have my art in a gallery and maybe a Mexican Restaurant . I have also thought of making some T shirts with my paintings on them for sale . of which one half would go to this org. please contact me . Ah-Ho. and blessings .

Submitted by surrealisto on

In my mind, this only goes to prove how well adapted the traditional way of life was on the prairie, and how inferior the "new ways" are. Indians once could just pack up the lodge poles & belongings and make an escape in an opposite direction. The "permanent residence" way of life in the Midwest will always be threatened by the whims of prairie and Gulf climate. All buildings should be required to have underground shelter, at very east, and public shelters available in large townships. But my point remains- mobility was the key to our ancestors' survival, and the justifications are still just as valid.


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