Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cherokees Aid Hurricane Victims

Cherokee Nation citizen Dena Standingwater-Hill, who lives in the Houston area, and Brad Wagnon, technical assistance specialist from Cherokee Nation Community and Cultural Outreach, unload donations from the tribe at the Eyes On Me Inc. facility near Katy, Texas.

A Cherokee Nation convoy from Oklahoma delivered hundreds of cases of food, water, clothing and other basic necessities on Monday to Texans in the Houston area who are recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Cherokee associations from across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction in northeast Oklahoma spent two weeks collecting many of the supplies. Members of two Cherokee associations in Texas – the Cherokee Township of San Antonio and the Central Texas Cherokee Township – also donated during a joint community meeting in San Marcos on Sunday.

Cherokee Nation Community and Cultural Outreach employees delivered the donations to three separate entities working under the umbrella of Katy Disaster Response. The tribe’s donations will be dispersed in several Houston communities, including to those in need in the heart of the city.

“My heart swelled after visiting with our Cherokee families in Texas and seeing that their spirits and their sense of community have not been broken,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “In fact, it may be stronger now than it was before this storm. In the face of trials, no matter how big they may be, the Cherokee people help each other rebuild and replace that which was lost. I’m proud of Cherokees from all across the country who have not only donated to relief efforts, but who have also lifted up in prayer the state of Texas and its citizens.”

Cherokee Nation employees have been working on the ground in Texas at various times since Hurricane Harvey. Shortly after the storm struck, a 10-member swift water rescue team from the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service was dispatched to the Houston area to locate and rescue flood victims. They were involved in dozens of rescues during their week-long mission.

Five employees from the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation have been in Houston since Sept. 5 helping repair homes damaged by the storm. The five-man team drives two hours each day to get to the locations of their projects, then drives another two hours back to their hotels. They have worked on half a dozen homes so far and were expected to return to Tahlequah on Tuesday.

Four Indian Health Service Commissioned Corps officers who work for Cherokee Nation Health Services were also on the ground in Texas treating displaced or injured residents in the aftermath of the hurricane.

“The response of the Cherokee people in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is a strong reminder that when we see a challenge, we will help one another no matter where we are and no matter how difficult the task may be,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “I could not be more proud and inspired by the Cherokee Nation, our Cherokee Nation citizens and friends of Cherokees near and far who rose to the occasion to help their brothers and sisters.”

More than 3,000 Cherokee Nation citizens live in the greater Houston area, including Dena Standingwater-Hill, a board member of the Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas. Standingwater-Hill traveled to San Marcos Sunday to meet with Chief Baker, Hoskin, At-Large Tribal Councilors Wanda Hatfield and Mary Baker Shaw, and representatives from neighboring Cherokee associations.

She also helped the Cherokee Nation Community and Cultural Outreach team deliver the supplies to Katy on Monday.

“I know first-hand what happened when the floodwaters came through,” Standingwater-Hill said. “People are in need of everything; they just lost everything. I appreciate what the Cherokee Nation and its people have done. It’s amazing to see how caring they are. I get emotional; I’m very blessed to be Cherokee and to know we have family who cares.”

Aside from food, water and other donations collected by Cherokee community organizations, 80 bales of hay were recently cut from tribal lands in Stilwell, with plans to be delivered to the Houston area soon.

Cherokee Nation Businesses also donated $15,000 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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