Saturday, December 18, 2010

Native Americans and EM

One of my Grandmothers taught on an Indian Reservation at the beginning of the last century. She also told tales of Indian relationships first in her childhood hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin and then in the Dakotas. Amazing woman and three time train tripper to DC to march as a sufferagette. Long married at that point.

Anyhow this is about the Native Americans and their continued problems and also American problems in EM.

First the background from a recent article that prompted this blog:

"According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Poverty and Income Estimates for 2009, the 10 U.S. counties with the highest percentages of their population living in poverty are:

1. Ziebach County, S.D. – 62 percent of residents in poverty

2. Crowley County, Colo. – 53 percent

3. Shannon County, S.D. – 51.6 percent

4. Holmes County, Miss. - 48.4 percent

5. Issaquena County, Miss. - 45.5 percent

6. Todd County, S.D. – 45.3 percent

7. Martin County, Ky. – 45 percent

8. East Carroll Parish, La. – 44.3 percent

9. Humphreys County, Miss. – 44.3 percent

10. Clay County, Ky – 43.3 percent

The national average was 14.4 percent (rounded).

Three of these counties (Ziebach, Shannon and Todd) are located largely within the Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations in South Dakota; four (Holmes, Issaquena, East Carroll and Humphreys) are in Mississippi and Louisiana, while two (Martin and Clay) contain towns in which coal mining still is or has been the major industry."

Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act the recognized tribes [recognized by the Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs] are treated as LOCAL GOVERNMENTS and funded through the grants that go to the STATES for disaster relief. I was never given a cut at this issue but I believe despite the regulation it is incorrect and because legally the Tribes when recognized have some sovereign status under US treaty, law, judicial decision and history they should be directly funded the same as the STATEs. Well my point is not disaster funding. Although I must state that I several times tried to get Directors of FEMA to sign off on creating a specifically dedicated Office for Native American Affairs and while getting former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado interested in the issue it never became policy or was established by law.

Many who have worked the issues relating to the fire hazards in the wildland/urban interface are well aware of the brave men and women who fight those fires, including Native Americans. My thought is why not give the Indian Nations more than casinos and a gambling basis that can undermine the dignity even of those who make money off of that business. For background see CASINO JACK. When I left the ARMY in 1970 and returned to DC about 7 firms specialized in Indian Affairs issues and none were huge. Today in DC over 50 law firms have some dedication to the Indian Tribes and mostly over gambling and casino issues.

I would provide training and education for willing tribal members in EM and initially many of those might even become DAE's in FEMAs disaster cadre. I doubt very many Native Americans are in that cadre now.

At one time the leading factory for dosimetry was located in Rolla, North Dakota and staffed and runned by Native Americans under GSA auspices. Today after heavy lobbying to take away that factory from the Native Americans dosimetery is now a totally private and totally inadquately run and managed enterprise.

The efforts on behalf of Native Americans was not without costs to FEMA staffers. Without a Native American office the issues involving that population ususally arose because of events or special concerns and backgrounds of FEMA permanent staff. Several who relied on Department of Interior designations, which is required by law, saw their careers adversely impacted because FEMA RD's or even higher punished them career wise for following the law.

It happens that Juliette Kayem, a Lebanese American, now runs the Intergovernmental Section of DHS that once was housed in FEMA for the whole department. It was moved to a direct report to the Secretary DHS by an enacted appropriation bill several years ago. I strongly recommend that Office create a subgroup of specialists on Indian Affairs and perhaps memory fails me but some statutory blessing to such an office now exists.

My point is one of my reoccurring themes. Just as the unemployed and disabled might be viewed as assets for EM and given training and education and perhaps even a small stipend for developing their EM skills I would also focus on the Native Americans and what they could bring to the EM table.

Perhaps this post derives from many visits as a child to Minnehaha Falls near Minneapolis.