04 September 2005

Choctaw Survive Katrina...

Many thanks to the Creator for taking care of the People...


Mississippi Choctaw Hit By Tropical Depression Katrina
© Indian Country Today September 02, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Posted: September 02, 2005
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today

Seminole Tribe of Florida sends emergency crews to offer relief

CHOCTAW, Miss. - The Mississippi Choctaw were hit by Hurricane Katrina as it became a tropical depression, knocking down trees and power lines and cutting off roads as it tore through the central part of Mississippi.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida responded immediately and had an emergency team, including emergency vehicles, police officers and firemen, at the scene, said Gilbert Thompson, executive assistant to Mississippi Choctaw Chairman Phillip Martin.

Mississippi Choctaw established three emergency shelters for tribal members and other evacuees.

''As of Tuesday night [Aug. 30], we still have people in the shelters,'' Thompson told Indian Country Today on Aug. 31.

''By the time it got here, it was a Category 1 tropical depression, but still we have a lot of people without electricity.''

The eight communities of Mississippi Choctaw, comprised of 9,700 tribal members, were struggling to recover from the winds two days later.

Mississippi Choctaw were assessing the damage and had not received reports from the Choctaw community of Boguehoma, near the city of Hattisburg which was hard hit by Katrina. ''We haven't received any details from that community. A lot of things are still sketchy right now,'' Thompson said.

''We're not aware of any injuries, but there's a lot of outages in terms of power.''

Without electricity, public schools were closed, most telephones were out and refrigerated food in cafeterias was spoiling because of lengthy power outages, he said.

The tribe's hotels, the Silver Star Resort and Casino and Golden Moon Hotel and Casino, were packed with evacuees and others riding out the hurricane and the resulting storm damage.

''Fortunately, the storm got weaker when it got in this area: we are just lucky. A lot of people are sitting at home right now until their electricity comes back on.''

Still, he said, it could be as long as two weeks before electricity is restored to remote homes, which are also without telephone service.

Eva Cain, public information officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Department of Emergency Services, located in the Hollywood area in southern Florida, said an emergency team was deployed as soon as Katrina struck the Southeast coast Aug. 29. The Seminole's emergency team includes 11 firefighters, Emergency Services Director Armando Negrin and the department's assistant director.

Arriving with their Trauma Hawk fire truck and an ambulance rescue unit with advanced life support, the Seminole emergency team struggled through roads closed by downed trees to reach the Mississippi Choctaw.

''A lot of the roads were closed down,'' Cain said.

''Our main concern is there are tribal communities over there. We're happy to assist in the recovery effort. We're hoping our skills can be of assistance. We'll be there as long as they need us,'' Cain told ICT.

Thompson said, as in previous emergencies, the American Red Cross is also helping meet the needs of tribal members and others in Katrina's path. He encouraged those who want to help hurricane and storm victims to donate to the Red Cross.

CNN's Anderson Cooper, struggling to make his way to Gulfport, Miss., described his stay in one of the Choctaw's casino hotels and the biscuits and gravy being served.

Cooper, loading up with Gatorade and beef jerky, said everyone in the area was searching for gas, water and food during and immediately after the storm. He nearly ran out of gas as he reached the tribe's hotel at 1:30 a.m.

''The main roads have been shut down. Right now we are trying to find out what road is open. We're trying to move our big truck.

''We're in the midst of what everyone else is facing in terms of trying to get gas and food and ice,'' said Cooper, who was surprised when he reconnected with cousins clearing the road of downed trees with chain saws.

''Along these back roads in Mississippi, you have local residents who are coming out with chain saws and clearing the roads with their neighbors.''

Mississippi Choctaw, whose language was used by the code talkers during World War II, today operate a diverse range of manufacturing, service, retail and tourism enterprises.

Throughout Mississippi, the Southeast and even Mexico, the tribe provides more than 8,000 permanent, full-time jobs for tribal members and others. The enterprises include an automotive manufacturing firm in Sonora, Mexico.

With an annual payroll of more than $123.7 million, the tribe is one of the 10 largest employers in Mississippi. In addition, tribal revenues have helped the Choctaw to reinvest more than $210 million in economic development projects in Mississippi, according to the tribe.


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