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Oklahoma Awakes to Grim New Reality as Recovery Efforts Begin

[node:summary]Oklahoma awoke to grim new reality with 27 dead, nine of them children, in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore from a monster tornado.

As Oklahoma awoke to a devastating new reality—inasmuch as anyone had slept at all, that is—on the morning of Tuesday, May 21, the stirrings of recovery were evident, though communities were just beginning to assess the damage.

The two-mile-wide, 22-mile path that Monday’s tornado cut through Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, mowed down two elementary schools and a new hospital. It ripped apart neighborhood upon neighborhood, reducing homes and businesses to rubble. Combined with tornadoes that had occurred over the previous weekend, the damage was extensive, too, in Bethel Acres, Edmond, Shawnee, Carney, Newcastle and Little Axe. (Related: More Than 50 Dead as Tornado Decimates Moore, Oklahoma, Hometown of Rep. Tom Cole, and Levels School)

As of Tuesday afternoon, the estimated dead in Moore alone stood at 27, with more than 200 injuries reported. At least 21 Oklahoma counties were expected to be declared emergency disaster areas. As of Monday President Barack Obama had declared the counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie as disaster areas. (Related: President Obama to Oklahoma: Every Resource Is at Your Disposal)

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation, whose tribal complex is located in the Shawnee area, was one tribal jurisdiction affected. The nation’s police department was assisting with rescue efforts, and the nation’s emergency management department provided food and water to first responders, according to a press release on the tribe’s website.

“We are working with the Red Cross, the City of Shawnee and county officials to make sure they know we are standing by help however we can,” emergency services coordinator Tim Zientek stated.

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Little Axe is within the Absentee Shawnee Tribe’s jurisdiction and lies east of Norman. Sherman Tiger, the media representative for the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, told Indian Country Today Media Network that its Resource Center in Little Axe has been opened to the Red Cross, as has a multipurpose building in the Little Axe area.

Tiger also said that tribal members have been uniting to help those in the area who sustained damage to their homes. By Sherman’s count, at least seven families of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe have been directly affected.

Other tribes in Oklahoma have been pulling their resources together to help, even if the tornadoes did not touch down within their tribal jurisdiction. The Creek Nation, headquartered in Okmulgee on the eastern side of the state, has been accepting donations at its public relations office to pass on to the American Red Cross. LuAnn Bear, Creek Nation public relations representative, said the department will also donate $1,000 toward relief efforts.

On the Chickasaw Nation, whose tribal jurisdiction includes the city of Newcastle—yet another community affected by Monday's twister—is also working with the Red Cross. The Chickasaw Nation Search and Rescue team is helping the Red Cross manage shelters in the area, media relations director Tony Choate told ICTMN by e-mail.

The Chickasaw Nation is also organizing blood drives at the following locations: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 at Riverwind Casino near Norman; from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday May 24 at the Remington Race Park in Oklahoma City, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday May 25 at Newcastle Casino.