The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas survived another natural disaster as Hurricane Ike blew through our reservation and left a mark on our tribe.
This storm was much larger in scale compared to Hurricane Rita, which affected our tribal family three years ago. The tribe is located in the Big Thicket of Deep East Texas, and we are very proud of our large, award-winning trees. During the heavy winds and rain, many of our trees knocked down power lines and blocked roads, causing many tribal members to be trapped in their homes.
Precautions were taken before the storm to ensure the safety of our elders and special-needs patients; they were evacuated to an Indian Baptist Encampment in Canadian, Okla. Great care and hospitality were shown to our tribal members while in Oklahoma by the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Eufala Indian Community and the Cherokee Nation. Before landfall, the tribal council declared a mandatory evacuation for all tribal members to protect their families. Those tribal members that were unable to evacuate were strongly encouraged to stay in our designated emergency shelter. All of these precautions could only partially prepare us for the devastation that was to come.
More than a week and a half has passed since the storm hit, and our tribe has worked together to help each other get through this disaster. Our young children have gotten rakes, hoes and shovels to help clean up areas around their youth building and our emergency shelter. Our older youth have volunteered at our distribution site passing out water, ice, and MREs. All families are coming together to clean each other’s yards, and are working to clean out refrigerators and freezers because we still have no electricity on parts of the reservation.
This is a tough time for the tribe, but we have been blessed by the generous amount of support from federal and state agencies, and other tribes across the country. United South and Eastern Tribes has been helpful in passing along requests on behalf of the tribe. The BIA has been very helpful by supplying wildland fire crews to cut trees around tribal lands. BIA law enforcement officers were also sent to assist our exhausted tribal security officers, who worked hard to control an influx of evacuees passing through our reservation. The IHS has been helpful by supplying generators for our emergency shelter and clinic, and they have also made a priority to assist the tribe receive medication that were damaged due to lack of electricity. The tribe is also working with the Texas Forest Service, FEMA and the National Park Service to receive assistance.
Three years ago, during Hurricane Rita, the tribe could not have overcome the devastation without the support of many tribes throughout the country. Several tribes have already offered assistance and support. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Chitimacha Tribe, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Poarch Band of Creek Indians have been extremely generous in their support.
Our tribe could not have prepared for the financial impact that Hurricane Ike has placed on many of our families. Most of our families had to throw out large amounts of food, so keeping our tribal members fed has been of utmost importance for the tribal leadership.
The tribe will also be repairing homes that suffered damage from the storm. We are a strong tribe and we will overcome this tragic disaster, but with a humble heart we must ask for assistance and prayer in our time of need.
Several tribal homes began receiving power late last week, but we still have homes without electricity. The tribe suffered tree damage, caused by more than 14 hours of hurricane winds and rain, which will take months and possibly years to recover from. Our tribe was blessed to have made it through the storm without any injuries or loss of homes; now we are preparing to begin the rebuilding process. We will overcome this storm, but please keep the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in your prayers.
Donations graciously accepted at Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Hurricane Relief Fund, 571 State Park Road 56, Livingston, TX 77351. AI-le-la-mo-10 (Thank you).
– Carlos Bullock
Tribal Council Chairman
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas