First by air, now by sea; Seminole Tribe boosts relief effort as new storm forms
Sandra Hale Schulman
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has airlifted some 35,000 cases of bottled water over the past five days. Now relief efforts are moving to the sea in light of rapidly changing weather conditions.
Tribal spokesman Gary Bitner says for the past five days water was trucked using Seminole Gaming vehicles and then flown to the Bahamas by Sheltair Aviation. Now it’s being loaded onto shipping containers and shipped by boat.
The urgent delivery took a turn Friday when the government of the Bahamas issued a tropical storm warning for the region. The Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island and New Providence are expecting tropical storm conditions, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The new storm first referred to as “potential tropical cyclone nine” which later became Tropical Storm Humberto, may produce total rain accumulations of two to four inches and maximum sustained winds near 30 mph through Sunday with as much as seven inches in the northwest and the central Bahamas. This is frightening news for the islands that experienced such massive devastation and flooding earlier this month.
The storm will then continue across the short distance over the Atlantic to Florida hitting the Southeast coast at Broward County where the Seminole Tribe headquarters is located in Hollywood and the airport and seaport in Ft. Lauderdale, potentially hampering efforts by sea and air to bring in supplies.
The tribal council will be meeting next week after the storm has passed to re-evaluate relief efforts and the best ways to provide them.
the tribe’s aviation department had been making three roundtrip flights a day since last week with two helicopters and a single-engine Pilatus PC-12/45 airplane. Deliveries were made in cooperation with the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which operates the Grand Bahama International Airport at Freeport.
“The Seminole Tribe has a long and important history with the people of the Bahamas, and we are committed to helping them in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian,” said Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr.
First Nations businessman Ken Hill from Six Nations in Canada — who owns property in the Bahamas — has been aiding the Seminoles, by sending three jets last Wednesday evening loaded with supplies.
Hill says he “knows a lot of people and a lot of close friends, almost like brothers and sisters” there and that “this is the worst storm they have ever endured.” The Six Nations water is coming from Wahta Natural Springs Water, a company in Wahta Mohawk territory that is owned by Grand River Enterprises.
Hill secured three jets that carried supplies of canned food, water, flashlights, clothes and generators. He traveled with the supplies and a team of volunteers carpenters and bricklayers, to help in the reconstruction. Hill will keep one of the jets in Nassau to conduct supply runs from the Florida mainland. The Canadian government is also donating up to $500,000 in emergency assistance to humanitarian organizations on the island.
As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged by Hurricane Dorian, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
As for now the Seminole Tribe of Florida say their eyes are now on the coming tropical storm.
A general relief effort number to call for ways to help has been set up at 954-818-8604.
Sandra Hale Schulman, Cherokee, has been writing about Native issues since 1994. She is an author of four books, has contributed to shows at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and has produced three films on Native musicians.