RAPID CITY - Twenty-one tribes have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, an action seen as the first step in preparing to handle natural disasters on American Indian reservations.
The first tribal/FEMA conference wraps up today at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Calling it a historic event, FEMA Region VIII Director Rick Weiland announced Wednesday that 21 of the 28 tribes in the six-state region had agreed to create a Tribal Emergency Management Coordination Council, with representation from each tribe.
Weiland said the council will provide a way for FEMA to coordinate and communicate more effectively with tribes in the six-state region, to help them prepare for future disasters.
"I am encouraged and my heart is full today," he said. "Oglala was really in many cases a blessing," because the 1999 tornado there focused attention on emergency management. FEMA provided $10,185,522 in disaster assistance to the Oglala Sioux for blizzards in 1997 and the 1999 tornado.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal President Gregg Bourland worked closely with FEMA after disastrous blizzards struck there in 1997. FEMA provided $1,065,220 to help the reservation recover. Bourland said he hoped other tribes wouldn't have disasters, but he encouraged them to work with FEMA to prepare for disaster.