Pawhuska, Ok—May 20th through June 9th of 2019, fourteen Osage Nation buildings were impacted by a combination of thunderstorms, floods, and tornadic winds. The Osage Nation (ON) Emergency Management, ON Properties Department, and ON Managed Assets Department all combined forces and expertise formulating an Incident Management Team. The ON Incident Management Team has quickly and skillfully responded to each of the eighteen incidents within the fourteen structures that were affected.
With consecutive severe thunderstorms and flooding, the ground that forms the foundation for most of these structures had already sustained major damage from one storm causing the issues to be aggravated with each successive storm. The ON Incident Management Team is constructed of certain capabilities that, despite challenges and constant set-backs, has contributed to a strong, proactive awareness, response, and recovery throughout the series of unfortunate weather impacts on the Osage Nation.
Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear declared the incident of relentless and dangerous weather a state of emergency. Chief Standing Bear enacted the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act). The act is a United States Federal law designed to bring an orderly and systematic means of Federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to aid citizens. The Osage Nation is the First Nation in Oklahoma to exercise the Stafford Act.
The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA) amended the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 5121 et seq., (Stafford Act) to provide Federally recognized Indian tribal governments (tribal governments) the option to request a Presidential emergency or major disaster declaration independently of a state.
In June of 2019, ON Congress approved an additional $50,000 to be added to ON Crisis Assistance funds. According to the Financial Assistance Department, 42 applicants received assistance in residential crises.
According to Bobby Tallchief of ON Emergency Management, safety is the number one priority to the ON Incident Management Team. “The elderly, children and all the constituents are on our minds as we continue to work to make the buildings that were affected restored to a safe state of operation. We don’t want to take any risks when it comes to health and safety, so the hazards have to be remediated entirely and properly before we are comfortable re-opening buildings at all,” said Tallchief.
Recovery specialists from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have assisted the Osage Nation mitigating the overall impact on the ON by their immediate assistance. The designation makes available federal assistance for housing repairs or temporary housing, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest loans for individuals and businesses to repair or replace damaged property, disaster unemployment assistance, and grants for serious needs and necessary disaster expenses not met by other programs.
The ON Incident Management Team are preparing to work with all the impacted sites on a flood mitigation project. Working with the natural landscape of Hoskahomi Creek and the Hominy Village, the team will decrease the potential of future flooding in that area. Once the material arrives, impacted buildings are set to complete re-builds 1-2 weeks after and open for full operations afterward.
Bird Creek Farm also suffered substantial damage from the weather, but much like the Osage Nation, growth and moving forward has not stopped. Staying proactive, working together, and not giving up continues today as the strength in our Nation’s approach to living stronger than challenges.
For additional information, please contact: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/emergency-management
To register for the Osage Nation weather alerts: https://osagetribe.regroup.com/networks/osagetribe/osage_group_embed_login_register
Before visiting a recovery center, residents are asked to register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-FEMA (3362).