All posts by Shannon Mitchell

DEVASTATING STORM HITS THE SETTLEMENT

On Monday, August 10th, 2020 the entire Meskwaki Settlement went dark without adequate warning as a massive storm carrying rain and hurricane-force winds of up to 130 mph pummeled the area. The system, later classified as a “derecho” wind storm, damaged more than 200 homes on the Settlement, destroyed utility lines, and downed trees by the thousands. In all, over 550,000 Iowa homes lost power including every home on the Meskwaki Settlement. It was a historic disaster that the people in the wake of this storm will remember forever.  (Pictures can be found in the September edition of the Meskwaki Nation Times.)

As straight-line winds toppled trees and power lines across the impact areas, in total 10 million acres of crops were damaged (about 43% total) across the state. Parts of Interstate 35 and 380, as well as, Highway 18 and 69 were impassable or closed entirely for hours. The impact area, which included the entire Settlement, went dark as emergency procedures where instituted throughout.

As the winds calmed and rains stopped, major impacts were felt by the Tribe due to home damage, facility damage, loss of power and gas, damage to roadways and infrastructure, and loss of communication services. Family homes and many facility buildings sustained roof and siding damage from wind, flying debris, blown out windows, and downed trees. Power lines and gas leaks caused evacuations for life safety to the extent that families were forced to seek alternate housing. Telecommunications (cell phones, land lines, and WIFI) were disconnected to most of the area, as cell towers were damage and phone/internet lines ripped apart during the storm.

After the eminent danger was over, the Meskwaki Emergency Plan was put into effect. As public safety was of utmost importance, the MNPD and EMS sought out to assess for injured community members and the Public Works Department called in additional staff to begin clearing debris from roadways. Emergency personnel assessed for downed power lines, gas leaks, and emergency repair needs to homes and facilities.

“The storm was the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane or a 40-mile wide tornado that rolled over 100 miles of the state,” said Roxane Warnell, Meskwaki Nation Emergency Response Coordinator. “Our first response was to assess for public safety and life safety. Non-essential employees were sent home and our front-line workers from Public Works, Housing, Apprenticeship, Police, Health Clinic, EMS, Meskwaki Inc., MBCH, and the Emergency Response Team, along with many, many volunteers, stepped up to assist. We thank everyone for their support.”

One of our greatest tribal assets, the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, took the lead in helping ensure member’s safety. During the first few nights after the storm, 140+ rooms were provided to needed community members. Because the casino is supported by generators, the Emergency Management Team was also able to set up its command center in the conference center during the first few days after the disaster.

Additionally, food distributions began each evening by MBCH personnel in the form of grab-and-go cooked meals delivered curb-side due to COVID-19 safety concerns. The camping area was also opened to allow for campers. Throughout the disaster, community members gathered at the casino to cool off, acquire food, and utilize WIFI services. Casino personnel were key to supporting members while power remained out to many Tribal houses for days after the storm. We thank them for their earnest support.

The Meskwaki Tribal Council met the day after the storm and approved an application be sent to FEMA to request that the President provide an Emergency Declaration for the Settlement. They approved Meskwaki Natural Resources Department to spearhead that response. We thank MNR for their continued work in seeing that both federal and individual assistance is approved from the president.

Ketebi to Public Works, Apprenticeship, and the Housing Department for their selfless efforts, working 12+ hour days to ensure that roads were cleared, temporary signage was installed, houses were boarded up and water tight, and emergency utility repairs were made. Their leadership was integral to the emergency response that occurred during the days following the storm.

Supports to our fuel supply were supplied by Meskwaki Inc., who worked with Tribal Operations to procure generators for the Travel Plaza and Tribal Center. Thank you to Apprenticeship’s Electricians for quick installation of both. Additionally, Red Earth Gardens, MFSI, Hemp, and MNR Departments stepped up to ensure agricultural infrastructures, our buffalo herd, and field crops were assessed and cared for.

In the days following the storm, Senior Services continued to deliver its normal meal delivery to our elders, checking on their safety and providing for their needs. Other team members stepped up to provide lunches to volunteer service workers and helped ensure our elders were taken care of. The Meskwaki Health Services team including the Health Clinic, Pharmacy, and Mental Health Services also remained open. Although phone services were unavailable for the first four days, the team was able to meet the health needs/concerns in the community. Their support was greatly needed and appreciated.

Despite the communication outage rampant throughout the area, the emergency management team worked diligently to provide information to community members through text notifications and website/social media posts. Eventually, emergency workers walked door-to-door hand delivering informational flyers and assessing damage to more than 340 houses on the Settlement. We thank them for helping in this way.

By Wednesday, August 26th, sixteen days later, all but three houses on the Settlement had power restored; but much work is needed to completely restore and repair Tribal houses and facilities. As insurance adjusters and outside contractors begin repair assessments, residents are reminded to take care and be safe around the remaining debris and temporarily repaired areas of their homes. Tribal Operations will be working over the next few months to complete final repairs on houses and will finish removing the large trees and debris strewn about. We thank everyone for their continued support and understanding as team members work diligently to clear and repair.

Executive Director Lawrence Spottedbird stated, “The outpouring of generosity from our friends and neighbors was heartwarming, as was the response of the community who sprang to action with neighbors helping neighbors clear debris from driveways, food prep, and clean-up of storm damage. Although we understand how frustrating it was for everyone needing assistance, we faced these challenges together. With supplies and resources limited, the patience and understand of the people in need must be commended. Well done, staff and community members. It was great to see everyone coming together to get things accomplished.”

Assistance to residents in the form of food and volunteer help/donations began immediately following the storm. We thank everyone for the outpouring of support including:

• Sac and Fox Tribe of Oklahoma for a $10,000 monetary donation.

• Burr Oak Trust for 56 man hours of tree removal labor, frozen venison and other meats, plus monetary donations in the amount of $3783.

• The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation who brought many volunteers from Kansas and worked feverously for DAYS to help with tree damage to the Bear Clan O-te-ni-ka-ni and residential homes.

• Iowa Beef for donating 1000 frozen beef patties and buns.

• NEIA Food Bank for donating 10 pallets of non-perishable food.

• A Family Market Place for donating and distributing produce to families.

• Rosebud Sioux Tribe for 20 cases of Gatorade.

• One Star Family of Two Strike from South Dakota who donated 27 cases of water and 2 large coolers to disaster recovery efforts on behalf of their Sister, Mother, Grand Mother Regina Mercedes One Star.

• An anonymous donor who covered 8 nights hotel stay to families.

• Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer who visited the Settlement and called on the president to approve disaster aid for us.

• The American Indian Council for approving a $9.50 per hour stipend for 10 volunteers to assist with recovery efforts for up to 160 hours each.

• Family members and neighbors who cooked food and housed people during the power outage.

• Neighbors helping neighbors to clear driveways and yard ways across the Settlement.

• If your donation is not mentioned yet, updates are on-going. We thank everyone for their support and are humbled by so many acts of kindness coming in daily!

Residents of the Settlement lost many things from their homes during the storm including food stores due to the power outage, broken patio furniture, damage to vehicles, water damage to carpets, furniture, etc., etc., the list goes on and on. Members are asked to contact their insurance companies to help pay to recover damaged personal belongings.

Households who currently receive Food Assistance (SNAP) may request replacement of food destroyed as a result of the recent storm damage, or spoilage as a result of a power outage. Those who do not qualify for the state’s Food Assistance program may qualify for D-SNAP (Disaster SNAP) through the Iowa Dept. of Human Services They will be offering a pop-up application center for to apply. It will be hosted at the Tribal Center the week of Sept. 8 through 12 for applicants who may not typically qualify for SNAP benefits.

The Iowa Individual Disaster Assistance Grant Program (IIAGP) offers grants to families whose household’s annual income is 200% or less of the federal poverty level. Each qualifying household MAY receive up to $5,000.00.

MICA is also accepting applications for the Iowa Individual Assistance Program. Applications can be found at, https://dhs.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/470-4448.pdf…, and emailed to disaster.assistance@micaonline.org. Applications are available for pick-up and drop-off at the Tama County Family Development Center located at 105 S. State St., Tama, IA.

Governor Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Tama County including many others in response to the severe storm on August 10. The application deadline is September 25, 2020. For complete details regarding the Disaster Assistance Programs, please visit: https://dhs.iowa.gov.

Gloria Fonseca and Tamela Davenport at the Meskwaki Health Clinic are able to assist you. As always, remember they are also available to help you with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamp Assistance. To schedule an appointment or to speak with Gloria or Tamela, please call the Meskwaki Health Clinic at (641) 484-4094.

If you are in need of mental health support at this time, the Meskwaki Behavioral Health Services program offers in person and telehealth mental health and substance abuse counseling. To schedule an appointment or to touch base via phone, please call (641) 484-4094.

Higher Education Congratulates College Grads

We wanted to step back and send a round of applause to our College/University Graduates from this spring. Congrats to:

1. Jacqueline R. Archambault – Diploma, LPN – Marshalltown Community College

2. Lisa Bear – BSN Nursing – Chamberlain University

3. Kade Brown – Psychology- Ft. Lewis College

4. Ariana R. Davenport- AA Liberal Arts – Kirkwood Community College

5. Darcy Davenport- BA Business Administration – DeVry University

6. Tara S. Davenport – A.A. Liberal Arts- United Tribes Technical College

7. Tyus Grant- B.A. – Physical Education – University of Northern Iowa

8. Grace R. Hill – B.S. – Health and Human Physiology

9. Dustin G. Roberts- B.A., Earth and Environmental Science – University of Northern Iowa

10. Everet T. Scott -A.A. – Liberal Arts – Marshalltown Community College

11. Eleina Rivera Youngbear-A.A. Marshalltown Community College

12. Kelly Johnson -A.A. Marshalltown Community College

13. Hallie Brown-A.A.S. -Computer Networking

14. Kathy Walker – AA – DMACC

15. Cindy Balderas – AA- Criminal Justice – United Tribes Technical College

16. Emilio Alva – BA- Liberal Arts- University of Kansas

17. Sharnell Seaboy- AS- Business Administration- United Tribes Technical College

Great job to everyone who worked so hard, overcoming the pandemic shutdown, to reach their goals!

Air Pollution Levels

The Environmental Branch of the Meskwaki Natural Resources Department will start an outdoor Air Program called “Air Now”. Colored flags reflecting air pollution levels will fly at the Tribal Center starting Monday August 31st. The Flags will be checked every day. Here’s what each means:

GREEN -GOOD day to be active outside

YELLOW – MODERATE its a good day.

ORANGE – UNHEALTHY for sensitive groups.

RED – UNHEALTHY for all groups.

PURPLE – VERY UNHEALTHY – sensitive groups avoid outdoor exertion, everyone else avoid long outdoor exertion.

If anyone has questions or concerns please reach out to the Environmental Branch of the MNR at (641) 484-3511.

Food Assistance Information

Households who currently receive (SNAP) Food Assistance may request replacement of food destroyed as a result of the recent storm damage, or spoilage as a result of a power outage. As a general rule, food will keep 4 hours if stored in a refrigerator, 24 to 48 hours if stored in a freezer. Households have 10 calendar days from when they discover food loss to complete the application.

• Download and complete the digital application form located here:

https://dhs.iowa.gov/…/…/Food_Replacement_Form_470-2920.pdf…

Then submit a clear image (take a picture of your completed form) and submit to: ImagingCenter5@dhs.state.ia.us.

• Forms are available at the Tribal Center as well as local DHS offices and are also available by mail. Completed paper forms can be submitted to local DHS offices in person, by email, by mail or by fax. Use the DHS Office located at 101 Iowa Ave West, Ste 400, in Marshalltown.

Iowa Department of Human Services has offered a pop-up application center for D-SNAP (Disaster SNAP) applications to be hosted on Sett the week of Aug. 31-Sept 4 for applicants who may not typically qualify for SNAP benefits but can still qualify under D-SNAP. Income requirements are offset by expenses incurred in the disaster. DHS will provide staffing, PPE, partitions, etc. This is penciled in dependent on President Trumps approval of the State of Iowa’s application for Individual Assistance. This is expected to be approved – and the DHS is preparing as though it will be.

Along with the staffing for D-SNAP applications, DHS is also coordinating staffing for FEMA Individual Assistance applications under the State (pending approval) and crisis counseling services that week.

This opportunity is open to all Meskwaki community members and staff.

American Indian Council to Offer Payments to Native Volunteers

The American Indian Council is offering stipends for up to 10 volunteers to assist in the Meskwaki Nation’s recovery efforts due to the recent derecho storm disaster.

They are looking for the following:
• 5 volunteers to work with Food Sovereignty
• 5 volunteers to work on general storm cleanup efforts
• Total payment/stipends are available per person of:
• $9.50/hour plus required workers comp, etc.
• Part time up to 2 months
• Full time for up to one month
• Maximum of 160 hours

Volunteers will need to sign up with the American Indian Council.

If interested, please come to the Meskwaki Tribal Center, 349 Meskwaki Rd., Tama, Iowa at 1 PM on Wednesday, August 18th to sign up or contact Krista Snow from the American Indian Council at (641) 754-1400 ext. 7 for more information.

Participants do not need to be enrolled members or descendants of the Meskwaki Nation but must be members or descendants of any Federally recognized Tribe.

Those who wish to participate must have the following documents:
• CDIB or Tribal ID
• State issued ID
• Physical address
• Social Security card
• Proof of income, including per-cap, child support, etc.
• If a male over the age of 18: selective service number.

Community Meals Update

An evening meal will continue to be served to comm. members from 4:30 – 6 PM via grab and go curb side pick-up behind the Casino Convention Center for two more nights – Tues, Aug. 18 and Weds Aug. 19. Anyone in the car will receive a meal. Thurs. community meals will begin in Tama at Fire Dept. – See info below:

FREE Hot Meals USA will be in Tama daily beginning this Thursday serving HOT food for both lunch and supper. These folks are traveling from Kearny Nebraska with helpers and a certified chef and are here to help us as a community.

They will be set up at 305 Siegel Street on the south side of the Tama Fire Department. If you are in need or know someone in need, come eat. If you are in town as a lineman, volunteer, or just need a prepared hot meal, come down. They are here to help.

They will be serving a hot meat, potato and vegetable at each meal.

These folks have served over 125,000 meals this year and will be serving until the community doesn’t need them anymore. They will have dinner and supper.

Take a break from clean up and get a meal. Help spread the word!

Monday Updates – Visual Damage Assessments

Meskwaki Nation Updates Monday, August 17th:
Office Staff will be coming to your homes today and/or tomorrow for a visual damage assessment (external) and for handing out the following relief information:
POWER TO SETTLEMENT RESIDENTS:
The power companies are requesting that anyone who doesn’t have power on the Settlement, individually call or report on-line to your power company that you are still without power. If you have not called them yet, please do so immediately.
REC call: 1-800-9347976 or go online to: http://www.tiprec.com/
We are also keeping a list at the Tribal Center. Please call the Tribal Center so we can keep a running tally at (641) 484-4678.
HEALTH ISSUES:
If you need assistance with a health issue that is impacted because of your lack of access to power and/or home damage, please call the Tribal Center at (641) 484-4678 so we can assist you.
HOUSING ISSUES:
We are currently assessing damages and prioritizing repairs. With over 350+ houses on the Settlement, emergency repairs for patching roofs, shoring up windows, and ensuring houses are water tight are the priority. etc., etc. We realize most houses will need some repair work, so please be patient as we are working on assessments. If you feel you have been missed or have major damage that we may NOT yet be aware of, please call the Tribal Center and leave a message about the needed repair.
DEBRIS REMOVAL:
Debris collected is to be piled near the roadways of your residence. As you are picking up debris, put it in two piles, one for garbage (roofing material, etc.) and one for plant debris. Public Works will be collecting and removing it as time allows. With the magnitude of damage that exists, clean-up and repair will take months. Whatever you can pick up on your own would be greatly helpful. Saw teams continue to go out around the Settlement. We are working diligently to have large limbs and damaged trees sawed and removed. Outside contractors (logging crews, tree removal) are being organized to help with clean-up efforts.
GARBAGE REMOVAL/SPOILAGE
Public Works is busy with debris removal on driveways and roadways, along with their normal duties related to water/sewer/garbage, etc. As you are cleaning out your refrigerators and freezers from spoilage, etc., please utilize the dumpsters at the Tribal Center. Teams will do their best to pick up garbage as much as possible but your continued helpfulness is appreciated!
INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY DAMAGES
If you have personal damage to property inside your homes and/or autos, lawn furniture, etc. Please take photos and get cost estimates for your damaged personal property. Be sure to call your insurance company to report your losses. With FEMA disaster funding, there may be individual federal funding available to you.
Family Services will begin working with families to submit forms for submission. This potential funding is not guaranteed but may be a way to help you recover funding for your damages. If you have personal property damage, please notify the Tribal Receptionist at (641) 484-4678. Leave your name, number, and address, and a Family Services representative will contact you in a few days to assist in the process.
EVENING MEAL
An evening meal will be served to community members from 4:30 – 6 PM via grab and go curb side pick-up behind the Casino Convention Center for two more nights – tonight, Monday, Aug. 17 and Tuesday, Aug. 18. Anyone in the car will receive a meal.
Further assistance from the Red Cross, FEMA, and the Salvation Army are forthcoming.
WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER
It’s been a rough seven days but please know that we are thinking of you and working on disaster clean-up efforts as quickly and efficiently as possible. Although it will take some time, staff, and volunteers are working hard to get things done! Thank you for your support and understanding as we all work to get through this together.
Sincerely,
Lawrence Spottedbird
Executive Director

Emergency Updates

Community suppers are still being planned as grab-and-go pick up meals and are available at the back of the casino from 4:30 – 6 PM each evening through Sunday night. Meals are available to ALL community members and volunteers. Anyone in the car will be given a meal.

Electricity has been restored to most REC customers on the Settlement but some Alliant customers are still without power.
The utility companies are working dillegently to address
these needs. The Police Department will continue extra patrolling throughout the Settlement all weekend.

If you come across immediate dangers over the weekend, call 911. For housing issues that need to be addressed before Monday, please call the Executive office at (641) 481-0440.

Since electricity has been restored to Tribal facilities, Tribal Operations will begin normal working normal hours on Monday.

If you have personal damage to property inside your homes and/or autos, lawn furniture, etc. Please take photos and get cost estimates for your damaged personal property. Be sure to call your insurance company to report your losses. With FEMA disaster funding, there may be individual federal funding available to you.

Beginning Monday, Family Services will begin working with families to submit forms for submission. This potential funding is not guaranteed but may be a way to help you recover funding for your damages. If you have personal property damage, please notify the Tribal Receptionist at (641) 484-4678. Leave your name, number, and address, and a Family Services representative will contact you to assist in the process.

We thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to get through this emergency together.

Meskwaki Settlement School to Delay Start

From the Meskwaki Settlement School:  Good afternoon, we hope this message finds everyone safe and recovering from the recent storm.  Given the recent storm damage and continued COVID concerns, Tribal Council has elected to delay the start of school until Sept. 8th. Between now and then, we will adjust delivery of professional development for staff and will determine the best delivery model for providing education to our students. Please know that we are thinking of our students, staff, families, and community during this difficult time.

Thank You.

~ Dr. Willie Barney, Superintendent