News and Updates:


Trials of Hope Update:

This past week marks the a month since the deadly tornadoes hit Oklahoma. Families are getting from one point to the next. Several have made transition to more temporary housing and making many adjustments with their lives. We have been blessed in many ways to be able to help many families. We received a check for $10,000 in the office yesterday from the Eastern Band of Cherokees for our disaster relief! The AARP Foundation has awarded us a grant of $10,000 as well and we are excited and thankful for this support that will aid us in helping families recover.

A family called yesterday and was  in need of items that we take for granted. The item in need was a new bed for their temporary apartment. We were able to assist them financially to buy the furniture and other clothing needs for their children.

The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is a partner with Nike N7 and they gave us brand new Nike clothing for persons affected by the tornadoes. We were glad to see young Native kids come in and find brand new shoes and sportswear that will be perfect for the summer.  Your contributions have helped us to provide gift cards, housing needs and more to aid families.

Thank you for your support and prayers  and for spreading the word regarding the need.



By: Courtney Tsotigh-Yarholar

As we continue to work with families to get into temporary housing until their homes are rebuilt, we realize the great need for funding for the long haul of helping persons rebuild their lives. One of our greatest needs is monetary donations. To date, we have disbursed close to $10,000 towards helping Native American families.  Here is a testimony of a young Native American woman recalling the impact on her life as they recovered from the two tornadoes that hit Moore in 1999 and 2003.

Raised in Moore, OK my family knows all too well the devastations the past couple weeks tornadoes have brought upon our neighbors. My family were victims of both the tornado disasters in 1999 and 2003. As I sat on my couch watching the May 2013 tornadoes unfold trying to wrap my head around the scale of yet another devastating disaster, the suffering of my home town and throughout Oklahoma you feel compelled to act. I immediately began to recollect on what brought our family through such a crisis. We were blessed with wonderful giving church, work, friends, family and school community and even perfect strangers who immediately took action to help us through those trying times. Then a young child I remember the truck loads of companies and organizations volunteering their resources and services. This is both significant and necessary in the wake of a disaster but realistically may only be carried out temporarily. So many have the zeal to make a difference and Make contributions but we must also keep in mind the critical sectors for both immediate relief and long-term recovery. Offering old clothes and toys is great but offering to those who have the capacity to organize those efforts is essential. Many families are without merely a closet to hang those clothes or a toy box to store those toys-they have very little to nothing. As a member of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference and recipient to their actions through the Disaster Relief team is exactly what made an impact. In reality monetary contributions no matter how big or small can be used immediately to purchase exactly what is needed and help support in the long term. I encourage individuals who feel compelled, to give what and how they are able. By supporting the Trails of H.O.P.E you are giving to over 50+ American Indian families, providing the most urgent resources and services.


Oklahoma Tornadoes: New Website Collects Aid for Native Victims

June 04, 2013

The lives of at least 50 Native families have been turned upside down, many of them literally, by the tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma in May. One of the many groups reaching out to help is coordinating and sending aid directly to Indian families affected by this disaster.

As another tornado tore through El Reno, Yukon and south Oklahoma City on Friday May 31—also touching down in Moore, still reeling from the devastating May 20 tornado that killed 24—Native people from throughout Indian country were already reaching out to help their fellows.




The director of our Disaster Response program and I spent most of our day returning phone calls of Native American persons who were affected by the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma last Sunday and Monday.

 One of the persons I talked to was a native woman who had to be hospitalized the night of the tornado in Moore and she told me her son was still in the hospital. As I listened to her story, I could hear chain saws in the background. I asked her if she was able to get much out of her house and she said there was really nothing left. Her son would need medical treatment for some time and she was in need of a place to live. Another person I talked to was certainly still in a daze. His home was damaged and he wasn’t even sure where to begin.

 I was able to travel to Little Axe to visit with the Governor of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, a tribe with  an enrollment of approximately 3,400 members. I found the Governor working in their warehouse, people coming and going and able to find clothing and food for their relief. He spoke proudly of the ways that people responded to their needs through donations and also how his staff was working long days to cut trees and help his tribal members get to the next step.  The Little Axe area was hit Sunday night and after the F-5 tornado hit Moore,  and because of the magnitude of that tornado. many have lost sigh t of the disaster that the Native and non native population of Little Axe experienced. The Governor told me that their relief efforts was not just for his own tribal members, but for all.  His words were a powerful reminder that the tribe’s  offer of support for all is certainly indicative of the way that Native people live our lives. We are not called to worry just about ourselves and our relatives, but all of our relation.

 When I arrived home in the evening, I checked out donation site and noted that individuals and companies have already contributed over $1,100 in one day!! Thank you to all who contributed and who are helping us to meet the tremendous needs of the many who were affected by this disaster.   We received names of tribal members representing at least 15 tribes that were affected. Phillis McCarty and I spent the day calling several and we talked with at least twelve persons today representing many families.   We received our first intake form today as well.


Tornadoes have devastated American Indian families in Oklahoma. Here’s one way people are helping.

“Our house is trashed. Time to rebuild. I’m just sad for those kids that died.”                             
—Charley Eisenberger (Kiowa), upon seeing
 his home after the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado


 Perrin Deal (Choctaw) sits in front of her house, which was badly damaged by the tornado. May 2013, Moore, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Perrin Deal, used with permission.

My colleagues and I at the National Museum of the American Indian offer sincere condolences to the people affected by the recent, severe tornadoes in Oklahoma. More than 20 American Indian families lost their homes in this disaster. Their tribal affiliations include Arapaho, Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Delaware, Jicarilla Apache, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Shawnee.

In addition to the Moore tornado, tornadoes displaced and affected American Indian families in the communities of Shawnee, Bethel, and Little Axe. Rain and flash floods are expected today in Oklahoma as families clean up their homes and begin to rebuild their lives.

So many tribal and non-tribal individuals, government agencies, and nonprofit groups are working to provide assistance. I’d like to shine a light on one of them, to give people outside Oklahoma a sense of the grassroots efforts among people there. I hope this organization can serve as a stand-in for all the people we’d like to thank for their good work.

The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) Disaster Relief Team—whose mission is to provide direct support, care, and assistance to American Indian victims of disasters—is serving as a focal point to coordinate Native relief efforts. Rev. David Wilson (Choctaw), head of the OIMC Disaster Relief Team, has provided a telephone number for people who need help or who want to provide assistance; the team can be reached directly at 405-632-2006.

Other local organizations have come together behind OIMC, including the Jacobson House Foundation and the Oklahoma Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). “I have full confidence in them,” says Cortney Yarholar (Creek/Pawnee/Otoe), senior tribal prevention specialist for SPRC in Oklahoma. “They have protocols in place that allow them to assist tribal families in a comprehensive way, addressing immediate needs, such as shelter, food, clothing, to longer-term life-changing help, such as rebuilding homes and offering grief support, which is vital for many months and sometimes years to come.”

To the many people coming together behind the work of recovery and rebuilding, Cortney says, “Thank you for understanding and taking the time to join our efforts to provide direct support to Native families. Our Indian people are great people, and your generosity, love, and kind words have been very humbling.”

Tracey Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen, secretary of the Jacobson Foundation, echoes Cortney’s words. “Ah-ho [thank you] to everyone who wants to contribute to this cause.”

I’d like to join them both in saying thank you and to let people in Moore and other affected communities know that we’re thinking of them as they work to support each other and move forward.

—Dennis Zotigh, NMAI

Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota) is a writer and cultural specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian. Before joining the Smithsonian, he lived in Moore and helped develop the American Indian Gallery of the new Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.



One thought on “News

  1. My community of Little Axe, Oklahoma received damage from the tornado on Sunday, May 19th. Many members of my tribe (the Absentee Shawnee) lost their homes and suffered extensive property damage. The Absentee Shawnee tribe has coordinated with the Red Cross in providing shelter, food, clothing, & counseling for anyone affected. My son, Wade Runsabove (Absentee Shawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missouria, & Lower Brule Sioux), was affected by the Monday, May 20th tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma. He lost his home and car. He is ok and I am thankful he was at work when the Moore tornado occurred. Both tornadoes affected me personally from my immediate family level, tribal level, community level, & state level.
    True blessings have come in many forms throughout the week as each area gains restoration. I really appreciate how our State of Oklahoma has come together and is in support of one another through these tragic events. There is still much needed help in the clean up process with each area affected. Little Axe, Bethel Acres, Shawnee, Carney, South Oklahoma City, & Moore respectively need volunteers to clear away debris.
    I just want to say, Niyawa (Thank You) to each & everyone for your help, care, & concern for our Oklahomans in need! You are very appreciated for your efforts! May Creator bless each & everyone!
    Respectfully, Lourie (Gibson) Bowman (Absentee Shawnee)~Little Axe, Oklahoma

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