For the first time since it was established 43 years ago, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed a strategy to provide better assistance, and to better address its responsibilities to federally recognized tribes.
In an open letter to tribal leaders, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell recognized that tribal nations have been underserved in the past, and said the new strategy is “a significant milestone” for improving the agency’s relationship with all 574 recognized tribes.
The plan includes training for tribal governments, face-to-face consultations on natural disaster and climate change preparedness, resources, and funding for hazard mitigation planning and has earmarked 50 million dollars in grants to help tribes ready themselves for climate change.
According to a press release, the strategy was developed with extensive input from tribal representatives who met with the agency numerous times earlier this year to provide feedback on what exactly they need from the agency.
According to research from the National Congress of American Indians, tribes received on average nine times less in disaster recovery grants than other segments of the US, and have historically been disproportionately affected by natural disasters.
The Navajo Nation is one step closer to legalizing marriage equality.
A bill sponsored by delegate Eugene Tso would repeal the 2005 Dine Marriage Act that banned same-sex unions.
The new language extends recognition to all marriages.
At their regularly scheduled meeting on August 15, the Navajo Council’s Law and Order committee passed the resolution.
The Navajo Times reports the bill now goes to the Budget and Finance committee.
The Times says the legislation has to pass through that committee and one other before finally reaching the Navajo Nation Council for vote.
If passed would make the Navajo Nation only the 41st federally recognized tribe to recognize same-sex marriage.
Navajo Nation Pride Program Director Josie Raphaelito told committee members the bill is about more than just the right to get married.
She said if the measure passes it would send a clear message of support to LGBTQ+ Navajo citizens, which could help to reduce suicide rates.
Raphealito says the bill will also guarantee the rights that come along with marriage that are often overlooked in these discussions such as “the right to be next to our loved ones in the hospital…The right to access health care as a spouse…and the right to create a family.”
“The bill was originally set in motion in April, but was pulled for revisions in May. The new bill was introduced in July, and is expected to make it through committee to the council by the end of the year.”
As the school year starts around the country, Indian Health Service officials are on a push to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.
IHS Chief Medical Officer Loretta Christensen (Navajo) says the vaccine is proven safe and effective for children six months and older.
She says some parents remain wary of the vaccine so it’s often up to Native health professionals to address each person’s hesitancy.
“And maybe people are afraid of specific things. You have to drill that down and see what the problem is, what the fear is and what information might persuade someone to get the vaccine.”
Christensen says the risk of hospitalizations is three times higher for Native Americans and Alaska Natives than white populations. IHS says death rates for COVID are almost double.
Christensen insists the vaccines are safe with at least two million doses distributed to Native people with only minor side effects in most cases. And, Christensen says, parents shouldn’t stop at COVID vaccines.
“What happened during COVID, we kind of disrupted our normal rhythm of getting the basic vaccinations to our kids and we certainly don’t want them vulnerable to preventable diseases.”
Christensen says health providers can offer guidance on which types of vaccines are most appropriate for each individual.
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