CN, volunteers assist people affected by tornado
Homes sit damaged in Cherokee and Adair counties on Nov. 30 after an EF-2 tornado swept through Sequoyah, Cherokee, Adair and Delaware counties. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation employees and volunteers work to clear downed trees after an EF-2 tornado swept through Sequoyah, Cherokee, Adair and Delaware counties on Nov. 30. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation Emergency Management Team staff and the American Red Cross visit areas damaged by a Nov. 30 tornado to assess damage to CN citizens’ homes. COURTESY
WELLING – On Dec. 5, the Caney Community Center served free lunches to area residents in response to an EF-2 tornado that came through western Cherokee County on Nov. 30.
People impacted by the tornado were provided assistance and served breakfast immediately after the tornado.
Welling and surrounding area residents, Welling firefighters, the Cherokee Nation Incident Management Team and Ozark and Lake Region Electric companies came together at the Caney Community Center to help those affected. Most people cleaned up damage from the tornado with their own equipment, while others donated their time at the Caney Community Center. The volunteers at the center helped cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for people affected by the tornado.
“My job is the cook at the Caney Community Center, but ever since the tornado disaster happened I have been volunteering my time and effort to give everyone food to eat,” Mae Smith said. “Usually non-tribal community members have to pay for their food, but it is free all week long for both tribal and non-tribal members.”
The community center is usually open only Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but after the tornado, it was open every day. As of Dec. 1, the Caney Community Center had served nearly 600 people.
CN Title VI states that tribal citizens may eat for free on a normal basis. Those who are non-tribal citizens pay $5 fee to eat. This changed on Nov. 2 when the Tailholt Community Organization decided to pay $4 of the $5 fee for non-tribal citizens. However, the week after the tornado the food was free for everyone.
The Caney Community Center also donated items for people who lost their belongings. The Briggs community also contributed by donating items for those in need. Those donations were at the Caney Community Center.
Many tribal households were also affected in different ways and needed financial assistance, officials said. CN Human Resources community advocate Richelle Singleterry was sent to help tribal citizens who qualify sign up for the tribe’s Disaster Relief Fund. The fund provides each qualifying tribal household with $1,000.
“It was amazing to see this community come together as quickly as they did. It really showed the resiliency and love that both Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee County communities have,” Singleterry said.
On Dec. 3, Principal Chief Bill John Baker declared a state of emergency and sought direct federal assistance. The request was unusual because tribes usually go through the state to seek assistance following natural disasters. However, Baker said the Trump administration has signed similar requests from tribes in other parts of the country, so there was precedent for tribes getting disaster relief funds directly from the federal government.
Also on Dec. 3, Gov. Mary Fallin issued a state of emergency for 12 Oklahoma counties. In the CN, tornadoes touched down on Nov. 30 and left a path of destruction nearly 60 miles long through portions of Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Delaware and Muskogee counties.