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Old 01-06-2005, 10:21 PM   #1
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American Indian Relief Team To Tsunami Disaster

Posted: January 03, 2005
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today

Today's feature article sponsored by National Congress of American

An American Indian doctor, attorney and Indian rights activist form emergency
relief team

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A team of American Indian physicians, educators and
emergency professionals are readying to provide relief to victims of the Asian
tsunami disaster. In the Native tradition of reaching out to those suffering,
three friends are organizing an emergency response team.

Dr. Robert Lame Bull McDonald, Blackfeet and member of the Grand Traverse
Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, will be serving as a volunteer with the
World Health Organization in the disaster relief.

McDonald is organizing the emergency response team with Brock Albin, law
professor already in Korea and involved in the relief effort, and Robert Free from
Seattle, Indian rights activist and creator of the Native BEAR AIDS Project.

''The mission is to save lives,'' McDonald told Indian Country Today.
''Together we will constitute a civilian emergency medical relief team. My goal is to
form an Emergency Air and Ground Lift and Evacuation Service Team.''

EAGLES will follow a legacy.

McDonald is named after his great-great grandfather, Lame Bull, who signed
the first treaty between the United States and the Blackfeet Nation. McDonald
has already provided emergency medical services to remote Indian areas of the
United States.

When W.H.O. asked McDonald how soon he could be in the tsunami disaster area,
he first thought of Albin and Free. Free has been in the forefront of Indian
rights struggles, including the occupations of Alcatraz and Wounded Knee and
the fight for Indian fishing rights in the Northwest. During the 1990s, Free
brought together medicine men with health professionals for the Native BEAR
Project, to serve Indians with AIDS. Free was in Thailand for the world AIDS
conference in 2004.

McDonald said: ''I immediately contacted Brock to ask him if he wanted to go
with me or meet me in tsunami country. To my surprise, he was already there! I
then contacted Free, since he recently returned from the area, to see if he
wanted to join us and he was all for it.

''I have not yet returned word to the W.H.O. as to my available dates of
deployment because I am still working out the details of what our team can and
will do. Brock has already scouted out what the needs are over there and we
likely will return as a complete relief party in a few weeks if we can generate
enough capital.''

Albin, an attorney serving with the non-profit Youth Imperative, was in the
hardest hit areas of Thailand, the region of Phuket and Kao Lok, and returned
to Korea on Jan. 1. He helped deliver medications to villagers and foreign
nationals and treat minor ailments.

''One village, for instance, was missing 4,000 of its 4,500 residents; we
visited the morgues to help identify bodies,'' Albin told ICT by way of e-mail
from Korea.

While in the hard-hit areas of Thailand, Albin traveled to a small island to
search for the only missing person there, a 23-year-old girl from London; set
up a mental health office at the command center in Phuket and visited patients
at Phuket hospitals. He also delivered food, clothes and medical supplies.

Organizing from Seattle and readying for the relief effort, Free said it is
traditional to help allies. Free pointed out that Pueblos took in other Pueblos
when there was a lack of rain and Plains groups helped each other during
colonial assaults.

Albin, Potawatomi and a Stanford-trained attorney, met McDonald in college,
when they were both in the Indian Club at Montana State University. They
traveled to San Francisco in 1992 and met Free, who was helping organize a protest
of Columbus Day.

''Now the three of us are organizing a relief mission which will probably
land us on Andaman Island to help save lives,'' Albin said.

Albin, from Bozeman, Mont., founded Youth Imperative, Inc. in 1995. It is a
non-profit providing professional services to youth. It focuses on
international human rights and aid to youth, families and their communities. Currently,
Albin is living in South Korea and teaching law at Pyongtaek University.

McDonald, Albin and Free hope a team of 10 American Indians can be organized
for the relief effort. Albin said the team will need ''a strong gut, an
insensitive nose, and a lot of hope, a bit of prayer.''

EAGLES team members should plan to spend at least a week as non-paid
volunteers. Team members are needed to assist in identifying and processing bodies and
delivering supplies.

Supplies needed immediately include medications, ointments, anti-anxiety
medicine, school materials, building tools, mosquito tents, malaria pills, typhoid
and other injections, a way to purify water, materials to entertain kids and
dry food. They will also need bandages, shovels, rugged mini-DVD video camera
and tripod, extra batteries, mosquito repellant, sun-screen, hats, backpacks,
gloves and rubber boots.

It may be more practical to buy supplies overseas, rather than airlift items
from the United States.

Along with medical services, disaster victims need psychological services,
including counseling for victims, volunteers and family members. There is also a
great need for education facilities; schools must be established and there is
a need to educate people about disease prevention. Construction is also a
priority, to rebuild roads, buildings and infrastructure.

Albin said the team needs a ''teacher, mental health professional, doctor,
nurse and a couple lawyers to sacrifice to appease the gods.

''If you'd like to join, please tell me what week in the next four would be
best for you. If you want to donate materials or cash, please advise. No one
will be paid. All volunteer. But we'll likely need a few thousand dollars to
equip and send people over, plus supplies for the people in need.''

For security reasons, the team may be based in Thailand, but Albin said
Indonesia and Sri Lanka are the areas where the team is needed the most although
Thailand is still in need of much assistance.

More than 7,000 people are estimated to have died in the Andaman and Nicobar
chain of more than 550 islands. The tsunami disaster threatens the survival of
five indigenous tribes: The Great Andamanese, Sentinelese, Onge, Jarawa and
the Shompen.

For more information, e-mail Dr. Robert Lame Bull McDonald at or Brock Albin at
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