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Old 09-02-2005, 08:06 AM   #1
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Tunica-Biloxi Tribe Shelters Katrina Storm Refugees

***I have been saying prayers for the Indians in LA and Mississippi since last week, more specifically for the Houma Indian tribe. I had met a few tribal members when we performed at the Jazzfest a few years ago. I am glad that there has been some correspondance - see end of story....

ACE

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe Shelters Storm Refugees
Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today
Sep 2, 2005

Map courtesy USGS: Graphic by Lucinda Rowlands Indian Country

MARKSVILLE, La. - The Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe in central Louisiana responded to the victims of Hurricane Katrina by opening the Paragon Casino Resort convention center as a refuge for families.

After Katrina hit with deadly force near New Orleans Aug. 29, families watched the news at the casino resort, hoping for a glimpse of their homes and loved ones in the damage and flood waters, unable to return to that city.

Linda Bordelon, vice president of public relations at Paragon, said the tribe is providing the facility and the American Red Cross is assisting with food and water for 500 evacuees.

''It looks like it is a long-term shelter situation,'' said Bordelon.

The tribe, located 30 miles south of Alexandria, received no more than a little bad weather and rain from the hurricane that devastated New Orleans with deaths, destruction and flooding, 300 miles southeast of the Tunica-Biloxi community.

''We have opened up our Mari Center,'' Ericca Reynolds, public media coordinator for the Paragon Casino Resort, told Indian Country Today. ''We've housed evacuees here since Sunday morning [Aug. 28] at 3 a.m. The news is on now and we have cartoons for the children.''

With bridges smashed and roads under water, evacuees were not yet allowed to return to their homes.

''They are not allowing anyone to go back into New Orleans. It may be a good while until some have electricity: it could be weeks or even a month.''

The Tunica-Biloxi's casino resort planned the Labor Day Classic Car Show and Big Boppers Rock 'N' Roll '50s show for the weekend, with the sounds of Buddy Holly and other greats. However, after the hurricane, Louisiana shelters were struggling to provide for the needs of evacuees.

Reynolds said it was not immediately known how the weekend would proceed with evacuees filling the Mari Center, but the casino resort was focused on caring for the people.

''We're looking out for the best interests of the people - who knows, they may have lost everything,'' Reynolds said.

The Tunica and the Biloxi have always lived on the fertile lands along the Mississippi River in what are today Mississippi and Louisiana, according to tribal history. Despite contact with Europeans, tribal members preserved many of their traditions and demonstrate their distinct cultural identity.

The Tunica and the merged remnants of several neighboring tribes - including the Biloxi, Avoyel, Ofo and Choctaw - were officially recognized by the United States as the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in 1981.

Since then, the tribal government has worked hard to revitalize its people in Marksville, currently with an enrollment of 800 tribal members.

Other tribes in the southeast in the path of Katrina and the resulting storms, including the Mississippi Choctaw and Alabama Indian tribes, could not be reached immediately by telephone because of downed telephone lines and busy circuts.

Deadly hurricanes are not new to the people of the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In Louisiana, the name ''Camille'' brings to mind the worst hurricane, which killed 256 people in 1969 and left a path of twisted debris of homes, lives and hopes on the coastline.

When Audrey struck on June 27, 1957, the deadly hurricane landed near the border of Louisiana and Texas and killed at least 390 people. With incredible storm surges of 12 feet, wildlife, including crawfish, was seen moving out of the marshes around Cameron, La.

Hurricane Betsy in 1965 brought a storm surge of 10 feet and some of the worst flooding when it reached New Orleans on Sept. 9. On Aug. 26, 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit with 153 mph winds in New Iberia.

But it was Camille in 1969 that Louisiana residents remember for the deaths, damage and sheer power of its force. Camille, a Category 5 storm, ranked as one of the very worst storms to hit the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. It destroyed 5,000 homes and had storm surges of 20 feet.

In terms of deaths, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history occurred in 1900 when a Category 5 hurricane struck the island city of Galveston, Texas, killing 8,000 - 12,000 near the southwest border of Louisiana.

NOTE FROM RAY: The sad news is that one tribe was at the front of the storm. Here is a note from a friend Robert Soto:

I covet your prayers for a group of people who were hit head-on by the hurricane. I have been praying for the Houma Indians who live south of New Orleans and who have their reservation right on the coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. I called Steve, a Houma Indian who works with the Creek Indians in Alabama but still has a home and family on the Reservation in Lousisana. He wrote me the following message:

Robert:

It is good to hear from you. Thanks for caring. Our native church in Louisiana is all underwater as are the homes of many of our tribal people. Please keep us in prayer.
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