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New Orleans Lessons Mirror American History

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  • New Orleans Lessons Mirror American History

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    New Orleans Lessons Mirror American History

    (javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: September 06, 2005 by: _Brenda
    Norrell_ ( / Indian Country Today
    _Click to Enlarge_ (
    ( KRT photo by
    Jim Macmillan/Philadelphia Daily News HOUSTON, Texas - Thousands of evacuees
    from Hurricane Katrina remain sheltered on the floor of the Astrodome in
    Houston, Texas, on Sept. 5. Analysis

    NEW ORLEANS - President Bush and members of Congress vowed to begin probes
    into the delayed response of the emergency evacuation of New Orleans in the aft
    ermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    As stranded people waved for rescue with no help in sight the week after the
    hurricane struck southeastern Louisiana, Jefferson Parish President Aaron
    Broussard said, ''We have been abandoned by our own country ... Bureaucracy has
    committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has
    to stand trial before Congress now.''

    Now described by reporters as the ''soggy tomb'' that was once the vibrant
    city of New Orleans, American Indian activists say racism within the U.S.
    government was exposed in the face of human misery in the aftermath of the

    New Orleans' survivors were still waiting on rooftops six days later to be
    rescued. Elderly drowned in nursing homes waiting to be saved from rising
    waters. In the Superdome, three babies died from heat exhaustion, women were
    raped, one man committed suicide and another was beaten to death with a pipe.
    Corpses were thrown out the door because of the stench, evacuees inside the
    Superdome told television reporters.

    Thousands rescued were placed under a bridge for days and then, when they
    searched for food, faced guns pointed at them, evacuees said.

    The U.S. surgeon general warned those remaining in New Orleans, and refusing
    to evacuate during the second week, of the contaminated water.

    Described by health officials as ''toxic sewage,'' the flood waters
    contained dead bodies, feces, petroleum and garbage - creating a breeding ground for
    infectious diseases. The coastline area was already home to rats,
    mosquitoes, alligators and poisonous snakes.

    More than 90 percent of those who remained in the flooding city were black
    and other minorities.

    American Indians are among the poor in New Orleans and other storm-ravaged

    Robert Free Galvan, offering his home to a dozen Mississippi Choctaw willing
    to relocate to Seattle, said American Indians have experienced the racism
    that hurricane refugees now face.

    ''Indians have a long history of slow federal response to any crisis in
    Indian country and a long history of being the last to get help,'' Galvan told
    Indian Country Today.

    Farrell Jerome Davidson, Mississippi Choctaw sociology student at the
    University of New Mexico, said the long waits to be rescued on New Orleans'
    rooftops exposed racism.

    ''It is still here in America. It is a different form of racism, but it is
    obvious,'' said Davidson.

    Davidson's home community of Tucker, Miss., was among the tribal communities
    recovering from downed trees and power lines. Water and telephone service to
    Tucker, five miles south of Philadelphia, had not been restored by Sept. 5,
    Labor Day.

    ''Carter Camp, Ponca tribal member from Oklahoma and longtime American
    Indian activist, said, ''Indian people are an invisible minority across the South,
    but we're there.''

    Camp said his cousin retired in New Orleans after a lifetime spent working
    the offshore oil fields. Now, his house is gone, but fortunately he evacuated
    in time to save his life.

    ''We live on and off reservations across the south and our people suffer
    even worse discrimination than most because of our small numbers and political
    weakness in southern states,'' Camp told ICT.

    ''But the truth is the infamous 'relocation policy' of the BIA means that
    Indian people are present among the poor of every major city and state in the
    United States.

    ''So as you watch the masses of poor people struggling to survive the
    disaster, just remember some of them are Indians who were first displaced by the
    Americans from their homelands and are now doomed to suffer the ravages of
    being poor.''

    Charles Cambridge, a Navajo holding a doctorate degree and college faculty
    member in Denver, was home on the Navajo Nation working on his family land,
    without electricity or running water, living in the same conditions into which
    many hurricane refugees were cast. When Cambridge saw the news in nearby
    Durango, Colo., he was amazed.

    ''While seeing the television scenes, I grew angry seeing the abandonment of
    people, but clearly I understood the reasons why the poor were being
    socially discarded.

    ''My first thoughts were that the poor blacks and others left in New Orleans
    would be lucky to survive, given the many Indian experiences of white folks
    being racists.''

    Cambridge remembers as a child when his parents were asked to leave
    businesses in New Mexico and Colorado, businesses which refused to serve Navajos and
    other Indians.

    ''This clear racism, for the most part, has been replaced by an
    administrative racism which is not as clear and can easily be hidden by bureaucratic
    rules and regulations.

    ''Time delays are only one aspect of this administrative racism which has
    been used against the poor in New Orleans. Time delays and delays in providing
    shelter and assistance would never happen if rich white folks were in the
    same situation as New Orleans' poor.

    ''We have so many examples of administrative racism against Indian people
    found in tribal governments, the BIA, federal courts and the federal
    government. And, for many of us, we can only find refuge in the isolation of the
    reservation and the avoidance of white people.

    ''Many of us are without electricity, running water, sewage facilities and
    other modern conveniences that are normal for white people. Being poor, having
    a different skin color and being a part of a defined difference in social
    class, only brands us for racism.''

    ''As I work on my outhouse next week, I will be thinking that there is very
    little difference between the poor blacks of New Orleans and the Indian poor
    on the non-casino reservations.

    Andrew R. Marsh, a medical doctor living and working in the New Orleans
    region, weathered the storm and served the sick and injured. Marsh told ICT that
    racism is not the crux of the problem.

    ''I am a crazy, humble, warrior medicine man from Cherokee, Okla., and am in
    the thick of things,'' Marsh said in an e-mail on Sept. 5.

    ''As for racism, for shame. There is no, I repeat no racism. We are all
    dying. The media has done a grave disservice to all of us in that New Orleans is
    flooded and was not the main impact, the levees failed.

    ''From Slidell, where I am now working east to Biloxi, the coast is gone
    with thousands dead, missing and unaccounted for, including tribal members from
    Tunica-Biloxi. There are million-dollar white people homes decimated here and
    there are no helicopters here assisting them to the degree that you see in
    New Orleans,'' Marsh said.

    ''We need to stop blaming and pointing fingers and need to help each other
    with open arms, in the Indian way.''

    A spokesperson for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in Marksville said all tribal
    members were accounted for on Sept. 6.

    While some pointed to racism for the lack of rescues during the first week,
    others pointed to poor coordination between local, state and federal agencies
    and a lack of preparedness by the federal government.

    ''What if they were white?'' was the question asked by many in Indian
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

  • #2
    This was blatant light-skinned black racism on dark-skinned blacks. Mayor Nagin does not have the qualities to lead a city.

    No one anticipated Katrina’s aftermath would include a false and ignorant tidal wave of calumny against President Bush. Conservatives beware, because the goal is to politically disable the president, and the conservative agenda with him.

    No one anticipated Katrina's aftermath would include a false and ignorant tidal wave of calumny against President Bush. Conservatives beware, because the goal is to politically disable the president, and the conservative agenda with him.
    A few basic facts will help to detox the political environment:

    (1) FEMA is not an agency of first responders. It is not the agency responsible for bringing people bottles of water and trays of fresh food, or transporting them out of harm's way. It also has zero law enforcement authority, or personnel.
    These first-responder jobs are the responsibility of local and state government -- city police and firemen, city transportation and emergency services personnel, state police, and ultimately the state National Guard.
    FEMA has always been primarily a federal financing agency, providing funding to the locals after the crisis hits to help them respond and rebuild. That is why FEMA's Web site baldly states don't expect them to show up with their aid until three or four days after the disaster strikes.

    (2) Moreover, the National Guard is under the command of each state's governor, not the president. The president can federalize control of a state's guard on his own order, but doing so without a governor's consent to deal with an intrastate natural disaster would be a supreme insult to the governor and the state. In addition, using federal troops for local police actions is against the law and has been since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
    With this background, let's examine who did what in response to Katrina.
    President Bush declared the entire Gulf Coast, including New Orleans and Louisiana, a federal disaster area days before the hurricane hit, to enable federal aid to get there sooner.
    The disaster that struck New Orleans did not become apparent until the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 29, as the levees apparently broke after the storm had passed. But that very day, the Army Corps of Engineers was already working on levee repair. And the Coast Guard was already in the air with helicopters rescuing people from rooftops, ultimately employing 300 choppers. These are both federal agencies under Mr. Bush's command.
    In addition, before the end of that week, Mr. Bush had already pushed through Congress and signed an emergency aid package of $10.5 billion for the Gulf Coast region.
    Now what about Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin? President Bush had to get on the phone two days before the hurricane to plead with the governor to order a mandatory evacuation. In response, she dithered and delayed. Mayor Nagin also had full authority, and responsibility, to order an evacuation. He also dithered and delayed.

    The city's own written evacuation plan requires the city to provide transportation for the evacuation of those without access to vehicles or with disabilities. But Mr. Nagin did nothing to carry out this responsibility. Instead, hundreds of city metro and school buses were ruined in the flood, as Mr. Nagin left them in low-lying areas. Jesse Jackson and Kanye West, do you think Mr. Nagin cares about poor blacks in New Orleans?


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