Glenn C. Zaring in Native Condition. Discussion »
Strengthening the Whole Community
Sufficient and persistent representation from the 565 Native Sovereign Nations seems to be bearing fruit in interesting and surprising ways. Early this December, representatives from a number of tribal nations' emergency management organizations met with FEMA Tribal Liaisons and Homeland Security contractors to further refine a new document entitled the 'NIMS Tribal Implementation Guide.'
NIMS stands for the National Incident Management System, which provides the framework for emergency response across the United States. It is based upon common training and methods for response to disasters and incidents. While NIMS was designed for implementation by non-tribal styles of governments (Federal, State, County and Local), under the persistent prodding of tribal officials and the push from above through the Obama administration for better tribal collaboration, FEMA has been pressured to recognize that tribal sovereign nations do not necessarily operate the same as towns, states, counties and municipalities.
Tribal participants at this Decembers' FEMA focus group in Phoenix, once again delivered the message that the uniqueness of tribal nations must be respected. As Dan Martinez from the Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon said, "Native nations are different, because we are!" Cookie cutter plans, training and definitions will at best be marginally successful on tribal lands because each of the 565 recognized tribes have their own practices, beliefs and yes, procedures for governance.
This new manual is going to be one of a set of NIMS guides recognizing and acknowledging the governance and structural differences between tribal nations, states, counties and municipalities while focusing upon the science of Emergency Management. The purpose of these different guides appears to be that by recognizing the differences in organization, communication and governance of each entity and helping them to understand how emergency management works as a discipline, each will be better prepared to help their citizens when and if a disaster or incident occurs on their lands.
While some of the verbiage still needs to be polished up, the document is light years ahead of where the tribes were just a few short years ago. Tim Sanders, one of the first Emergency Management leaders in tribal country has been quoted as saying that when compared to just ten short years ago, we have made tremendous strides forward.
To show how far Emergency Management itself has come in America, group participants referred to how with Hurricane Katrina, most people impacted by the storm just sat back and waited for FEMA or someone to come in and help them. Now the federal government agencies appear to realize that a lot more good will be done by providing the people, be they tribal, state or local entities, with the tools and training to handle their own disasters or incidents while providing a mechanism to bring in assistance if the need expands beyond the capability of the groups.
Some attendees of this recent focus group in Phoenix commented how it is interesting because this 'new' federal move towards strengthening the 'whole community' is what we've been doing in tribal lands all along.
Glenn C. Zaring, Director of Public Affairs/PIO for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. Zaring has participated in this and other FEMA focus groups including the E580 class recently rolled out by the Emergency Management Institute specifically for Tribal Nations.
posted December 13, 2011 6:00 am est
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