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Native Americans create hurricane relief fund

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A makeshift shrine encourages passersby to "Hope in God" in Waveland, Miss.

Nov. 4, 2005

By United Methodist News Service

A new United Methodist fund will assist Native American families affected by the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The fund was developed by the denomination’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Agency for Native American Ministries after a national team of United Methodist American Indians visited Louisiana and Mississippi in late September.

“Many times during crisis situations, Indian people tend to be left out or overlooked,” said Darlene Jacobs, director of SEJANAM.

“I did not think that I would be surprised at anything I would see,” said the Rev. Dwayne Lowry, pastor of New Philadelphus United Methodist Church, Pembroke, N.C. “There were large boats in the tops of large trees from 10 miles away, refrigerators, debris and mattresses along highways, and the smell was breathtaking.”

The focus of the trip was to assess the extent of damage left by Hurricane Katrina within native communities, Jacobs said.

Team members included Wade Hunt, chair of the Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry and of missions at Prospect United Methodist Church, Maxton, N.C.; the Rev. Sylvia Collins, coordinator of Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry and pastor of Branch Street United Methodist Church, Lumberton, N.C.; Tony Locklear, EMS technician, Lumberton, N.C.; George Locklear, missions chair, New Philadelphus United Methodist Church, Pembroke, N.C.; Lowry and Jacobs.

The group first traveled to Mobile, Ala., to visit native communities of the Alabama Choctaw. There the team met an evacuee family with three children from Louisiana living with a paralyzed relative in the Salcedeaver Community.

“We visited the Gulfport and Waveland areas,” Jacobs said. “The level of disaster is truly beyond the utterance of words.”

The team met with representatives of the Dulac Community of the Houma Nation in Louisiana. The United Houma Nation, which is state recognized, experienced the greatest level of devastation.

Pat Arunold, director of the Louisiana Commission of Indian Affairs, reported that more than 4,000 members of the Houma Nation were displaced across the Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and Jefferson Parishes. Two shelters are set-up to house affected families.

The Dulac (La.) Community Center in Terrebonne Parish has a clothes closet, a food pantry, an intake office for services, and other programs. In addition, the center is designated as a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and United Methodist Committee on Relief site.

When Hurricane Rita hit Sept. 24, Clanton Chapel United Methodist Church in Dulac had two feet of floodwater inside the sanctuary, which is built six feet off the ground.

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Snapped pine trees and a ruined roof show Hurricane Katina's power.

“The area received eight feet of water, the most we’ve ever gotten,” said the Rev. Kirby Vining, pastor.

The Dulac Community Center, which houses a thriving United Methodist ministry serving the largely Native American population of the area, suffered flood damage.

“Fortunately, the dormitory building was all right, since it sits 10 feet off the ground,” said the Rev. Roger Lathan, Acadiana district superintendent. The dormitories are frequently used by Volunteers in Mission teams that conduct programs for children in the area and assist with local construction projects.

The fact-finding team also visited Philadelphia and Meridian cities in Mississippi, home of the Mississippi Choctaw. There were power outages and downed trees.

“Fortunately in this community, there was no lost of life within the native community,” Jacobs said.

SEJANAM is working with leaders at the national level, in the Rockingham District Native American Cooperative Ministry and church leaders across the jurisdiction to coordinate work teams to provide assistance and relief to native families. The Rev. Sylvia Collins, Rockingham coordinator, said that the ministry has a wonderful history of providing work teams in the Southeast Jurisdiction, Alaska, and Bolivia

Information about where to send donations and resources can be found at Members are in need of food, new clothing, building materials, tarps, blankets, bedding and air mattresses, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene items.

Donations can be sent by regular mail directly to: United Houma Nation, 4400 La. 1, Raceland, La. 70384 or to SEJANAM ? Katrina Relief Fund, P.O. Box 67, Lake Junaluska, N.C. 28745.

Donations to assist with hurricane cleanup and recovery can also be made to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, designated for UMCOR Advance #982523, “Hurricanes 2005.” Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Katrina Coverage
UMCOR: Hurricanes 2005