Working with Indigenous Communities After a Disaster: Focus on South Dakota

As 2020 draws to a close and many of us celebrate holidays by giving gifts, I want to share a story about a gift – an amazing gift that involved a dozen people and will help feed hundreds of people for weeks to come. The gift, which was born out of need and was especially meaningful, generous and much appreciated, is not the most heartwarming part of the story. Even more remarkable are the people and organizations that made it happen.

On Oct. 23, 2020, an early blizzard hit Rapid City, South Dakota, adding to the hardship of homeless folks on the street and people staying at Camp Mniluzahan, a winter camp of tipis outside of Rapid City for homeless Natives. Great Plains Tribal Leaders Board (GPTLB) provided COVID-19 testing at the camp and found several individuals who were positive. GPTLB, which was already helping feed 40-60 quarantined Native families weekly, set up an Emergency Alternative Care Site to isolate and care for homeless folks with COVID-19 that fed up to 30 guests daily.

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The Author: Heidi Schultz is a Program Manager at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. She can be reached at