We all are aware of natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, etc. Things that are referred to as Acts of God that happen to us unexpectedly or maybe with some advance notice. We as a people today have early warning broadcasts or sirens that alert us to upcoming natural disaster events. Back in the early 1940’s, two tornados followed each other down the main street of the small town I was born in, Pryor, Oklahoma. They demolished the town and many lives were lost. Just within my lifetime, we have gone from just looking at the clouds to see if a storm was coming to having advanced radar systems and weatherpersons on television and radio telling us the hour and minute the damaging winds will be in our area. We are better prepared today to deal with these natural disasters because we are warned and have time to put our preparations into action so that we can deal with the disaster before, during, and after it hits us.
Do you have plans in place for a pending disaster? Are you ready to activate a command post to address a disaster when it hits? I’m sure most of our law enforcement and departments of safety have plans in place in order to keep our communities and people safe form most natural disasters. But have you ever thought about planning for unnatural disasters?
Unnatural disasters such as child abductions, children who go missing and are endangered and exploited, crimes against children committed through the internet, and human trafficking - these are happening on a daily basis in this country, and more and more recently in Indian Country. These unnatural disasters are not Acts of God, but of people who are criminally bent and have no regard for the innocent victims. Unfortunately we do not have any sort of radar or scientific instrument to predict when and where these disasters will occur. But we do know one thing. These unnatural disasters do happen and they seem to be happening more and more frequently. It is my belief that we can now prepare for these unexpected occurrences and be ready to deal with the disaster before, during, and after it happens.
For almost half a century I have devoted my life to working with and for Indian Country. Over the decades I have observed Indian Country go from not being included in most news sources, unheard of as a forgotten group of people, and simply trying to exist on their own without outside help or assistance - to now witnessing tribes which are increasingly recognized as a strong protector of and a strong voice for their people. This dramatic change has not been easy and still has its difficulties. Yet nevertheless, we Native Americans have an unheard of opportunity now to help each other and our tribal citizens.
Through public awareness and legal mandates we can now join with other law enforcement agencies to prepare ourselves for the unnatural disaster. We can have Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs) with non-native entities that can and will assist us in meeting the challenges of today’s unnatural disasters.
I know many of us look at MOUs and MOAs as a written agreement that is similar to our past tribal and U.S. government treaties; written agreements or promises that were never kept. But this is not the case for today’s cooperative agreements between tribal, local, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies when dealing with the protection of children.
I mentioned in last month’s blog that in the not so distant past, police could enter information about stolen cars, stolen guns, even stolen horses into the FBI's crime database – but not stolen children. Today, however, thanks to AMBER Alert in Indian Country and other specialized training and technical assistance offered by AMBER Alert and the National Criminal Justice Training Center, we have the opportunity to address and meet our tribal needs for high quality preparations in child safety.
Whether you are a law enforcement officer, teacher, social worker or serving in any other Child Safety and Advocacy role, I believe it is urgent that we keep public and child safety at the forefront. I urge all our native communities be prepared, have a plan in place, and then do all that we can to respond, thoughtfully and thoroughly, to the pending unnatural disasters that seem to be occurring more often than we would like. I urge everyone to obtain the appropriate training(s) and have your responses at the ready to address the unnatural disasters as well as the natural disasters.
My AMBER Alert in Indian Country colleagues and I look forward to sharing our experiences with you, and more importantly, learning from you and your community as we venture forward together. Please follow our blog, like us on Facebook and share with us your comments and thoughts on topics for future posts.
Do Na Da Go huh I (Doe Naw Daw Go Huh ee).
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN.
Ron Gurley M.S. Ed.