By Ricardo Zuniga, FEMA External Affairs
President Obama issued a major disaster declaration on July 10, 2013, for 12 counties and three tribal communities in Montana as a result of catastrophic flooding. Federal Coordination Officer Thomas McCool wanted to make sure that local hires reflected the communities served, so the Tribal Liaison worked with the Montana Office of Indian Affairs to identify potential local hires.
Ever since members of the Blackfeet Tribe in Northern Montana were deployed to assist in the Hurricane Katrina recovery, Amanda Ray has wanted to work for FEMA. As a local hire, she is helping survivors in her community.
As a logistics specialist, Ray is willing to learn new tasks and try anything. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Ray said. She immediately took to the FEMA family and has been a great asset to the organization.
“Learning new skills and tasks is what makes the job interesting,” Ray said. She is busy all day and the time seems to fly by. For those who regularly work for FEMA, what seems like a typical day is a day filled with new and interesting experiences.
Ray’s experience does not end there. As the Public Assistance team was establishing operations in Havre, Mont., they needed a local hire to support their efforts. After little success in recruiting through the local newspaper, Ray was asked to help identify some candidates for a support position in the Havre Office. Ray immediately worked her networks and identified a couple of candidates. Out of this effort, Leah Rider was hired.
Rider is working towards her Allied Health associates degree at Stone Child College on Rocky Boy’s reservation, where she hopes to become a registered nurse. A member of the Crow tribe who grew up on the Ft. Belknap reservation, Rider currently lives in Havre. Like Ray, Rider enjoys working for FEMA and has been called “a quick learner and has been an asset to the organization.”
As FEMA proceeds with outreach efforts in Tribal communities, it is important to consider the strength of social and personal networks among tribal members. Whether working on identifying local hires, or implementing programs, reflecting the communities being served is not only good policy, but strengthens the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission within these communities.
“We must take care not to overlook the assets within close tribal relationships that make FEMA a better organization,” says McCool.