LAKE CHARLES, La. -- History has a way of coming full circle, especially when the whirling winds of a hurricane dislodge people from their damaged homes and into the arms of welcoming neighbors.
Along with much damage, Hurricane Rita brought a remembrance of treasured Louisiana history from 500 years ago. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, 650 strong, opened the doors of their well-equipped Grand Casino Coushatta in Kinder, La., to house 700 evacuees from Southwest Louisiana. The hotel and casino property is on the Calcasieu River in Allen Parish. Although Hurricane Rita knocked out the power in the community for several days, the casino facility supplied basic needs with the help of a generator.
Five hundred years ago, Coushatta tribes throughout the area that would become the Southeastern United States welcomed other Native American travelers and the European explorers and settlers into their lodges and villages. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana has a heritage of more than 22 million acres; their land once measured 400 miles square, a footprint larger than the area damaged by Hurricane Rita.
When displaced residents left the casino during October, many received FEMA services and temporary housing to shelter them while they repaired or rebuilt their houses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided grants totaling $176,000 to the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to reimburse the tribe for costs associated with food, water and supplies and other emergency protective measures.
The casino and its 500-room hotel reopened for business during October 2005 and many tribal members have new spirit in their walk. With their lodge at a town called Kinder, doing their best for others comes naturally for the Coushatta, who have a saying: "What you do affects the seven generations who came before you and the seven generations that will follow."
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.