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Tribal Nations Close Businesses, Offer Water And Firewood To Those Struggling During Winter Storm

The two winter storms and the plunging temperatures have put a strain on Oklahoma's power grid and natural gas supply. Tribal Nations across the state are responding by closing businesses, rescheduling vaccine appointments and delivering firewood to residents for fuel. 

On Monday, as the first round of the winter storm left roads icy and power in higher demand than OG&E could supply, Cherokee Nation Businesses announced they would do their part to assist with the challenges. They closed all ten of their casinos, including the Hard Rock Tulsa near the Port of Catoosa. Officials extended that closure until Friday at 1 p.m. and said that all employees scheduled to work during that time will be paid for their shifts.

During an update with citizens and the press, Tulsa city officials praised Cherokee Nation's efforts saying closing casinos was a huge help.

Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett said in a press statement that he hopes other businesses will take Cherokee Nation's lead.

“CNB has built a reputation for making tough decisions for the right reasons, and that legacy will continue today as we put the needs of our communities ahead of our business goals,” Garrett said. “As an industry leader, we hope we can inspire other businesses throughout the region to join us as we plan, prepare and proceed through the next few days of inclement weather.”

All other Cherokee Nation properties, including cultural sites, will remain closed during this time and those employees will also be paid for their shifts. The Roland Travel Plaza on I-40 will stay open to assist travelers.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation announced that tribal offices would be closed on Wednesday, operating virtually. Principal Chief David Hill drove around with the tribal nation's emergency services department to check on citizens, including elders and those who are more vulnerable. 

The tribal nation's Lighthorse Police and Marshalls reported they've been rescuing stranded drivers, including doctors, nurses and other essential workers. 

Muscogee Creek Nation's Lighthorse Police Chief Richard Phillips said he'd been getting calls from motorists on Monday whose commutes in and around Okmulgee were nearly impossible.

"The roads are snow packed and stopping and starting is...sketchy at best," Phillips said.

In the past couple of days, all 64 Lighthorse Police officers have been on duty and responding to calls from stranded motorists throughout McIntosh County and elsewhere.


Officials with the Cherokee Nation are reporting similar conditions, with roads in and around Tahlequah hard to drive on. The tribal nation's health services rescheduled all vaccination appointments for Wednesday due to hazardous weather. Choctaw Nation officials are reporting the same in Durant and surrounding areas. 

Freezing temperatures are expected through the week with a warm up not likely until the weekend.

Osage News reported that the tribal nation will provide a quarter of a rick of firewood to people who've lost power and have the ability to heat their homes with a wood burning stove. The wood was available at the land formerly known as Bird Creek Farm near Skiatook.

Osage Casinos in Hominy, Bartlesville and Sand Springs closed due to weather and lack of water. Some were planning on reopening once roads were cleared and services were restored. Osage Nation offices operated remotely on Tuesday.

Comanche Nation residents in Cotton County distributed water to citizens who had their services shut off. Emergency management services set up shop in a church, and the local fire department in Walters was allowing residents to fill up containers with water. Arrangements were made for elders who could not get out to do so. As of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Comanche Nation citizens were told in a text message that the city of Walters was restoring water services to citizens.

Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Muscogee Creek Nation as well as many Indian Health Service clinics across the state have told patients they will be rescheduling their initial and second dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments due to weather.

This is a developing story. Please stay tuned for updates.


Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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