By Mark Walker, Volunteer
For the American Red Cross, building and sustaining rapport with the Pacific Northwest region’s diverse Native American tribes is a crucial and ongoing focus.
There are nearly three dozen federally-recognized tribes in Washington State and Northern Idaho, and Red Cross officials and volunteers strive to first understand each tribe’s history and cultural traditions.
“You have to foremost respect each tribe’s customs and their sovereignty,” says Jack Robinson, tribal liaison for the Red Cross Northwest Region.
In Snohomish County, for example, Tulalip Tribes member and Emergency Preparedness Manager, Ashlynn Danielson, sits on the local Red Cross board of directors.
“We’ve always welcomed the Red Cross,” Danielson says. “We work to make sure our community is aware of all the services and training opportunities available to them.”
The planning for emergency and program services must take into account a tribe’s cultural, leadership and governmental status. Tribal elders often serve as the guide and conduit to their members.
The history of the American Red Cross and Indian tribes stretches back to World War I, when tribal women joined the organization in support of more than 12,000 Native American troops who served in the war. The group Patriot Nations, that tracks the history of Native Americans in the armed forces, says thousands of tribal women across the country volunteered.
Robinson attends numerous tribal events on behalf of the Red Cross as he broadens outreach to regional tribes as part of his liaison duties.
“It’s one of the ways we come to understand what people need,” said Robinson, 72. He’s a former deputy chief of the Everett Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services, who transitioned directly to the Red Cross when he left that post.
“I’ve been around since 2006 and recognize how important tribal relations are,” said Robinson. “It’s very encouraging to me that the Red Cross is putting more emphasis and resource into the effort.”
His work includes outreach to tribes whose members have been impacted by home fires and responding with offers of help in cases of flood or major storm damage.
“It’s a very trusting relationship we have with the Red Cross,” says the Tulalip’s Danielson. “We’re always looking for ways to grow that bond.”