Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Indigenous response to natural disaster illuminated by study

Date:
February 13, 2014
Source:
University of Colorado Denver
Summary:
When a tsunami struck American Samoa in 2009, indigenous institutions on the islands provided effective disaster relief that could help federal emergency managers in similar communities nationwide, according to a study.

When a tsunami struck American Samoa in 2009, indigenous institutions on the islands provided effective disaster relief that could help federal emergency managers in similar communities nationwide, according to a study from the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The study found that following the tsunami, residents of the remote U.S. territory in the South Pacific relied on Fa'aSamoa or The Samoan Way, an umbrella term incorporating a variety of traditional institutions governing the lives of its citizens.

"We found that communities like this have strong traditions that may not fit into the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) model but they are still highly effective," said study author Andrew Rumbach, PhD, assistant professor of planning and design at CU Denver's College of Architecture and Planning. "We think these same kinds of traditions could play important roles in disaster preparation, response and recover in American Indian communities, Alaskan villages, and among other indigenous people."

The study was published Thursday in the journal Ecology and Society.

The 2009 tsunami resulted from three undersea earthquakes that sent a wall of water crashing into American Samoa, killing 34, injuring hundreds more and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage.

Immediately after, the leaders or matai began organizing the young men or aumaga to begin rescuing tsunami victims and clearing debris from roads and critical infrastructure, said Rumbach.

"The aumaga were crucially important for emergency response because with such widespread devastation across the island, they were the de facto first responders," he said. "Based in each village they are capable of responding to events locally and without having to be dispatched from larger population centers."

The association of village women, aualuma, provided first aid, food and water to the victims.

Another traditional institution, the pulenu'u or village mayors, helped mitigate the destruction by sounding alarms in each community to warn of the impending tsunami. That action is credited with saving Amanave, a community of 300 that was able to evacuate before water destroyed virtually the entire village.

All the while, extended families known as aigas offered shelter, food and other aid to vulnerable individuals.

"Supporting indigenous institutions through disaster management policies and programs leverages existing networks with high levels of social capital, while simultaneously strengthening those institutions and making them relevant to contemporary challenges," the study said. "It's a `win-win' scenario."

Rumbach said FEMA's recent turn toward more community-based disaster management efforts offers the chance to create more flexible response plans for diverse conditions, needs and priorities.

"In times of crisis these institutions played role of first responder all without specific training," said Rumbach. "That response could be improved by being trained in CPR, evacuation of the elderly and other skills. But we could incorporate these kinds of traditional responses into FEMA."

The lessons learned from American Samoa could be used in other island territories or traditional communities in the U.S.

"We often come in after disasters and set up whole new systems but in these places we could use institutions already in place," Rumbach said. "Traditional communities have a lot of capacity.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado Denver. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew Rumbach, Dolores Foley. Indigenous Institutions and Their Role in Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience: Evidence from the 2009 Tsunami in American Samoa. Ecology and Society, 2014; 19 (1) DOI: 10.5751/ES-06189-190119

Cite This Page:

University of Colorado Denver. "Indigenous response to natural disaster illuminated by study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213142307.htm>.
University of Colorado Denver. (2014, February 13). Indigenous response to natural disaster illuminated by study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213142307.htm
University of Colorado Denver. "Indigenous response to natural disaster illuminated by study." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140213142307.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) Organizers of the People's Climate March and other rallies taking place in 166 countries hope to move U.N. officials to action ahead of their summit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins