Community Response to Dual Crises at Warm Springs

Failing pipes and unsafe drinking water have affected Warm Springs for years, forcing residents to boil or haul in water. Then the water crisis overlaped with COVID-19, making hygiene more difficult and straining Native-owned small businesses.  

The Warm Springs community has come together in a variety of ways to both provide support and to fill the gaps in aid from both federal and state sources. The urgency of the situation drove a series of collaborative relief efforts across communities as well. 

With help from an OCF Oregon Small Business Stabilization grant, Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT) is distributing $250 to $3,000 grants to small businesses affected by COVID-19 to help pay employees, rent, utilities, and other short-term business operating costs. To date, they supported 20 local businesses and hope to assist 8-10 more. 

Ad-hoc crisis relief efforts aimed to fill immediate daily water needs. Several mutual aid efforts including the McKenzie River Gathering (MRG) Foundation’s Chúush Fund and Don’t Shoot Portland helped meet day to day needs by fundraising and distributing bottled water. In 2019 OCF donors joined efforts to quickly fund emergency water system fixes.  

Federal and state funding efforts to date have resolved some acute water system failures, but not to the needed system-wide scale. The State of Oregon contributed $3.5 million for repairs, and federal funds arrived as well. It’s not been nearly enough to make full repairs and upgrades for a sustainable water supply. An estimated $200 million is needed.  

Oregon needs Native Americans’ expertise, values, historical knowledge and creative resilience to help us all thrive. To learn more about supporting Warm Springs water system rebuilding, COVID-19 relief or otherwise supporting Tribal populations, contact your OCF donor relations officer