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Meskwaki Efforts To Recover From Derecho

A corn field is completely flattened.
Michael Leland
IPR file
The derecho storm went through Iowa with estimated wind speeds of 140 miles per hour. Many in the state lost power. Dawson Davenport said he lost power for nine days.

A Native tribe in Iowa is still recovering from the derecho, and with winter on the way and COVID-19 still widespread in the state, one man is working to help support the tribe elders.

When the Meskwaki nation in Tama County was hit by the derecho storm, that was just another blow to the elders in the community. They were already at high risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus and one Meskwaki man noticed the community was struggling for basic necessities. He decided to organize a food drive for Meskwaki elders.

Dawson Davenport owns an art gallery and clothing line. He saw on social media how many elders in his community are struggling to recover the loss of food during the derecho. He said it is already hard for them to leave their homes during the pandemic.

“Maybe that will eliminate the need for our elders to be going out and about, you know, throughout this winter because as we've seen, throughout the year we don't know what to expect or what to be prepared for," Davenport said.

Davenport said when he lost power for more than a week from the derecho, he realized the long-term impact on the Meskwaki community.

“You know, I was kind of thinking a lot about what was going on here on the settlement within my community and how unprepared we were when something like that happened," Davenport said.

Davenport has raised enough funds to make almost 20 boxes of healthy food.
He spoke with the county's senior services to figure out he needed to make 60 boxes his goal in order to serve all Meskwaki elders who are in need. If he raises extra funds, he plans on making more food boxes for those in the community who are sick.

"I have seen in Native communities how there were these spikes happening. The Navajo Nation, for example, was experiencing really harsh impacts of COVID. They were losing a lot of people and a lot of people got sick," Davenport said. "I've just seen a lot of that happening throughout Native communities where I was and like, I needed to try to do something."

He said the derecho, COVID-19 and the onset of winter were some issues he knew would be obstacles for the elders in the neighborhood, but he also wanted to focus on healthy food options for them. Davenport is known in the community as a vegan. He is focusing on filling the boxes with healthy, locally-sourced foods. That way, he said, he is also supporting small businesses.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines