Biden Says Arizona Floods Federal Disaster for Havasupai Tribe | Arizona
The White House has issued a federal disaster declaration for the Native American Havasupai tribe that lives mostly at the bottom of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, as the community prepares to reopen tourist access to its famous turquoise waterfalls next month.
Last October, the village suffered severe flooding which damaged large parts of the reserve.
The floods “destroyed several bridges and pathways which are necessary not only for our tourists, but for the daily movement of goods and services in the village of Supai”, the tribe said.
The Havasupai is now preparing to receive tourists again from February 1 on its reservation, which is nine miles down narrow trails between dramatic red rock cliffs at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. . Tourists must apply for permits to enter the reservation.
It is the first time tourists have been allowed to return to the reserve not only since the floods but in nearly three years since tourism was shut down in early 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic spread to the United States. The canyon community has very limited health care resources on site.
The tribe is one of the smallest in North America and is the only one based inside the canyon, where the community has lived for more than 800 years, despite having been driven out of much of its original territory, much larger, by armed settlers in the 19th century.
On December 31, the White House announced that Joe Biden had approved a disaster declaration for the Havasupai. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), such a declaration provides for a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for emergency and permanent works.
The tribe grows crops and raises farm animals on a thin strip of land inside the canyon, alongside brightly colored natural streams and waterfalls. Havasupai means the blue-green water people.
The tribe released a statement last month, reflecting on last fall’s flooding, saying, “It was a harrowing experience for everyone involved…However, there are a lot of positives as a result. Although you can see downed trees on the trails where the flood has crashed, you will also see thriving flora and fauna and new waterfalls.
The White House noted that: “Federal funding is available to the Havasupai Tribe and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by flooding,” the statement continued.
In December, the tribe noted that it had come into conflict with the third-party tourism operator it normally worked with and had switched to another operator in preparation for the 2023 tourist season.
Last month, the tribe also reported new uranium mining activity in the Grand Canyon area, where the tribe’s water source comes from, which it has long asserted as an existential threat.
“It is time to ban uranium mining forever – not only to preserve the cultural identity of the Havasupai tribe and our existence as the Havasupai people, but also to protect the Grand Canyon for generations to come,” said tribal chairman Thomas Siyuja Sr in a statement reported by Native. News online. “With the recent activity seen inside the mine fence, it is clear that the mining company is considering commencing operations.”
The legacy of uranium mining has long threatened Native American communities, including the Havasupai tribe. From 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined from nearby Navajo lands. During the Cold War, companies mined millions of tons of uranium in these territories to meet the demand for nuclear weapons, causing an environmental blight.