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Havasupai Tribe to receive federal funds for severe flood damage

By: - January 4, 2023 2:26 pm

Havasu Falls, one of five Havasupai waterfalls deep in Arizona’s Havasu Canyon, an offshoot of Grand Canyon National Park but on lands administered by the Havasupai Indian Tribe. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith | Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Due to flooding, the Havasupai Tribe declared a major disaster within their community and requested federal aid to address the damages. 

“On October 1, 2022, the Tribe also experienced severe flooding, which destroyed several bridges and trails that are needed not only for our tourists, but the everyday movement of goods and services into Supai Village,” the tribe said in a statement.

President Joe Biden acknowledged that a major disaster exists for the Havasupai Tribe and approved the disaster declaration for the tribe on Dec. 31.

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Biden ordered federal aid to supplement the Havasupai Tribe’s response and recovery efforts in the areas affected by flooding within the community in October.

FEMA announced that federal emergency aid had been made available to the tribe. 

“Funding under the Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs are now available to the Havasupai Tribe for repairing and restoring their tribal lands, to include heavily damaged recreational areas that are so vital to the Tribe’s economy and livelihood,” FEMA Region 9 Response Division Director Dana Reynolds said in a statement.

“FEMA will work closely with the Havasupai on all aspects of program delivery to promote a speedy recovery and a resilient future,” Reynolds added.

Federal funding is available to the tribe and specific private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repairing or replacing facilities damaged by the flooding, according to FEMA. Money is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the tribe.

The Havasupai Tribe, which is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and relies heavily on tourism, has been closed to non-tribal members since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With limited access to meaningful healthcare, closing the reservation was the best way to keep our community safe and healthy,” the tribe stated on its website. 

The tribe intended to reopen for tourism in June 2022, but extended the closure through the end of the year, citing issues with the company providing online tourism operations and customer service. The tribe plans to reopen by February.

“While you may see downed trees on the trails where the flood crashed through, you will also see flourishing flora and fauna and new waterfall flows,” the tribe stated. “This is truly a great time to visit, and please know that we are eager to welcome tourists back to our beautiful Reservation starting February 1, 2023, for current permit holders.”

The tribe launched its Facebook tourism page called Havasupai Tribe Tourism, where people can get updated information regarding tourism.

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Shondiin Silversmith
Shondiin Silversmith

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues. Her digital, print and audio stories have been published by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, Navajo Times, The GroundTruth Project and PRX's "The World." Silversmith earned her master's degree in journalism and mass communication in Boston before moving back to Arizona to continue reporting stories on Indigenous communities. She is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and has made it a priority in her career to advocate, pitch and develop stories surrounding Indigenous communities in the newsrooms she works in.

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