President Joe Biden's White House has issued a federal disaster declaration for the Havasupai tribe, making relief available to the Native American community in the event of another disastrous flood.
The Havasupai tribe is located in Arizona and resides deep within the Grand Canyon. Last October, large areas of the reservation were damaged by intense flooding.
The tribe reported that waters “destroyed several bridges and trails that are needed not only for our tourists, but for the everyday movement of goods and services into the Supai Village."
The community is preparing to reopen its famous turquoise waterfalls for tourists in February, marking the first opportunity to enter the village since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Access was restricted, as the tribe has limited available medical equipment and resources.
“This has been a trying experience for all involved," the tribe said in a statement that reflected on the Autumn floods. "However, there are many positive things as a result. 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.”
No subsequent disasters have yet affected the community, but Biden's declaration will provide the Havasupai with relief should extreme weather impact the tribe in the future.
According to the tribe, uranium mining is a key factor in the flooding. Native communities have been impacted by mining endeavors for decades, as from 1944 to 1986, nearly 30 million tons of uranium were extracted from nearby Navajo lands.
Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon takes place near the Havasupai's only water source, which the tribe has warned could cause flooding or possible contamination. Tribal chairman Thomas Siyuja Sr. previously told Native News Online that the mining is an "existential threat" for the community.
“It is time to permanently ban uranium mining, not only to preserve the Havasupai tribe’s cultural identity and our existence as the Havasupai people but to protect the Grand Canyon for generations to come,” he said. "With recent activity observed inside the mine fence, it is clear that the mining company is making plans to begin its operations.”
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