Biden declares Arizona floods a federal disaster for Havasupai tribe


President Joe Biden has made a federal disaster declaration for the Havasupai Tribe after floods hit northern Arizona, The Guardian reported.

The declaration frees up funds for flood damage as the community prepares to re-open for tourists to its famous turquoise waterfalls next month for the first time after nearly three years.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed Sunday that federal emergency aid will be given to supplement the tribe’s own recovery efforts from severe flooding last October.

Last October, the village experienced drastic flooding which damaged extensive parts of the reservation.

The Arizona floods “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 tribe said.

The funds will be for the tribe and certain nonprofits to share costs for emergency work and repairs from flood damage, Independent reports.

The Havasupai Indian Reservation lies deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon. Its famous, majestic blue-green waterfalls have been closed to the public since March 2020. The tribe had closed to protect its members from the pandemic. Tribal officials decided to extend the closure through the 2022 tourism season.

The Havasupai is now readying itself to receive tourists again from February 1 on its reservation, which sits nine miles down narrow trails between spectacular red rock cliffs deep within the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona. Tourists must apply for permits to enter the reservation.

It is the first time that tourists have been allowed to return to the reservation not only since the flooding but since tourism was closed off early in 2020 when the Covid pandemic spread across the U.S. 

The tribe is one of North America’s smallest and is the only one based inside the canyon, where the community has lived for more than 800 years, despite being driven off much of its original, much wider, territory by armed settlers in the 19th century. The canyon community has very limited health care resources on site.

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