DONATIONS: The White Mountain Apache Tribe now has an account at
Wells Fargo Bank for donations---the name of the account is "White
Mountain Apache Tribe Rodeo/Chedeski Disaster Relief Fund" This
account number is # 1004051817 Financial Donations can be made at ANY
Wells Fargo Branch.
Other items needed and donations are being requested for are---
clothes for all ages; food staples such as flour, shortening, beans,
sugar and coffee. Much needed also for the kids is TOYS to occupy the
kids in the shelter and the toys will help till the time the families
can return to their homes perhaps as early as next week for those
from Hondah and McNary. For these donations please contact Debra
Sanchez who is the tribal coordinator; she can be reached at 928-338-
(The following article gives a detailed picture of the situation.)
Jun 30, 2002
Wildfire Leaves Apaches With Misery--and Pain
By TOM GORMAN and STEVE BERRY , LA Times Staff Writers
WHITERIVER, Ariz. -- Even in good times, this Apache Indian
reservation community struggles from paycheck to paycheck. The 60-
year-old homes need paint and screens, fences miss slats, hulks of
old cars sit abandoned in backyards.
For hundreds of Apaches, Wednesday's paychecks will be the last for
months because their forest has burned. Fire robbed the town of its
main livelihood: ponderosa pines to be milled at the tribe's Fort
Apache Timber Co.
"We will go broke by the end of the month," said Cindy Bennett as her
husband picked up his last paycheck Wednesday at the mill.
About 70% of the 330 employees at the tribal company's two mills were
laid off Monday as the Rodeo-Chediski fire, the nation's largest,
raged through the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona. The
remaining employees will be out of work in two weeks.
The fire's devastation is being felt throughout Navajo County at
least 339 homes destroyed, 410,000 acres of forest charred.
But perhaps nowhere is the economic fallout of the fire felt more
immediately than by the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
In coming days, hundreds of Apaches will run out of money to buy food
and medicine. The tribe already has lost millions of dollars in
revenue that goes toward a variety of social services and the cost of
running its government. There are no trees to cut for the mills, no
elk to attract hunters, no tourists to gamble in its casino or fill
its motels and restaurants all revenue that feeds the tribe's general
The pain is felt in other ways too: Apaches are frequently targeted
with icy stares when they shop off the reservation, blamed for the
fire because it started on their reservation. There is resentment,
too, that the Apaches' suffering is going unnoticed, with so much
attention being paid to the plight of the other mountain residents.
"It was all Show Low this and Show Low that," said Sandra DeClay,
referring to the city north of here that was besieged by the blaze.
"We are suffering," said Dallas Massey Sr., chairman of the tribe,
which has 12,000 adult members. "Even before this, we had so many
unmet needs, in infrastructure, in housing."
Indeed, this tribe was already in a world of hurt. Before this week's
layoffs, unemployment stood at a staggering 60%. Household income for
a full half of the families is below poverty level.
The reservation's beauty belies the economic hardships of those
living here; most of its 1.6 million acres are carpeted in ponderosa
pines; streams and lakes attract anglers, elk attract the hunters.
But in Whiteriver, where tribal government is headquartered in two,
one-story brick buildings, there are only a handful of businesses a
band, a gas station, a restaurant and small motel among others.
For the last seven years, Nelson Bennett Jr., 37, made a living
sorting and stacking freshly cut lumber. He earned about $800 a
month; most of it went for groceries and the $235 car payment for
his '93 Chevrolet, chronically in need of repair.
And then there's the utilities, and medicine, and the occasional toys
and clothes for the children. Payday is normally a fun shopping day
for the kids maybe new shirts, new toys but that is ending.
Bennett's words Wednesday were pointed. "I'm angry," he said. "This
is the first time I've been laid off."
He's hoping for $300 a month in unemployment, and food assistance
from the tribe.
But the tribe is in little position to help.
It lost $4 million in pending wood sales and $237 million in future
revenue because the fire destroyed more than 700 million board feet
of timber. U.S. Forest Service officials say it will be more than 100
years before that part of the tribe's forest recovers.
In coming months, mill workers will lose a total of $500,000 in wages
with the end of milling and logging operations.
The tribe's hotel, convention and casino in nearby Hon Dah also have
closed, costing the Apaches $3.3 million in expected revenue over the
next three months.
And one of the tribe's outdoor recreation business has evaporated
too, including $20,000 elk hunts and income from daily fishing and
Altogether, tribal businesses are braced to lose $8.4 million over
the next three months, and untold millions in the future, money to
fund housing and other unmet needs.
All because a small fire began on the reservation June 18, north of
Cibecue. The fire burned for about 24 hours on the reservation and
firefighters from the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs thought
they had it almost contained when it exploded beyond their reach,
said Robert Lacapa, the BIA's local forest manager.
At that point, outside help was requested. After devouring tribal
woodlands, the fire stretched north into the Apache-Sitgreaves
The blaze and a companion fire, which started June 20 when a lost
hiker shot off a flare, merged on Sunday, threatening the evacuated
city of Show Low, population 7,700. By Wednesday, the fire's
perimeter stretched 400 miles and was only 5% contained. The fire
glanced along Show Low's western edge.
Tribal members say they've felt the anger of the neighboring
As residents fleeing their homes drove through the reservation, signs
were taped to car windows: "Thank you Apaches for burning our
Sympathy was extended by President Bush, who met with Massey and Gov.
Jane Dee Hull on Tuesday after freeing up federal money to help fire
victims, the tribal chairman said.
But the misery grows.
Rudell Baha, 41, was depressed that unemployment benefits will fall
short in paying mounting bills. Even after working the mill's saws
for 22 years, he said he and his wife have less than $200 at the end
of the month to meet the needs of their seven children. And that was
before this week's layoffs.
His brother-in-law may be able to help, Baha said, but now he has
another mouth to feed his father's, because he was laid off too.
Sandra DeClay figured she had enough savings to last about a month. A
mill office worker and single mother of three, she figured she has
enough savings to last about a month.
"I just pray," she said, "we all can go back to work soon."
Massey said the tribe hunters and gatherers before learning the
cattle business was proud of its economic development over the last
20 years. The tribe launched commercial lumbering as its first
As the tribe sorts out its financial future, Massey said he's
embracing the Indian's long view of dealing with adversity.
"Apaches take care of the land, and it takes care of us," he
said. "The land will recover and become stronger, and provide even
more nuts and trees.
"We as a tribe will suffer for now. We may have to tap other
resources, explore other economic development," he said. "This fire
will open the door for new diversity and growth."