The Santa Clara Pueblo are still seeking help to cope with damage in the wake of the Las Conchas fire of last year.
Before declaring a state of emergency on July 12, the New Mexico tribe hosted Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), who promised that federal funds would be forthcoming.
“Inviting him out here to see things for himself helped,” said Santa Clara Governor Walter Dasheno in a statement after Udall’s July 8 visit. “We’ve been promised $39 million in federal funding, but just got the first check of about $400,000 this past Monday. We need that money to prevent more destruction.”
The destruction stems from the wildfire of last summer, which destroyed 245 square miles, including 24 square miles of reservation, or about 80 percent of the land remaining under tribal control, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Santa Clara, which sits at the mouth of the canyon of the same name, is bearing the brunt of effects from the hydrophobic soil, which cannot absorb rain because there is no vegetation to anchor it.
The area has been subject to at least two flash floods this month, one of them with a wall of water six feet high, Dasheno said. He told Udall that the wall of water moves so quickly that it takes only 20 minutes to reach the village once it starts moving.
“The canyon has totally been affected by this last runoff,” he said in the tribe’s statement. “There’s been a compromise of the roads and creek beds in the area, so we face a new challenge today.”
“The entire canyon is one giant ‘cement ditch,’ ” said Michael Chavarria, director of the Santa Clara Forestry Department. “Any rain that falls turns up rocks, uproots trees and heads straight for the Pueblo.”
A major storm could wipe out the 3,100-member community’s school, a senior center and 300 homes, the British newspaper The Guardian reported in a recent story on the pueblo. Dasheno has worked out computer projections of what the damage could be in various scenarios.
“I think of it every day. I think of it at night time. Any time we could be called or have to make the call,” Dasheno told The Guardian. “My granddaughters have their backpacks packed in case they have to leave.”