Flagstaff company to host virtual run to aid Havasupai Tribe relief efforts during pandemic
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Havasupai Reservation is one of the most remote reservations in the United States, nestled deep within the Grand Canyon, the only way to access the village is by horseback, helicopter or an 8-mile hike. But even then, the impacts with the worldwide coronavirus pandemic are still being felt.
On March 27, Ethel Branch, the general counsel to the Havasupai Tribe, created a GoFundMe page which shared the tribe’s economic struggle after the tribe temporarily suspended tourism within the reservation in order to protect tribal members from the spread of the pandemic.
On March 16, the tribe suspended all tourism through April 14 and last week a decision was made to extend that closure through May 14.
This suspension is expected to result in an estimated loss of 15 percent of the tribe’s annual revenues, according to Branch.
Additionally, Branch reported that the tribe currently does not have a permanent doctor, nurse, ventilator or hospital bed.
With such a small tribe, the spread of the coronavirus within the Canyon and Supai Camp could be devastating to the community and to the continued viability of the Havasupai people. Roughly 15 percent of the community is elderly and many are diabetic or asthmatic, and therefore particularly vulnerable to the virus.
Through the Havasupai Tribe COVID-19 Relief Fund, the tribe is asking for donations to help alleviate some of these concerns.
Kahtoola, a Flagstaff based outdoor gear company best known for its MICROspikes® footwear traction, has decided to donate a portion of its proceeds and is planning to host a virtual run to help the tribe.
A Flagstaff native, Kahtoola founder Danny Giovale said his relationship with the Havasupai Tribe has developed over many years. Starting with his appreciation for the Grand Canyon.
“Being born and raised near the Grand Canyon and immersed in the culturally rich area with so many indigenous tribes … and the unique aspect that they bring to our culture,” he said. “Again, I’m just a white guy so in my business I’ve made it a point to tie our business success to other needs in the world.”
One of the needs Giovale identified more than 20 years ago, when he started Kahtoola, was helping indigenous cultures. His company has worked in the Himalayans with Tibetan Buddhists and over the years has started working with local indigenous tribes. This work has included connecting with the Havasupai in their ongoing fight to keep uranium mining near the Grand Canyon at bay.
“Right now, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the tribe that has fought for decades on behalf of all of us who cherish the Grand Canyon, could use our support,” Giovale said.
For the next three months Giovale said Kahtoola has committed to re-directing funding that is typically set aside for aid in the Himalayans, to helping the Havasupai.
“It was based on that GoFundMe campaign that was posted and then I checked in with Ophelia Watahomigie-Corliss (a member of the Havasupai Tribal Council) to check and see if that was in fact something that the tribal council and the tribe thought was a good thing and helpful and she said it was and so we went ahead and diverted some of our funding into that,” Giovale said.
Branch said donations to its fund will ensure that the Havasupai and their animals have the food and personal protective equipment they need to remain in their community and be protected from exposure to COVID-19. She said 75 percent of the jobs on the Havasupai Reservation are currently tied to the tourism economy.
“Any contribution will help and will be greatly appreciated by the tribe and the Havasupai people. I am the general counsel to the tribe and will ensure that these funds are deposited directly with the tribe and are used for food, pet food, and PPE for the community during their COVID-19 response period,” she said.
Additionally, there is still some uncertainty around what government aid will be available and when.
“For all of these reasons, Kahtoola would like to help the Havasupai community ensure they have the resources they need now to stay safe with adequate supplies in their remote canyon home,” Kahtoola stated on its website.
In addition to the donation, Kahtoola is hosting a virtual run May 1-10, with all proceeds going toward the Havasupai Tribe’s COVID-19 relief fund.
“Our goal is to raise $10,000,” Giovale said.
The virtual run is for a 5K and an 8-mile run and can be completed at each participants own pace. Giovale said the 8-mile run is the same distance from Hilltop above Supai Village down into the Canyon to the village.
“Do not run to the village, please,” Giovale laughed. “Wrong race.”
The virtual run is open to anyone who would like to participate. Giovale said Kahtoola will also have awards available in the form of $100 gift cards to help support some of their favorite Flagstaff businesses.
More information or to register for the virtual run visit kahtoola.com.
To donate to the Havasupai Tribe COVID-19 Relief Fund visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/havasupai-tribe-covid19-relief-fund.
Currently, the tribe has raised $56,058 raised of its $150,000 goal on the page.