Delegate: National Guard needed in Black Mesa
By Kathy Helms, Diné Bureau,
Gallup Independent, FEBRUARY 25, 2008
BLACK MESA — Weekend rain and snow
have left residents of the Black Mesa area bogged down
in the mud, and Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amos
Johnson believes it’s time to call upon the National
Johnson, who represents Black Mesa,
Forest Lake and Rough Rock chapters, said the snow and
rain are causing a lot of havoc for road equipment and
four-wheel drive vehicles.
“Our chapter road graders are starting
to wear down, we’re out of fuel, and temporary workers
are running out of resources. We need help from Gov.
Janet Napolitano and the federal government,” he said
The Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency
Management and President Joe Shirley Jr. declared a
state of emergency on Jan. 28, and Council approved
legislation to give each chapter $25,000 to assist with
the weather emergency.
“The emergency funds approved by Council
have been exhausted,” Johnson said. “It was used for
personnel and hay, and the hay hasn’t even been delivered.
They can’t deliver it. We were thinking to maybe get
it to Rough Rock and then airlift it up to Black Mesa.,”
“Mary Todacheenie, one of the elders,
was saying that the radio said to hang up these little
green and blue flags at the road” to signal Emergency
Management that there is a need for assistance, Johnson
Todacheenie, who lives 5 miles north
of Black Mesa Chapter House in Aspen Springs Valley,
hung pieces of blue and green clothing out by her road
two weeks ago.
“No one came. Yesterday, I just pulled
them down,” she told Johnson.
Selena Manychildren, public information
officer for Emergency Management, said late Sunday that
there had been some assessments conducted in the area
earlier in the week, “but since it’s muddy, people don’t
go all the way out into the muddy areas, and that region
of the reservation was extremely muddy.”
Calling on the National Guard has been
considered, she said. “Right now, the Piñon area
and Hard Rock area are handling their own situation
out there through the chapter, and to ask for the National
Guard there needs to be a declaration requested through
the state. It has not been done because the emergency
wasn’t such that the community couldn’t handle it.”
Ruth Todacheenie, an elder who lives
2 miles northwest of Black Mesa Chapter House across
from Oraibi Wash, was using tire tubes to haul supplies
to her house. “She can’t drive her vehicle so she’s
stacking all her supplies and she’s dragging the tire
tubes. I just talked to her.
Fortunately, the phone works there,”
Johnson said Saturday morning.
Speaking from her cell phone and a bit
breathless, Todacheenie said, “I’ve been trying to get
some dog food and my own food across. I just use like
inner tubes, the one that they use for the kids. There’s
two families here, and my in-law, she has that sugar
Todacheenie said she and family members
had gone to Piñon two days prior to get supplies
and had spent the night. By Saturday morning, around
5 inches of fresh snow had fallen, which already was
up to a foot in places.
“It’s pretty deep. The road to our hogan
is impassable so we have to use this tube to drag anything
we can on it,” she said as she trudged along. “My son-in-law
was really getting short of breath coming in, but they
made it home. I was just over there for awhile, and
now I’m out with my sheepdogs. The sheep are out in
the field, kind of out in the loose with the dogs. I
just feed the dogs and then I go home.
“My transportation is just across —
I have a three-quarter (ton truck). That’s the only
one I get around with and bring water, but now I can’t
use that because I don’t have a backup and the road,
there’s a wall caved in. It’s just enough to pass by
but it’s pretty muddy and once I slide into that ...
Her phone went dead.
After numerous attempts to call Todacheenie
back, the phone finally rang, having charged long enough
for her to utter a few more sentences.
“We need some hay and some coal — that’s
the one that keeps the house warm. We just have a little
bit of food left. We need something like vegetables
and fruit. I think they’re going to have to airlift
it. Using a regular 4-wheel is not going to make it.”
Helene Nez-Hill, who lives on the west
side of Kitsillie, off Navajo 8065 in Old Tree Valley,
made it to Basha’s in Piñon Saturday. “The roads
are really washing out. There’s one road that is stranding
everybody back home. It’s a small wash that people cross,
and it’s caving in. It’s called Two Red Hills in that
area. There are eight students that are having a hard
time going to school because of that wash — they can’t
“I just talked to one of the ladies
that lives out there and she said they had to walk out
and get a few foods. They need food for animals too.
Also, we have elders that live in that area. I have
a father that lives there. He has a heart condition,
and he’s pretty much stranded too. I worry about him,”
“It’s an annual process. FEMA did go
in and fix some of those roads in 2005 during Operation
Hashtl’ish, but if you don’t do long-term repairs, they
tend to get washed out again.”
“Old Tree Valley, Oak Ridge and Aspen
Spring Valley, people are stranded up there. They can’t
get hay for their animals. They can’t get food,” Johnson
“People are jumping on me and
I told them, I’m doing the best I can.”