For nearly four weeks, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation operated an evacuation shelter for the Chetco Bar Fire at the Xaa-wan’-k’wvt Village and Resort (old Ship Ashore). Accepting any persons evacuated from the nearly 190,000-acre fire, the Tribal Nation provided services to over 140 evacuees. Services of indoor shelter, RV sites with water and sewer hook-ups, tent sites, prepared meals and snacks, laundry facilities, and restrooms with showers. Essentials like clothing, toiletries, blankets, towels, fuel, and animal food were also available, as well as games, books and toys for the children. Community member Tami Bishop, commented, “The Tolowa [Dee-ni’] Nation at Ship Ashore has been the only consistent shelter opened for evacuees since day one…They have been wonderful to all of our community’s needs during this fire. And when this is all over, I do hope…you will all let them know just how much their generosity has meant to us.”
With no more Level 3 mandated evacuation areas, the Tribal Nation closed the doors on September 14th. “We are fortunate to be able to provide a safe space where Chetco Bar evacuees could find support, comfort, and have more than their basic needs met. To see our community come together and help one another in this great time of need shows our resiliency. We at the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation are happy to play a part,” said Chairman Scott Sullivan.
All services have been provided at no cost to evacuees through the generous support of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation and their Citizen vol- unteers, as well as many other volunteers from the broader community. Food, water and goods have been generously donated by various organizations and individuals across the local region. The American Red Cross provided 11 days of meal support while generous volun- teers prepared the remaining meals from the abundance of donated goods. “We really couldn’t have pulled this off without the help of so many wonderful people and such great support from the Tribal leadership. They didn’t hesitate to act.” remarked Tessa LaFazio, Emer- gency Services Coordinator for the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.
Connected to the land burned by the Chetco Bar, Eclipse Complex, and Miller Complex wildfires in southern Oregon and northern Califor- nia, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is also trying to protect cultural resources and places significant to them. This is by advocating to fire management resources personnel constructing fire lines to avoid cultural sites as able. “Our people come from this area and it is our in- herent responsibility as Tolowa Dee-ni’ to manage these places, stay connected to the land, and preserve our cultural heritage,” said Sun- tayea Steinruck, Tribal Heritage Preservation Officer. Given the rate of the spread of the fires and the urgency to protect peoples’ lives and homes, some sites have already been damaged. The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation will continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to mitigate and repair those places once the fires cease.