Primary Source Report-ES

1968- The beginning of Indian Firefighters

Yazzie, William Dean. “Indian Fire-Fighters Praised By Bennet”. January 18, 1968. Navajo Times. Sequoyah National Research Center, University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Accessed October 12, 2020.

  • Robert L. Bennett, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, praises the joint effort of Native Americans who fight fires during 1967. Specifically, noting the Southwest Interagency Fire Committee (SWIFCO), which potentially includes 4,000 Indians. Participation includes the White Mountain Apaches, San Carlos Apaches, Hopis, Navajos, Papagos, Zunis, and Unites Pueblos. This source will help me trace how Indian fire-fighters are perceived during wildfire season and lead me to examine funding channels and the interagency collaborations that made this possible.  I want to more closely examine who how Indian firefighters emerged in an area where wildfire burning was common. One argument I see developing is that as Reservations forwent their burning practices in order to use timber as part of the reservation economy, they had to rely on U.S. forestry methods to combat the severity of wildfires. Additionally, SWIFCO developed around the same time that the Boise Interagency Fire Center (BIFC) and I think I can draw parallels in terms of fire management. While BIFC was more about managing a fire once it was already present, I think SWIFCO was more focused on burning practices to prevent work with fire.

1975- Funding Apache Firefighters

“22 Tribes Get $5 Million”. July 24, 1975. Navajo Times. Sequoyah National Research Center, University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Accessed October 12, 2020.

  • Native Tribes get 5 million dollars as part of department of labor, of which funds firefighters. This was allocated under Title II and VI of the Federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act administered by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1974. This moment serves as one turning point where Native people can viably see firefighting as an economic means amidst the intense poverty of some reservations. I’m interested in examining the logic behind this act, if it shifted nation to nation relations, and what the impact was on the broader community. Firefighting for Apache people was one of the few ways that people could have steady job of means. From this emerged the Apache 7 (later Apache 8) crews and the Fort Apache HotShot crews. While this act offers economic opportunities to people on reservations, it perhaps shifted the focus of fire management from one where prescribed burns are used throughout the land versus utilizing Firefighters to put out fires.

1979- Indian Women Fire Fighting Crew

“Indian women looking for more our of life… ‘Apache 7’ — Indian Women Fire Fighting Crew”. August- September 1979. Talking Leaf. Sequoyah National Research Center, University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Accessed October 12, 2020.

  • The Apache 7 is noted as an all women, Indian crew. Most women are in their 20s. The article notes that its hard because women must be ready to drop everything and travel, including having someone else take care of children. For the Apache 7, money was the biggest draw. This article gives biographic account of some firefighters. Apache 9 is another all woman crew. Of 16 crews listed, 6 are all women. Things that stand out about this article are the public recognition of the fire crew, the financial draw that the job offered, and how these women had to be ready to work when called. I plan to use this as a more biographical account of which Apache women used this an opportunity to have more financial stability in communities with high rates of unemployment. Additionally, this carries a gendered dimension from how the article states that the women “want more out of life” and “must be ready to drop everything” to work. This assumes that women are not content where they are and that they are free from community obligations to go work. It’s noted elsewhere that this is more difficult for women with children.

1988- Navajo Fire Crews fighting Montana Fires

Nussbaum, Paul. “Native Americans crucial to fire line”. September 11, 1988 (Page 18 of 703). Philadelphia Inquirer (1969-2001). Accessed October 12, 2020. .

  • Nussbaum notes how multiple Native fire crews arrived to fight fire including the Navajo, Apache, Hopi, Crow, Cree, and Cheyenne. According to the Federal Bureau of Land Management, 10% of fire fighters could be Native. During this fire, there was a large strain on the U.S. government agencies to hire enough people. According to Boise Interagency Fire Center (BIFC), dispatches crews from around the nation and even employed the military. The Navajo 17 crew did not earn overtime or hazard pay and earned less than average firefighters. Nussbaum notes that there are still “persistent cultural schisms” based on a sign spotted by Native crews. The sign read “Dead Indian Pass” and Native crews joked about the need to have “Dead Cowboy Pass” be made. Louise Trujillo from New Mexico. I want to use this article as an opportunity to talk about labor and geography. On one hand, more Native firefighters take the job because it’s a secure means of income. However, it is still less than other non-native firefighters. I think analyzing the funding streams for this would be helpful. Additionally, this might present an opportunity to examine more Native crews such as the Navajo, Hopi, Crow, Cree, and Cheyenne. I am curious to see if they were also funded by the Federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. Finally, I want to take a moment to discuss geography and the anti-indigenous sentiment built into land through signage. If “Dead Indian Pass” marks a hope for the area and a warning to Native people who enter the space, then it’s ironic that the Native Firefighters enter the space to protect the same pass from fires.
  • Picture of Louise Trujillo, a New Mexico Firefighter:

1974 to 2019- Film on Apache 8 Fire Crew

Zeig, Sande, dir. Apache 8. 2011; Women Make Movies. Accessed October 13, 2020.

  • This documentary is about the Apache 8 firefighting crew that began in 1974 and continued to 2010 when the film was produced. It notes the lives of the Apache women and the journey of this for the last 30 years amongst the generations of firefighters. This film examines the affective side to the cost and benefits of being a firefighter and what this meant for their lives. Two key figures to examine are Cheryl Bones and Katy Aday because they were with the crew during the 1970s and 1980s and offer a portrait of how they were treated by white men in the forestry service and how they were received by families on the reservation. Cheryl was recognized on and off the state and even had a statue of hers at the National Interagency Fire Center (formerly BIFC). For Katy, she was considered the “wild one” as a young person and was encouraged to invest in her education by learning to speak English to be a voice for the people. Through the firefighting work, she is considered someone who will one day be a strong elder. In both accounts, these women offered leadership, discipline, and opportunity for other women who otherwise would not have had it. Firefighting to them was almost a metaphor to speak of the strength of the Apache people. Firefighting offered one opportunity to do that for the community.
  • Pictures of Apache 8 crew