Burned Out: Huge AZ Wildfire Slows Navajo Jewelry, Pottery Sales in Sedona

Burned Out: Huge AZ Wildfire Slows Navajo Jewelry, Pottery Sales in Sedona

Kristin Butler

Starting May 20, a wildfire blazed in the heart of Arizona between tourist lures Sedona and Flagstaff, engulfing more than 21,000 acres of land. Evacuations and fire closures remain in place, although as of June 2, the wildfire is 90 percent contained.

On Wednesday, May 28, a heavy blanket of smoke still hung in the air. "We took a chance in coming down here today," said Matilda Manymules, a Navajo artist and vendor who drove the long way around Oak Creek Canyon to reach Sedona, typically located about two hours south of her home in Coppermine, near Page, Arizona. On May 28, the trek took her roughly three hours. The scenic route on Highway 89A is still closed due to the Slide Fire.

"The fire is temporary, but it's going to scar the forest forever," Manymules said. "The disaster was human caused and could have been prevented."

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The blazes have hurt her business as well. Manymules operates one of the booths at a Native vendor space (4551 N Highway 89A), which she leases from the owner of the Dairy Queen. "We have to pay in advance for our space at the Dairy Queen," Manymules said. "We were told when [Dairy Queen is] open, there's no refunds. So we're just trying to make the best of it.

"The fire pushed everyone away," she added. "It pushed us back a whole week. It did hold us back a lot."

But on the bright side, people know the vendors are there, Manymules said. "There's a way; we're always going to get by.

"As a vendor, I help local artisans from the Navajo reservation," she added. "The business is about helping our people."

Manymules also sells at a vista point on Highway 89A, 16 miles north of Sedona, operated by Native Americans for Community Action, Inc. (NACA). NACA is a non-profit community agency that provides health and human services to urban Native Americans in a caring and culturally sensitive environment. "The fees we pay for that location go to NACA to help with healthcare of the locals in Flagstaff," she says. For more information about NACA's Sedona vendor area, call the organization's Flagstaff headquarters at (928) 526-2968.

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