Articles written by Felicia Fonseca


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  • Arizona dad seeking answers after son dies in state care

    FELICIA FONSECA|Jan 15, 2023

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Richard Blodgett, a single father, was jailed on a drug charge when a worker from Arizona's child welfare agency delivered the news: His son was brain dead and on life support — just days after being taken into state custody. Blodgett screamed, cried and screamed some more. Jakob was his only son, a "darn cute," curious 9-year-old who loved remote control cars and video games. Blodgett is now struggling to understand how it happened. A medical examiner listed Jakob's death in late December as natural with com...

  • Buu Nygren sworn in as next Navajo Nation president

    FELICIA FONSECA|Jan 11, 2023

    FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. (AP) — Buu Nygren was sworn in Tuesday as the next president of the vast Navajo Nation, a job that will test his ability to make good on promises to deliver water, electricity and broadband to tens of thousands of residents who don't have it. Nygren beat out incumbent President Jonathan Nez in the tribe's general election by about 3,500 votes. Nygren was joined by his wife Jasmine, daughter Evelyn and grandmother Marilyn Slim as he took the oath of office during a ceremony that highlighted the challenges he grew up with a...

  • Law protects export of sacred Native American items from US

    FELICIA FONSECA|Dec 25, 2022

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal penalties have increased under a newly signed law intended to protect the cultural patrimony of Native American tribes, immediately making some crimes a felony and doubling the prison time for anyone convicted of multiple offenses. President Joe Biden signed the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act on Dec. 21, a bill that had been introduced since 2016. Along with stiffer penalties, it prohibits the export of sacred Native American items from the U.S. and creates a certification process to distinguish art f...

  • Arizona restricts farming to protect groundwater supply

    FELICIA FONSECA|Dec 23, 2022

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The outskirts of Kingman, Arizona, used to be a place where pilots would train and recreationists tested their all-terrain vehicles. The dry and empty landscape has since morphed into something much more green that supports pistachio and almond orchards, as well as garlic and potato fields, in a climate similar to California's Central Valley. The crops are fed by groundwater that also serves the city of Kingman. The Arizona Department of Water Resources this week put a limit on the amount of land that can be watered, d...

  • Hopi teens see need for skateboarding park, make it happen

    FELICIA FONSECA|Aug 24, 2022

    VILLAGE OF TEWA, Ariz. (AP) — They skateboarded on basketball courts and in parking lots, through highway intersections and down roads that twist from the mesas that rise above the high desert. They set up tricks with old railroad ties and lumber, sometimes using their own skateboards to move the materials in place. During a pandemic that led to lockdowns, curfews and mask mandates on the Hopi reservation, the solo nature of skateboarding was a comfort. But the reservation that borders the northeast corner of Arizona lacked a designated s...

  • Arizona fires sweep land rich with ancient sites, artifacts

    FELICIA FONSECA|Jun 19, 2022

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — As Jason Nez scans rugged mountains, high desert and cliffsides for signs of ancient tools and dwellings unique to the U.S. Southwest, he keeps in mind that they're part of a bigger picture. And, fire is not new to them. "They have been burned many, many times, and that's healthy," said Nez, a Navajo archaeologist and firefighter. "A lot of our cultural resources we see as living, and living things are resilient." As a pair of wildfires skirt this mountainous northern Arizona city, the flames are crossing land dense w...

  • Western wildfires force evacuations in Arizona, California

    FELICIA FONSECA|Jun 12, 2022

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Western U.S. on Monday marked another day of hot, dry and windy weather as crews from California to New Mexico battled wildfires that had forced hundreds of people to leave their homes. Several hundred homes on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona, were evacuated and the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort was closed as a precaution because of a wildfire — the second to hit the area this year. Crews were expecting gusts up to 50 mph (80 kph) as they battled the blaze that has burned through parts of the footprint left by anot...

  • US finds 500 Native American boarding school deaths so far

    FELICIA FONSECA|May 11, 2022

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A first-of-its-kind federal study of Native American boarding schools that for over a century sought to assimilate Indigenous children into white society has identified more than 500 student deaths at the institutions, but officials expect that figure to grow exponentially as research continues. The Interior Department report released Wednesday expands to more than 400 the number of schools that were established or supported by the U.S. government, starting in the early 19th century and continuing in some cases until t... Full story

  • Native American tribes reach $590 million opioid settlement

    GEOFF MULVIHILL and FELICIA FONSECA|Feb 2, 2022

    Native American tribes have reached settlements over the toll of opioids totaling $590 million with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and the country's three largest drug distribution companies, according to a court filing made Tuesday. The filing in U.S. District Court in Cleveland lays out the broad terms of the settlements with Johnson & Johnson and distribution companies AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Some details are still being hashed out. All federally recognized tribes in the U.S. will be able to participate in the...

  • Navajo Nation tops Cherokee to become largest tribe in US

    FELICIA FONSECA|May 20, 2021

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has by far the largest land mass of any Native American tribe in the country. Now, it's boasting the largest enrolled population, too. Navajos clamored to enroll or fix their records as the tribe offered hardship assistance payments from last year's federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. That boosted the tribe's rolls from about 306,000 to nearly 400,000 citizens. The figure surpasses the Cherokee Nation's enrollment of 392,000. But it, too, has been growing, said tribal s...

  • Long suspected of murder, she confessed but avoided prison

    FELICIA FONSECA|May 9, 2021

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — There was no shortage of tips about who killed Pamela Pitts, a rowdy but compassionate 19-year-old whose body was found burned beyond recognition in a pile of trash in 1988. A Satanic cult. A drug dealer. A cowboy. An ex-lover. A guy nicknamed "Halftrack." Or maybe it was an overdose at a spot in central Arizona where people went to party. It would take more than 30 years, some prison calls and an eyebrow-raising plea deal before a convicted murderer would confess and the mystery would partly be solved. But in a s...

  • Vigils, rallies mark day of awareness for Indigenous victims

    SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN and FELICIA FONSECA|May 5, 2021

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Some shared agonizing stories of frustration and loss. Others prayed and performed ceremonies. All called for action. Across the U.S. on Wednesday, family members, advocates and government leaders commemorated a day of awareness for the crises of violence against Indigenous women and children. They met at virtual events, vigils and rallies at state capitols and raised their voices on social media. In Washington, a gathering hosted by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials started with a p... Full story

  • 'Monumental day': Indian Country reacts to Deb Haaland vote

    FELICIA FONSECA|Mar 17, 2021

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Citizens of tribes across the U.S. cried and clapped in celebration Monday as Deb Haaland became the first Native American confirmed as secretary of a Cabinet agency. The U.S. Senate voted 51-40 in favor of the Democrat's nomination to lead the Interior Department, which has broad oversight of tribal affairs and energy development. Many Native Americans rallied behind her confirmation, saying it's a long-awaited answer to their prayers that puts someone they trust in a position to carry forward their hopes and expectatio... Full story

  • In a pandemic, Navajo community steps up for its vulnerable

    FELICIA FONSECA|Mar 14, 2021

    TEESTO, Ariz. (AP) — For as long as Raymond Clark has lived alone on this quiet stretch of the Navajo Nation under the watch of the "Praying Mountain," he has depended on everyone yet no one. The 71-year-old has no vehicle or running water but is content hitchhiking and carrying jugs down a dusty washboard road to replenish his supply. He works at home in Teesto painting murals and silversmithing, but friends often stop by. Or at least they did before the pandemic. Now, rides and visits are scarcer in an area with no grocery store or gas s...

  • Indian Country gripped by Haaland hearing for top US post

    FELICIA FONSECA|Feb 24, 2021

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — For Native Americans, Deb Haaland is more than an elected official on track to become the first Indigenous secretary of the Interior Department. She is a sister, an auntie and a fierce pueblo woman whose political stances have been molded by her upbringing. News of her historic nomination electrified Indian Country. Tribal leaders and organizations for weeks have urged people to write and call U.S. senators who will decide if she'll lead the agency that has broad oversight over Native American affairs and energy d... Full story

  • US high court to hear case on virus relief for tribes

    FELICIA FONSECA|Jan 13, 2021

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that centers on who gets a share of $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief allocated for Native American tribes. Lower courts split on whether Alaska Native corporations, which own most Native land in the state under a 1971 settlement, should be in the mix. The U.S. Treasury Department sought review from the high court after a federal appeals court ruled in September that the corporations aren't eligible. The Treasury Department said if the decision stands, the corporations w...

  • Rock fall at Grand Canyon reveals ancient animal footprints

    FELICIA FONSECA|Aug 26, 2020

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — It's something like a modern-day chuckwalla, strolling in sand dunes on an island in what now is the Grand Canyon region. That's how Steve Rowland, professor emeritus of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and his fellow researchers interpret fossil footprints that were revealed in a rock fall near a popular Grand Canyon hiking trail. They estimate the tracks are 313 million years old, give or take a half-million years. At that age, they'd be among the oldest tracks of animals that lay eggs with a p...

  • Execution of Native American man stirs emotion within tribe

    FELICIA FONSECA|Aug 23, 2020

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Late on a fall evening in 2001, Alyce Slim and her granddaughter stopped at a gas station on the Navajo Nation after searching for a traditional healer for leg ailments. There, in an area where hitchhiking is common, Slim agreed to give two males a ride. They got into her pewter-colored pickup truck and when she stopped later to let them out, they didn't budge. Instead, Lezmond Mitchell and Johnny Orsinger stabbed Slim 33 times and placed her lifeless body next to the 9-year-old in the back seat as they drove to an a...

  • Hard-hit tribe takes strict steps as virus surges in Arizona

    FELICIA FONSECA|Jun 26, 2020

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — People in the deserts of Arizona flee to the White Mountains when the triple-digit heat is too much to bear, cooling off in the forest a few hours away. That worries a Native American tribe that calls the area home, as coronavirus infections and temperatures have both spiked in one of the hardest-hit states. The White Mountain Apache Tribe is taking some of the most drastic actions in Arizona to protect its 13,500 residents, more than one-eighth of whom have already tested positive for COVID-19. It's taking cues from s...

  • Drums, dancers livestream as virus moves powwows online

    FELICIA FONSECA|Apr 10, 2020

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The names pop up quickly on Whitney Rencountre's computer screen, and he greets them as he would in person. What's up, y'all? Shout out to you. How's it going? Ya'at'eeh. Good to see you, relatives. He spots someone from the Menominee Nation, a Wisconsin tribe that hosts competitive dancers, singers and drummers in traditional regalia in late summer. "Beautiful powwow there," he says. The emcee from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota typically is on the powwow circuit in the spring, joining thousands of others in...

  • Window opens for tribes to seek licenses for internet access

    FELICIA FONSECA|Feb 2, 2020

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission opened a window Monday for federally recognized tribes to apply for licenses that could help establish or expand internet access on their lands. Tribes had pushed to be first in line for mid-band spectrum licenses that largely are unassigned across the western United States and once were reserved for educational institutions. The 2.5 Ghz-band of spectrum — channels of electromagnetic waves — are seen as key to expanding 5G access. The FCC estimates that about one-third of peopl...

  • Flood at famed Arizona waterfalls sends tourists scrambling

    FELICIA FONSECA|Dec 4, 2019

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A popular tourist spot deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon known for its blue-green waterfalls will make repairs after heavy flooding over the Thanksgiving break sent tourists scrambling to higher ground. No one was injured in the flooding on the Havasupai reservation, and the water receded within hours. The extent of the damage is unknown. The tribe soon plans to send crews to survey the 10-mile (16-kilometer) trail and the campground, which closed for the season this week. The area is prone to flooding and its i...

  • Native workers not sure what's next after coal plant closes

    FELICIA FONSECA|Nov 3, 2019

    ALONG THE BLACK MESA AND LAKE POWELL RAILROAD, Ariz. (AP) — Ron Little nestles into a familiar seat aboard a train locomotive and slides the window open, leaning out to get a better view of dozens of rail cars that stretch for a mile behind and the landscape he knows so well. The heavy steel wheels roll along a dizzying pattern of concrete railroad ties that snake through sandstone formations, boulder-laden arroyos and grasslands. Little points to a rock formation named for the reddish dirt that Navajos use to dye wool for rugs and another w...

  • Grand Canyon to make second run at corralling bison herd

    FELICIA FONSECA|Sep 1, 2019

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — In the two years since the Grand Canyon approved a plan to reduce the number of bison roaming in the national park, the herd has only grown in size. No one is sure exactly how many of the massive animals call far northern Arizona home because they're hard to count amid the Ponderosa pine trees, but it's in the hundreds. Left unchecked, the herd could reach 1,500 in several years, severely damaging the landscape and water resources, the park says. The reduction plan has been hampered by weather and disagreements over h...

  • Climate change still threatens key US river after wet winter

    FELICIA FONSECA|Aug 16, 2019

    FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Snow piled up in the mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. But the wet weather can be misleading. Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter. "It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward," James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out p...

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