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Fund started for displaced California Indians

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The tribal co-operative that self-insures Indian housing has started a fund to aid American Indians left displaced or homeless by deadly wildfires in California.

Amerind Risk Management Corp. has donated $100,000 to start the Amerind Family Emergency Fund and is appealing to Indian country for more donations.

Amerind, based here, said 1,700 families have been displaced, and that of 132 homes destroyed on five Southern California reservations or rancherias, the great majority were uninsured.

Just 10 homes are definitely covered by Amerind's risk pool, according to chief executive Kent Paul, with another 20 possibly covered.

According to a tally by Amerind, homes were destroyed at Rincon (20), San Pasqual (67), Barona (40), Inaja (3) and San Manuel (2).

Up to seven people lost their lives at Barona, Amerind reported.

The money will be given to displaced families for clothing, bedding and other personal needs. Amerind is appealing to its more than 200 members (serving more than 400 tribes) for donations of at least $500. They can be made out to Amerind Risk Management Corp., marked for "Amerind Family Emergency Fund" and sent to: Sue Casarex, company financial officer, Amerind Risk Management Corp., 6201 Uptown Boulevard NE suite 100, Albuquerque, NM 87110.

Information on the fund is available by calling (800) 352-3496 or by e-mailing communications@amerind-corp.org.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approved Amerind in 1996 as a self-insurance plan for Indian housing authorities. The non-profit has 240 members, covering 400 tribes and 61,000 homes with a replacement value of $6.5 billion. It sent claims officers, including Rod Crawley, to the affected areas last week.

Amerind noted that eight California homelands threatened by the fires and evacuated have escaped without damage to property or loss of life. They are Mesa Grande, Viejas, Sycuan, Capitan Grande, Santa Ysabel, Cuycpipe, La Jolla, and Jamul.

But some of these lost acreage to the fires. According to a tally made Oct. 30 by the Phoenix office of HUD's Office of Native American programs, some 30,000 acres of Indian land have been destroyed by the fires.

The California tribes are within the jurisdiction of the Phoenix office.

San Pascual, which was evacuated, lost 67 homes and 1,380 acres. Capitan Grande saw 15,753 acres burned, but had no structures on them.

Forty homes were destroyed by fire at Barona, which also lost 5,900 acres and was evacuated. Rincon lost 20 homes and more than 3,000 acres and was evacuated. There were 1,609 acres lost at Viejas, 852 at Inaja, where three homes burned, and 700 at San Manuel, which lost two homes according to the tally.

On Oct. 31, HUD reported that 10 HUD-assisted homes had been destroyed, eight at San Pasqual and two and Rincon. HUD officers Bob Kroll and DaLynn Tanner traveled to the affected areas, taking photos and meeting with families who lost homes.

HUD reported "all of the San Pasqual Reservation, 80 percent of the Rincon reservation, 50 percent of the La Jolla Reservation, all of the Barona Reservation, all of Capitan Grande, 50 percent of the Viejas Reservation, all of the Inaja reservation, and all of the San Manuel Reservation have burned."

And it said that no visual inspection was available for Mesa Grande and Santa Ysabel, near where the Paradise and Cedar fires converged.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association has also funded a relief fund, with an initial amount of $5,000, through tribally-owned Borrego Springs Bank.

Information on that fund is available from Joanne McBride of the Bank at (619) 668-8147.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also expected to provide relief for displaced Indian families.