The Confluence is sacred, according to Navajo publications

The following is a letter to the editor published in the Sept. 4, 2014 Navajo Times.

In response to misleading and false information put out by the Confluence Partners LLC on the Grand Canyon Escalade website ( about the sacredness of the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, we would like to set the record straight about the about the sacredness of the Confluence.

The website says that they consulted our book “Naajo SacredPlaces” and several other sources, and that none of them mention the Confluence as a sacred place. The website concludes, “Again, all this doesn’t mean the Confluence is or isn’t a sared place, just that we can’t find any reference to or identification of the Confluence in any of the published research or history of Navajo sacred places.”

They couldn’t find such references because they didn’t look hard enough.


We wrote “Navajo Sacred Places” as a teaching tool to educate non-First Nations people about what we Dine call sacred places and their vital role in our culture and tradition. The book is not a catalogue of sacred places on Dine Bikeyah, as the website seems to imply.

There are documents at the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation that catalog scared places through “Dine Bikeyah. Because this information is sensitive and confidential, strict rules are in place about who have access to it. These strict rules have been requested by the Hataaliis who helped to establish this catalogue. The Confluence and its sacredness can be found here.

These places are protected by the Navajo Nation Cultural Resources Protection Act of 1988, as well as federal laws regarding traditional cultural places. If Confluence Partners were sensitive to the concerns of the people, they have asked for this information.

We also wonder how Confluence Partners could have missed a report on Dine sacred and historic places in the Grand Canyon entitled, “Bits’iis Nineezi (The river of Neverending Life),” by Alexa Roberts, Richard Begay and Klara Kelley. It was published by the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department in 1995 and is one of several reports by Dine and other First Nations tribes as part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Glen Canyon Environmental Studies Project, with cooperators including the Grand Canyon National Park.

This report has a wealth of information about the Confluence area and individual sacred places within it from both local elders and at least eight previously published sources recorded as early as the late 1920s, all of which are listed in the report’s bibliography.

The statement on the website that the NPS is unaware that the Confluence is sacred is questionable, since NPS has this report. A statement from NPS about the sacredness of the confluence is overdue.

In addition, is a 1003 report written for the Navajo nation about “Navajo Sacred Landscapes in the Lower Little Colorado.” Most important and unquestionable in the report are the testimonies of two of the most prominent Hataaliss of the Dine Nation, both from the western Dine Bikeyah. Both have passed.

First the late Nevy Jensen, from Gray Mountain, than the late Norris Nez from Tuba City-Coal Mine Mesa. Both attested to the sacredness of the Confluence and included the stories associated with the Confluence. These include stories of our origins as well as ceremonial and clan stories.

To question the sacredness of the Confluence is an insult to these two late, great religious leaders, to all of our religious leaders today, and to the traditional people of the Dine Nation. There are no questions about the sacredness of the Confluence. It is a place of prayer and to be at one with all that is around you. It is a sacred place.

Harris Francis

Window Rock, AZ

Klara Kelley

Gallup, N.M.

Arizona Republic editorial: Think hard before building the Escalade resort


It’s not just any canyon.

Arizona’s Grand Canyon is one of the Wonders of the World. It has breathtaking aesthetic, spiritual, recreational and scientific significance.

MORE: Cable-car project ignites controversy

That means the proposal to build a resort with an elaborate cable-gondola system has to be seen in the larger context. It is about much, much more than economic development on the Navajo Reservation.

It is about the best interests of a national treasure.

Read the full editorial at:

Escalade economic benefit to the Navajo Nation questionable

There is also a dispute over whether there would be any real economic benefit for the Navajo Nation, and if there was, whether it would be worth the cultural and religious price.

The remote but sprawling Bodaway/Gap Chapter (a local government unit on the Navajo Reservation) has just one gas station. Its area makes up less than 4 percent of Navajo land. It’s a place visitors stop on their way to Page or the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then keep driving through.

Most of the 500 or so residents of the chapter raise cows or sheep. Others drive for hours to get to jobs in Tuba City or Flagstaff.

Many of the chapter’s residents live in poverty, and there aren’t enough jobs to keep young people from leaving.

Some say the Escalade project would fix that by bringing an economic boom to the chapter — but at a religious, environmental and cultural price not all Navajos are comfortable paying.

Read full story at:

Jurisdiction issues could sink the Escalade


GRAND CANYON EAST– The Escalade project would be built roughly 10 miles northeast of the famed Watchtower on South Rim and would open in the spring of 2018.

Proponents say it would give visitors more than just the typical “drive-by” wilderness experience available on the South Rim.

Officials of the National Park Service worry that the project would spoil views from the South Rim if it was built. They also disagree over who owns development rights in the area.

Read full story at:

Preserving the East Rim of the Grand Canyon