From High Country News’ Peter Friederici, via the Adventure Journal Website:
For more than 50 years, residents of Gap, Arizona, a western sliver of the Navajo Nation, have watched tourist traffic zoom by on Highway 89, headed for the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and southern Utah’s national parks. Except for a single gas station and a few ramshackle jewelry stands, there’s little here to attract vacationers’ dollars. And so, few locals objected in July when the Navajo-Hopi Observer began running full-page ads that blared: “It’s time that the Navajo People enjoy a fair share of Grand Canyon Tourism!”
But they weren’t prepared for the scale of those tourism plans — a mega-development with hotels, stores and even a tram. The ambitious proposal raises questions about who has the authority to make land-use decisions here, where an impoverished Indian nation borders federal land that most Americans believe should remain protected forever. It also threatens relations with the neighboring Hopi Tribe and Grand Canyon National Park, highlighting divisions between tribal, local and national decision-making as well as competing visions of the best way forward for a community stuck in neutral.
“We know that we can make money without destroying the place,” says Navajo rancher Franklin Martin. “But we have to learn to do things ourselves. I think we’d be gullible to take this offer.” More …
Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly’s December 31 for The Confluence Partners LLC to get community support for the proposed gondola tram/luxury resort on the northeast rim of the Grand Canyon passed quietly in the night.
There is no word from Window Rock, the Navajo Nation capital, on whether Shelly will forge a deal with this group, which yesterday unleashed a vitriolic newsletter that personally attacked people who have publicly opposed their development, such as publishing photos of opponents’ homes, and smearing the words of others who have made public statements against the project.
Shelly, in a memorandum to developers, asks them to conduct a “public outreach campaign.”
The newsletter, if an example of such public outreach, is dedicated to personal attacks against opponents.
In a memorandum early last year, Shelly told developers they must give proof of community support by Dec. 31, 2012, in order for him to enter the tribe into a business relationship with them. Continue reading →
I weep when I dream about Sagebrush, a place known to my Navajo family as Tsaa Tah.
While the country fought about civil rights and the Vietnam War, my family, the Blackwood Streak and Bitter Water clans, lived in hogans made of stone, canvas tents and a house built by my father at Sagebrush. Our winter sheep camp in the arroyo cradled three flocks of sheep next to a corral made of limestone. Sage grew tall in the deep ravines. Shorter sage covered the mesas and rock outcroppings. Trees were nonexistent, except for a lone juniper every few miles.
My family held tight to their earth-based faith and strove to live in harmony with the land. But sometimes we had to fight the elements to keep our animals and ourselves alive.
Flock belonging to Navajo shepherds foraging in deep snow of severe winter. (Ralph Crane/Life magazine, 1967.)
In the winter of 1967, a giant snowstorm hit the Navajo Nation and buried Sagebrush and my family. Then-Navajo leader Raymond Nakai called it the “worst weather disaster in modern Navajo history.” While my relatives sat marooned at Sagebrush, I was a 9-year-old second grader stuck at Tuba City Boarding School, a military-style residential hall and elementary school. Continue reading →
Developers behind a proposed tourist destination in a sacred part of the Grand Canyon say they’ve secured approval from the Navajo Nation chapter where the development would take place, an important step mandated by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.
But even with that approval from the local chapter, many people doubt the developers have enough support to move forward. For starters, the development is planned for a site within Grand Canyon National Park—the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers—that is considered sacred by the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes. For the Hopi and Zuni people, it’s the site of their sipapu, or place of emergence. Hopi Cultural Preservation officer Leigh Kuwanwusiwma expressed outrage at the proposal as soon as it was unveiled this spring. And according to an October 5 press release issued after a Hopi Tribal Council meeting, Hopi leaders have unanimously approved a resolution stating “their position to strongly oppose the development of a commercial initiative at the Grand Canyon called the ‘Grand Canyon Escalade.’” Continue reading →
We sure had a lot of fun at the Western Navajo Fair, and raised public awareness of our issue significantly. People who have “liked” this website via Facebook jumped by 200 after the fair.
Here are some highlights:
“Rowdy” float gets attacked by President Ben Shelly’s staff, who tried to get signs protesting development at the Confluence torn off the float. They failed after we argued that Navajo Nation Bill of Rights guarantees free speech. Parade officials also objected to the float, but were told to stand down by a top official, who said we paid our parade dues.
Grand Canyon Trust set up a booth, and circulated petitions opposing The Escalade proposed development. We need to count up all the signatures, but we’re pretty sure we have more than the opposing side’s petition.
Milton Bluehouse, a former Navajo Nation President, tossed his support to our effort, and was the technical advisor on the float’s construction.
We noticed no official Bodaway/Gap float in the parade. What happened?
Did we mention that neither the developers behind The Escalade project, nor the Bodaway/Gap chapter were nowhere to be found during the parade?
Navajo vendors sell pinons before the Western Navajo Fair parade starts Saturday in Tuba City Arizona.
Several horse back riders guide a horse through the parade route at the Western Navajo Fair Saturday.
A parade goer shows off the remains of her breakfast burrito consumed at the Western Navajo Parade in Tuba City Saturday.
A parade goer chooses a healthy breakfast at the Western Navajo Fair Saturday.
Sisters Nora and Vera wait for the Western Navajo Fair parade to begin in Tuba City Saturday.
Families rekindle relationships while they wait for the Western Navajo Fair parade to start in Tuba City Saturday.
The Western Navajo Fair parade honored veterans.
Grand marshals of the 45th Western Navajo Fair wave in Tuba City Saturday.
A sign announces grand marshals, Wanda MacDonald, Wesley Bilagody and Joe Ellis, Sr., at the Western Navajo Fair Saturday.
The Navajo Nation band participates in the Western Navajo Fair parade Saturday.
Caps are given out during the Western Navajo Fair Saturday.
Navajo Nation Council delegates ride horses in the Western Navajo Fair parade Saturday.
A vendor sells T-shirt at the Western Navajo Fair in Tuba City Saturday.
Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler and husband George Hardeen greet the crowd at the Western Navajo Fair parade Saturday.
Two young girls carry the banner for the Navajo Code Talkers at the Western Navajo Fair parade Saturday.
Navajo Codetalkers wave to the crowd at the Western Navajo Fair in Tuba City Saturday.
A candidate for Congress walks the Western Navajo Fair parade route in Tuba Cty Saturday.
A young princess walks the Western Navajo Fair parade Saturday.
A parade float honors veterans at the Western Navajo Fair in Tuba City Saturday.
Artists rendering of proposed tram from east rim of Grand Canyon to Colorado River.
The Hopi Tribe’s resolution strongly opposing a proposal to build a luxury resort and tram on and near sacred sites at The Grand Canyon includes authorization for leaders to go to court to prevent construction.
The resolution, issued this month, authorizes top tribal leaders and officials “to pursue all avenues, including legal action(s) and sponsorship of legislation at the state and national levels to protect all Native American Sacred Sites, and to oppose and prevent this development.”
The resolution also calls on all tribes in the area, including Zuni and Navajo, to join in the formal opposition to the project, which is led by a group known as Confluence Partners, LLC. The partners include former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale and several non-Indian developers, including Scottsdale-based political consultant R. Lamar Whitmer and former Apache County Judge Michael Nelson.