The effort by 22 people on an 80-mile relay run to draw attention to efforts to save the Confluence has won the praise of Hopi Tribe Chairman Herman Honanie.
“Lolma Lolma. kwakwa for taking this great step,” Honanie wrote in a statement on the morning of the run, Sunday, Oct. 9.
“To help defend our Grand Canyon in this way is the most honorable way. Your efforts will not be forgotten, your commitment to do this run is admirable. I therefore commend each one of you for doing so. Keep our people in mind and your run will be easier. I’m proud of you all,” he wrote.
The runners, organized by a group calling itself the Hopi & Tewa Community Movement, plan to arrive at the Navajo Nation Twin Arrows Resort and Casino, east of Flagstaff, by the end of the day, in time for the first public airing of a proposal by outside developers to build a controversial gondola tram and resort at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. That meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday (Oct. 10.)
The public meeting of the Navajo Nation Law and Order Committee is the first in a series of tribal meetings on a bill introduced by Navajo Nation Council Delegate Ben Bennett to get Navajos to fork over $65 million for the Grand Canyon Escalade.
Tens of thousands of people worldwide have opposed the development, saying it not only would destroy a fragile and pristine ecosystem on the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon, but that it also would destroy sacred sites and disrupt the traditional lifestyles of Native people who have lived in the area for generations.
The Hopi Tribe has said that if the Navajo Nation were to approve the proposal, then a land agreement between the two tribes would be breached, and a lawsuit would be necessary to resolve the issue.
Developers include former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale, who was forced out of office amid a financial and marital scandal, but who later got elected to Arizona State Senate. Other key developers include Rial Lamar Whitmer, who in 1991 was accused of pocketing $40,000 in per-diem expenses in one year as head of the Maricopa County Sports Authority. He eventually was acquitted. The third developer is former Apache County Superior Court Judge Michael Nelson, who resigned before the Arizona Supreme Court could consider a law commission’s recommendation to remove him for unethical and inappropriate conduct.
Bennett is reported to be related through marriage, as an in-law, to Hale. Bennett represents the far opposite side of the Navajo Nation, and is rumored to have introduced the bill as a favor to his in-law, even though he does not represent the people on the western side of the nation.
Amid that controversy, the runners hope to increase awareness of the cultural and religious sensitivity of the area that would otherwise be disturbed by the development.
“United in spirit and strength your Run will speak volumes,” Honanie wrote. “I wish you all luck and a safe journey. Be careful and be strong. Uma ovi tsosoyum nahongvitani. I will pray for you all this morning here. I’m sure I’ll meet you on my way home today. I look forward to it. Have fun, be safe, and again on behalf of Hopi, senon Kwakwha!!!