Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie says that if the Navajo Nation approves the Grand Canyon Escalade project, the agreement that sought to resolve longstanding land disputes between the two tribes would be violated.
“This proposed development and location is unacceptable to Hopi religious leaders, practitioners and the Hopi people as it will significantly and forever adversely impact Hopi sacred places which Hopis have aboriginal title and use, and title and use through the Intergovernmental Compact between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe,” Honanie wrote in a letter to the Navajo Nation Council on Thursday (Sept. 2, 2016).
“The Hopi Tribe hereby reiterates our declaration of unwavering opposition to the proposed commercial resort development called the “Grand Canyon Escalade,” Honanie wrote.
The letter was submitted as part of a formal public-comment period that ends tomorrow, as the tribe considers whether to approve giving $65 million to the project. The project, being led by mostly outside non-Native developers, seeks to take 420 acres of land away from traditional Navajos near the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon in order to build a tourist resort and a gondola tram to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.
More than 18 American Indian tribes have opposed the development on cultural, ancestral and religious grounds. The National Parks Service also has opposed the development, and may sue to stop the development, as the boundary on where the Navajo reservation ends and the park boundary begins remains disputed. National and international environmental groups also have opposed the project and threatened to file suit.
The Navajo Nation Justice Department, itself, has said the proposed agreement between the outside developers and the tribe is fraught with legal issues. For the tribe’s investment, a mere 8 to 18 percent of revenues would be returned to the tribe, with the rest going off the reservation.
Developers claim that new jobs would be created and local economies bolstered; however, they also want a ban on Navajo tourism businesses anywhere within 25 miles of their development.
Honanie says the development does more than violate economic sensibilities. It threatens whole ways of life.
“The Hopi Tribe and many other Southwestern Tribes including the Navajo Nation hold the Grand Canyon as a sacred place of reverence, respect and conservation stewardship,” Honanie wrote. “It is important to preserve and protect these sites from harm and wrongful exploitation.”Download a PDF of the Hopi Tribe’s letter to the Navajo Nation Council