The Navajo Nation’s Law and Order Committee unanimously turned down Grand Canyon Escalade at Monday’s public meeting at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort.
The Escalade bill, filed in late August by council delegate Ben Bennett, who does not represent the western side of the Navajo Nation, now moves to the Navajo Nation Council’s Resources and Development Committee, tribal legislative officials said. The committee is scheduled to meet in Chinle on Tuesday, a meeting that likely is too early to add the Escalade bill.
“With respect, Mr. Bennett , it takes a lot of courage for you to sponsor a legislation at a chapter that you are not from.”
– Law and Order Committee Chairman Edmund Yazzie.
The bill seeks $65 million from the Navajo Nation to fund infrastructure for a controversial tourist resort on the Grand Canyon Eastern Rim.
The bill is not on the Resource’s Tuesday agenda posted at www.navajonation.org. It is possible the committee will consider the bill later at one of its meetings this month, legislative officials said.
Under the contract, a group calling itself Confluence Partners LLC proposes to build a hotel, restaurant, museum and parking lot and a gondola tram on 420 acres overlooking the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers. The tram would take thousands of tourists from the canyon rim to the floor of the canyon, where they would trek a river walk and dine at a café overlooking the rivers. The Confluence Partners is comprised of three individuals who have narrowly escaped civil and criminal prosecution over the last 20 years for various financial and business dealings, as well as domestic and ethics problems. Among them is former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale — forced from office amid a marital scandal and tribal financial questions.
The Law and Order committee was the first to review the legislation filed in late August to develop the Grand Canyon eastern rim.
The committee raised issues before it’s 5-0 vote against the bill.
Among the concerns raised about the Escalade bill include the following:
- The bill’s failure to get signatures from grazing permit owners to the 420 acres, which the partners claim had no grazing permit holders,
- where would the tribe find $65 million for the project,
- and concern about sustaining the earth-based Navajo faith.
Tuba City delegate and traditional medicine man Otto Tso gave an eloquent talk about the Navajo faith and the Language and how it could be eroded by the Escalade project.
Some areas on the nation should not be developed, he said. Where the two rivers meet is one of them, he said.
Tso has spoken about Chuar Butte, visible from the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon, as sacred-banded rock to which tribal members make offerings and prayers.
“We speak the language that won a war, we have the language in our voices, our songs, our prayers and that makes us who we are as Dine,” Tso said. “My elderly Navajo medicine men also taught me to be humble. To not be combative and use harsh language. I work on issues such as the Escalade quietly as a leader. Those are the very principles that I hold.”
Tso also said he stands with the Navajo Medicine Association, which passed a resolution against the Escalade.
Thank you for the support everyone! Happy tears rolling down my cheeks as I listen to our council delegates… “I oppose the escalade and stand with Navajo medicine men” speaking in Dine’ language – Otto Tso
Posted by Da Wa on Monday, October 10, 2016
An issue, raised by Escalade opponents, is why Ben Bennett, who represents Fort Defiance, Crystal and Red Lake on the council, sponsored the bill. That issue did not go unnoticed at the meeting.
Edmund Yazzie (representing Churchrock, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Smith Lake and Thoreau) told Bennett: “With respect, Mr. Bennett , it takes a lot of courage for you to sponsor a legislation at a chapter that you are not from.”
Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown (representing Kayenta, Dennehotso, Chilchinbeto), who is not a member of the committee, testified before delegates to question why $65 million would go to outside developers to desecrate a “home to Diné dieties” and not benefit Navajo people. Brown is a member of the Navajo Nation Health, Education and Human Services Committee, which will not hear the bill as part of its vetting process.