Opposition Continues for the Grand Canyon Escalade

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.’”

Grand Canyon Escalade’s main draw would be the “Escalade” Gondola Tramway, carrying tourists from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim to the Canyon floor. Once there, visitors could walk along a 1,400-foot elevated river walk to the confluence, eat at a restaurant, or visit an amphitheater and terraced grass seating area overlooking the Colorado River. The development would also include a Navajo cultural center and retail and art galleries. Publicity materials claim the project will yield 2,000 jobs at full build-out and generate $50 to $95 million annually for the Navajo Nation. Navajo grassroots activists and neighbors of the project say local attitudes about it are sharply divided, creating tension in the community and pitting neighbors against one another. Several members of one grassroots group formed to oppose Escalade marched last week from the confluence to Navajo governmental offices in Window Rock, to make their opposition known.

At an October 3 meeting at the Bodaway/Gap Chapter House, near the site, 59 people supported a pro-Escalade resolution, and 52 people were against it. The meeting had been rescheduled from the previous week due to a shouting match between opponents and proponents of the plan on September 26. The new resolution rescinds two prior resolutions in which members of the chapter had opposed the development, and authorizes up to 420 acres on which it could occur.

Further, according to the resolution, “The Bodaway/Gap Chapter directs and requests that all governmental entities, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, county, state and local governments and agencies, assist in carrying out the intent and purpose of this resolution and in the designation of land for utilities, roads and all communications right of way.”

Read more at Indian Country Today: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/11/05/opposition-continues-for-the-grand-canyon-escalade-140124

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