By Rita Bilagody


Some of you may remember the hard fought battle with the proposed Escalade resort that we Grassroots People of The Confluence area were forced to be involved in, which culminated in a resounding defeat for the developers.

This battle took a great toll on us: Mentally, Physically, Emotionally and Spiritually. I vividly remember the day: October 31, 2017 when the Navajo Nation Council overwhelmingly voted against this development: 17 opposed and 2 in favor (The 2 in favor were the sponsors of the legislation). Tears of Joy ran down our faces as we realized that we had won our battle against great odds, a battle reminiscent of the story of David vs. Goliath. I took a deep breath of relief and vowed to finally have a restful sleep after several years of worry and stress. I got a great night’s rest!

Rita Bilagody raised this sign at the Western Navajo Fair on Oct. 21, 2023, in Tuba City, Ariz., when tribal politicians passed her way in the annual Saturday-morning parade. Ten days later, on the anniversary of the STC victory over a developer that wanted to decimate her tribal homeland, she said, “This battle took a great toll on us. Mentaly, physically and emotionally. I vividly remember the day .”

I was happy and thankful for the support we received from the World and marveled at the change that can be made when we truly get together and raise ONE VOICE against Injustice.

Fast-forward a few years….around 2020, I heard of another outside developer, (when I say “outside”, I mean outside of our Reservation.) who was proposing building dams in the same area as the developer who pushed the escalade project, referred to as Pumped Storage Hydro-power, using our groundwater and Aquifers on our reservation to build dams and using the power generated to send to cities such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles etc. We heard the same song and dance routine from this developer as we did from Lamar Whitmer, escalade promoter…words of “I’m doing this project for YOU! I have so much concern for your well being that I’m willing to blast open the ground and take your water, desecrate your land and take, take and take away from you all that is sacred and which you need to live. Just think of all the money I can, oops I meant to say, all the money you can make.”

Later, he specified that the power would go to the aforementioned cities. This pumped storage dam, as you know, will cause so much damage to ALL life in this area. They could decide to take water from the Colorado River and then where will we be? The Colorado River is already being taxed to the fullest with many entities laying claim to it. I suspect that this developer, Steve Irwin, knows this and decided to target our lands and our aquifers to further his distorted dream of “helping” us and by extension, “helping” you. He wants you to not say anything, he hopes that many of you won’t care, he hopes that by your silence, he can infer that you support him.

So many of you heard our cry for help on the Escalade project, you came to us in droves, asking how you could help us, you signed our online petition and helped us crash the computer which was tabulating the signatures because they were unable to handle the tens of thousands of people signing the petition! That was a wonderful day! We need your help again. We are going through a prolonged drought on our lands, we’re missing our Monsoons this year.

Group photo

Save the Confluence families celebrate Oct. 31, 2017, outside the Navajo Nation Council Chamber after delegates shot down a measure to build a tourist resort at the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon.

The World is being bombarded by turmoil and chaos and we are being affected by this in our little world that is called the reservation. The Covid Pandemic brought this chaos to our little world and people were able to see first hand how precious Water and Land and Air is to all people. Please listen to my words with your heart and your mind. We, as Indigenous inhabitants, at one time, had all this land now called the United States of America. A big country. We were living our best life, caring for ourselves and our families. We took great care of our lands and animals. We had reverence for all living things and took to heart and action our responsibility for our Mother, the Earth, our Sacred Water, our Air.

Then we were Invaded by Outsiders. We fought all we could but we ended up with tiny pockets of Land that the U.S. govt “bestowed” on us. These lands are all we have left. ALL WE HAVE LEFT. Let that sink in. Yes, I will fight to the last breath for our Mother, the Earth. I will fight for our Sacred Water. I will fight for our Air. I will fight for our 4 legged relatives, our Winged relatives, those relatives who live in the Water. It feels like we are being Invaded by Outsiders AGAIN. Rest assured, Mr, Steve Irwin that I will fight this atrocious development with all I have in me. We fought escalade and we won. We’re still here.We haven’t gone away. I ask for your understanding that we cannot continue to desecrate and destroy where we live because like I said about the reservation being all we have left, the Earth is the only home we all have. Our Mother, the Earth is getting weary of bearing the brunt of Abuse and Disrespect.

She is hurting, Physically and Spiritually. She won’t take this much longer. Then where will we be? I urge you to raise your voice, tell Mr. Irwin that this is Pumped Storage Hydropower dam is wrong and he doesn’t have your support. As I have said before, at some point in life, we all have to care. We have demonstrated what caring can do when we defeated escalade.

Thank You, Rita Bilagody.