The Little Colorado River, as seen in an overflight in early November 2023, flows west towards the Grand Canyon, where it meets the Colorado River. (Photo courtesy of EcoFlight.)

The proposed legislation by Save the Confluence, to designate parts of the Grand Canyon East Rim on the Navajo Nation as traditional religious sites, seeks chapter backing before it makes its way to the Navajo Nation Council.

Save the Confluence has been trying since 2020 to get the bill passed into law by the Navajo Nation Council. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2021 tribal election, which resulted in key supporters losing re-election, delayed the effort.

The proposed legislation started in February 2018, when the Bodaway/Gap Chapter agreed to  designate the Confluence as a sacred site. This was after the Navajo Nation Council rejected the Grand Canyon Escalade in 2017, when a Scottsdale developer had proposed a tourist center/gondola at Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers.

STC members revived the proposed legislation this fall by asking chapters to adopt a resolution in support of it. In part, the resolution asks chapters to support “the designation of the Confluence of the Little Colorado and the Colorado River Gorge, and other related Cultural/Spiritual Sites of the Navajo Nation.”

STC plans to approach the rest of the Navajo Nation chapters in 2024.


So far, six Western Navajo chapters agreed to support the legislation. They include the following:

  1. Tonalea Chapter, To’ Nihalii’, voted 24 in favor and five abstained on Oct. 23, 2023.

    This is Navajo Councilwoman Helena Nez Begay’s home chapter. Begay represents Bodaway/Gap Chapter, Coppermine Chapter, LeChee Chapter, Kaibeto Chapter and Tonalea Chapter. Begay allegedly opposes the bill. Save the Confluence sent Begay an e-mail Sunday, December 3, seeking a comment. But she has not responded.

  1. LeChee Chapter, voted 29 in favor, none opposed and one abstained Oct. 8, 2023.
  2. Tuba City Chapter, Tonaneesdizi, voted four in favor, zero opposed and one abstained Sept. 6, 2023.
  3. Leupp Chapter, voted 14 in favor, zero opposed and 24 abstained   20, 2022.
  4. Cameron Chapter, Na’ ni’ a Hasani, voted eight in favor, none opposed and three abstained, March 20, 2022.
  5. Bodaway/Gap Chapter overwhelmingly agreed 55 in favor, zero opposed and 12 abstained February 2018, to place the Confluence into a sacred site. The chapter hereby directs “its Chapter Officials/Council Delegate to do all things necessary and proper to have the Confluence (Little Colorado River and Colorado River) be designated as a Sacred Site,” according to the resolution. The chapter voted shortly after the Navajo Nation Council rejected Grand Canyon Escalade Oct. 31, 2017.