What a year it has been. Working on and writing about the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade has been fascinating, enlightening and a learning experience. My background is largely technical, where logic and reason rule, so stepping into the very emotional and politically charged Escalade project has been very new to me. With Christmas and the New Year approaching, I felt the need to write down my thoughts on the past year and to look ahead to next year.
The year started with a helicopter ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to visit first-hand the proposed location of the gondola landing and the Riverwalk. We landed about a mile upstream of the Confluence in the Little Colorado River gorge and hiked to the Confluence with the Colorado River. We were accompanied by a Cultural Affairs Specialist from the Navajo Nation who was there to identify Traditional Cultural Places (TCP’s, some of which are known as “Sacred Sites”) and explain to us the complexities of TCP’s, how some are sacred, some are not and some are more sacred than others. We also learned the difference between a sacred site and a prayer offering site and more. With instruction from our Cultural Affairs Specialist we all performed the corn pollen offering and prayer before we left the Confluence. I also saw (although we were careful not to visit) the Hopi sipapu, where the Hopi are said to have emerged into the current Fourth World from the previous Third World. I went on to become educated about the Navajo Nation Cultural Resources Protection Act which requires by law the protection and preservation of TCP’s (and “Sacred Sites”) and agreements between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Nation regarding protection of the Salt Trail and Little Colorado River Gorge access to the Hopi sipapu. We also solicited help and guidance from multiple Traditional Cultural Specialists (so called ”Medicine Men”) regarding what was right and proper in terms of the Project and the Confluence and the point above the Confluence on the Canyon rim.
So I was more than a little dismayed when the opponents to the project seized upon “Save the Sacred Sites” as a slogan and rallying cry in their campaign against the Escalade project and alleging the project would desecrate “Sacred Sites”. What bothered me the most was that the opponents were aware that this cannot occur by Navajo law and regulation and still made the claims and enlisted well-meaning but poorly educated believers in their cause. I was corresponding with one of the leaders of SavetheConflunce via Facebook and I conceded that while using the Sacred Sites issue was an effective tool in their campaign, I felt strongly that it was ultimately destructive to the Navajo community and would do far more harm than good to their cause in the long-term. I understand that a campaign is being waged by both sides in this debate, and both sides are highlighting their side of the story, but to me intentionally seizing on and misleading on religious issues is and was wrong and improper. My understanding is that the opposition leaders are not practitioners of traditional Navajo religious beliefs. If they were I doubt they would have used this tactic. I do know that they did not elevate their status in the eyes of most Navajo that I have spoken with.
Another of my tasks this past year was to analyze the feasibility and practicality of building a gondola to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Most people don’t realize that current Navajo and U.S. Environmental Law require the measurement, mitigation and monitoring of any impacts from construction and operation of new facilities within any environmentally sensitive area. In doing this analysis I looked at other major construction projects within the Grand Canyon in the past. The most relevant project that we looked at was the highway bridge across the Colorado River at Marble Canyon that was built in 1995. The construction of this bridge was far more impactful on the canyon and the river below than anything proposed at the Escalade project and yet has had virtually no negative impact on the canyon or the river. Millions of people cross this bridge each year. Yet there was no outcry from rafters, environmentalists or people opposed to the desecration of the Canyon. It is and will continue to be far more visible than anything proposed at the Escalade project. There are many more examples available, from ongoing construction and improvements at Lee’s Ferry, to the work at Phantom Ranch, etc. Frankly, from a factual and non-emotional standpoint, Construction of the Escalade project will have very little impact to the canyon or the river when compared to the Marble Canyon Bridge and will have many positive benefits in terms of enhancing river and Canyon monitoring and policing.
I also learned that much of what we think of as news is really advocacy disguised as journalism. We were contacted by several news outlets wanting to run stories on the proposed Escalade project. We initially cooperated only to find that these were advocacy pieces with an agenda that intentionally misrepresented or omitted facts to fit their agenda (save the earth, save the planet, save the Canyon, etc.). I was naively shocked to see how poorly researched and written news stories were picked up and reposted on multiple websites without a fact check or an attempt at verification. It really hit home when I received a comment on our website from a very distressed individual opposed to the project because she had heard and read on the Web and Facebook that we were going to have fast food restaurant signs hanging in the Grand Canyon and open sewage pits and bright lights illuminating the Canyon from the rim. I responded to her comments assuring her that her fears were unfounded, explained to her that doing any of these things would make people not want to visit the project which works against our interests, and went on to have a very nice conversation about the project and our intentions. The old adage about buyer beware really applies to information in this new age. You have to be very careful in choosing what information to believe and pro-active in getting your own story out early and often.
This brings me to my experience building the Escalade website and Facebook presence and receiving and responding to the comments from readers. I personally viewed our web presence not just as an electronic file cabinet for technical details of the project, but as a way to educate people on why we were proposing the project, why the project was important and to explain our point of view. I also felt it was important to respond to comments, to thank the many people who supported the project and to at least try and set the record straight with those who opposed it. The comments we received educated me on how others viewed the project and why they held the views they held. Often, the comments that we received became the inspiration for the posts that I would write at a later date. What really opened my eyes was how within minutes of a new post on our website, or a new comment posting to Facebook, hundreds of people would be instantly alerted and begin reading and responding which set off another round of views and comments. This really is the new world where a cellular smart-phone is essential and we can communicte with hundreds and thousands of people simultaneously and instantly. The downside of this new world of communication is that people can toss verbal fireballs at will without any repercussions and feel no need to really engage or think. I have come to believe that this lack of accountability and human interaction leads to the gridlock we see at so many levels these days, particullarly in government. It is so easy to just be against things and find fault with everyone and everything without offering any alternative. In another of my Facebook conversations with one of the leaders of the SavetheConfluence opposition I wrote that their concerns about the Escalade project and some of its sponsors could be much better addressed by becoming a participant in the process. At least that way they could help shape the outcome rather than have no outcome. I felt then and feel now that simply stopping the project while providing no real alternative helped no-one and wasn’t a victory to be proud of.
So after several months of writing and reading and responding about Escalade, support or opposition to the project tends to come down to haves and have-nots. Those that generally live off the reservation and have homes, jobs, running water, electricity and access to schools, medical care and modern services oppose the project, hold the Grand Canyon as a “sacred church” as one commenter referred to it, and feel that the Navajo should abdicate their rights to determine the uses on their lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon. Those that live on the Navajo Reservation, with limited job opportunities, limited or no modern utilities, and without ready access to basic services and conveniences support the project, view the Canyon as a natural wonder and believe the lands which lie within the borders of the Navajo Nation should be used to provide for the sustainable economic development of the Western Region in particular and the Navajo Nation in general just as Canyon DeChelly, Monument Valley and other areas have seen responsible development. It really is as simple as that. All the talk about sacred sites and save the confluence and this and that is nothing more than a distraction from the real bottom line. If you are doing just fine and your world is good then there is no need to do this project because there is nothing in it for you. I don’t mean to sound overly harsh, but that is the cold hard reality of the situation.
This brings me to looking forward. What will the Navajo Nation President and Council Delegates do, or will they do nothing? The Bodaway/Gap Chapter voted to approve the project and then elected a new Chapter President that is a supporter of the project. So the local support that President Shelly requested has been provided in clear and convincing fashion. The fate of the project is really in the President and Councils hands now.
In considering their options on how to deal with the Escalade project, one must look at a bigger picture. According the Navajo tribal government, almost 48% of all Navajo are now forced to live off reservation because of a lack of jobs, housing and basic services. They predict that by 2014 more than half of all Navajo will be living off reservation. The amount of money leaving the reservation as a result of this exodus is staggering. According to the Navajo Nation Economic Development Department, 71% of all money earned by Navajo’s is spent in off-reservation communities and this revenue loss will grow larger as more and more Navajo are forced to leave the reservation. At the same time, the primary sources of jobs and income to the Navajo and the Navajo Nation are the coal burning electricity generating stations across northern Arizona and the coal mining operations that feed them. According to the NN Economic Development Department, royalties, taxes and business payments from mining operations account for 30% of the total Navajo Nation general budget revenues and 80% of the workers in the coal operations are Navajo. When the generating stations are forced to close or significantly cut back operations, and with recent EPA rulings against coal burning by the operators of the plants they certainly will in the foreseeable future, the current 50% unemployment rate on the Navajo Nation and corresponding poverty rate will explode at the same time that Navajo Nation revenues and ability to provide services will plummet. What then? What are they going to do to prepare for that inevitable day? That is the real decision facing President Shelly and the Council Delegates.
That is why the Escalade project is so important. If the project is built it will replace up to 30-35% of current general budget revenues and provide stability to the entire Navajo Nation, not just the Bodaway-Gap and Cameron areas. So while there is a widespread perception that this project is primarily about people getting rich off the Navajo Nation and the Grand Canyon, the basic premise has always been on how to remedy the widespread poverty and resulting social impacts of the Western Agency area. Yes, theoretically some people will make money, but that should not obscure the tremendous positive benefit that the project will have for the local population and the Navajo Nation as a whole. My response to those who say that the financial projections are overstated and a fantasy is that they are probably understated and the project will be much more successful than projected. But assuming for the sake of argument that I concede the point and say they are overstated by 100% and will produce only half of what is projected. This would still amount to 15-18% of the current general budget revenues to the Navajo Nation. There is nothing that has been proposed by opponents to the project or by the Navajo Nation Economic Development Department that produces even a small fraction of the return to the Nation that Escalade will bring and at the cost of less than half of one new casino. I personally believe that this is what is behind much of the Hopi opposition to the project. They have recently embarked on an ambitious plan to open up parts of their reservation to tourism and new development. I think they are terrified that the Escalade project will pre-empt their plans and siphon off the tourism business they are counting on. They are even more dependent on coal revenues than the Navajo Nation and certainly see the same handwriting on the wall. The Salt Trail and sipapu issues are nothing more than cover in my opinion.
To me, the Navajo Nation President and Council have no choice but to formally move forward with serious consideration and examination of the project. Yes, there are many issues still to resolve, yes there is much scrutiny, due diligence and underwriting to be done. There will have to be appraisals, environmental assessments, cultural reviews, and evidence of financial capacity presented by Confluence Partners before the final green light is given. If the project proves to be unworkable so be it. But to do nothing? That would be the worst of all outcomes. But then, I come from a world of logic and reason and cause and effect, not the world of politics and emotion that this project has found itself in.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. It will certainly be fascinating to see how this all plays out.
Following is a letter published Nov. 21, 2012 in the Navajo Times Newspaper. Click here for link.
As a supporter of the suggested economic development of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project, I feel obliged to unambiguously set the record straight in reference to letters posted in the Navajo Times by Tresha Yellowhite and Daniel Peaches.
Yellowhair was misleading and misinformed of the facts and there is much ill informed letters that are currently circulating that are causing much confusion, pain and uncertainty around our community. Yellowhair statements of those who oppose the confluence development do not live in the area where the proposed site of the Escalade Project is very true. With many supporters of the development like Betty Tsinijinnie, a local elder who strongly supports the idea of economic growth and the future of the youth that live in the area. But for her support, Tsinjinnie was a victim of a vicious verbal attack from opponents of the project outside of the chapter house.
Peaches comments, “Louise Yellowman was roughen up…” was misinforming as those who witnessed that Yellowman was merely escorted out by two female officers from the Navajo Police Department. Those who were present witnessed Yellowman charge through three rows of chairs towards chapter officials and slam her hands on the counter that was disruptive and in a threatening manner where officers were asked to escort her out. If Peaches was there physically as a witness, even he could have told you we are all treated equally in the eyes of the law.
Peaches also says, “The discussion on the issue on KTNN was 99 percent against the proposed development and 1 percent in favor.” That is because an anti-development organization called Canyon Trust paid for the advertisement on solicitation of the opponents, to further their own agenda. Just so happens, I and another supporter got on the airwave discussion that was not intended for us as supporters.
Yellowhair, Peaches and many others are quick to express how local residents should respect our sacred lands and go further by advising with directions and guidance without ever setting foot on the proposed site. All of a sudden we have seen a surge of “experts” on how we should protect our sacred grounds and our emergence stories. I have not personally heard of any of these individuals to practice the traditional way of life with the offerings of corn pollen.
The supporters of the development are everyday simple people with the majority of us living within the boundaries of the Bodaway Chapter. Majority of the supporters are with limited western education, compassion, rich in cultural knowledge and we stand strong by our beliefs.
Unlike the opponents, ask any elected officials; we never did an in-your-face personal verbal attack or show any disrespect. Plus we never point to any other tribal officials as the bad guy simply because they don’t share our agenda.
Most of us supporters do not have access to the latest technology. We are people with simply ambitions, which are to see our future generation to have a better future on our motherland. Most important we are about change, progress, and to move forward. As home grown supporters, you will never find us run around to seek solicitations from or to have fancy names like the Forgotten People, Grass Roots People, People of the Confluence, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sierra Club. You will never find us to solicit any support from other tribes such as our Hopi brothers and sisters. The mentalities of the supporters are to fix our own domestics issues right here at home.
As supporters of the development, we vehemently agree we need to truly respect our sacred grounds; we are well aware and capable of protecting the sacredness of the area. We know first hand on how offerings should be done and no self-proclaimed experts need to apply here. Our intentions are to give the sacred sites the proper offerings, blessings, and protection it truly needs and deserves. I will promise to all opponents of the development that Mother Earth will not shake violently and rest assure that none of us will not be running for dear life.
Nowadays, the word “sacredness” is being thrown around too loosely, without knowing its true meaning. It’s sad but true. Furthermore, we are deeply saddened that the opponents would be so insensitive to our Navajo spirituality and culture. Some of them no longer practice or believe in our ancient customs but are quick to jump on the bandwagon of “sacredness” and hide behind the teachings of grandparents shamelessly.
The fact is the most sacred site the Salt Trail lies 6.7 miles where the proposed confluence development site is proposed. The Escalade Project is considered to be culturally respectful where we will have the areas considered sacred fenced off, blocked off, well preserved, and well protected.
We should work towards an economic development that encourages our youth to aspire towards independence as many of our people are struggling with poverty and have become dependent on assistance from local, state, tribe and federal programs. We have the right to determine the success of our own future.
The role of our tribal government, individual Native American entrepreneurs and outside investors and businesses is vital in stimulating a strong economic growth for our area. The reality of life on the reservation is a high unemployment rate and extreme poverty, even our fiercest opponent can acknowledge this fact as we live in area that could benefit from a strong economy.
Many communities lack the basic necessities of infrastructures such as roads and centers that support youth development. For example, a Boys and Girls Club, work assistance and GED programs and elderly care such as local centers that keep our senior citizens the care they need in our own communities.
With harsh realities of unemployment, deplorable living conditions that the many native communities are faced with, local residents are in strong support of the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project to improve the lives of many here in our area. We are in serious need of economic growth that our youth can build upon and keep our sacred sites protected.
All of us could move to the cities and enjoy all the perks of a city life, but no that’s too easy. Besides city life is not home.
We the people and supporters that live in the area of the Grand Canyon Escalade Project respectfully ask to be allowed to make a decision that affects us deeply in hopes of having jobs, change and a chance of a better tomorrow.
Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie makes a fact-finding tour of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade site on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012.
NEWS ADVISORY – Monday, October 22, 2012
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Littlewater, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake, Baca/Brewitt, Casamero Lake, Ojo Encino, Counselor) made a fact finding tour today of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalde site on the rim of the Grand Canyon near Bodaway-Gap, Arizona. Councilman Tsosie was accompanied by approximately ten local chapter residents that are in support of the proposed Escalade project. Councilman Tsosie, also a member of the Resources and Development Committee for the Navajo Nation, has not taken a position on the project but has expressed a desire to understand all sides regarding the issue. Councilman Tsosie said he wanted to understand the concerns of the local residents and to see first hand impacts on Traditional Cultural Places (what many are calling sacred sites) that are near the proposed Escalde site.
Local chapter residents expressed their support to Councilman Tsosie for the project, stating that the project would bring desperately needed jobs and income to the area and holds the potential of keeping children and grandchilren living in the area as well as badly needed new homesites. Local residents also informed Delegate Tsosie that, despite claims by opponents to the contrary, there were no active homesites or grazing leases that would be impacted or disturbed by the project. They noted that the Bodaway-Gap Chapter had voted to approve a land-use plan designating the area the project would be located in as an economic development zone and this was done long before the Escalde project had come along. They also addressed the issue of sacred sites by noting that nine (9) Navajo Ceremonial Practitioners had written letters in support of the Escalade project and had spoken on the issue of sacres sites. Cecil Nez of Coalmine Canyon and Tuba City wrote in his letter:
My Grandmother was of the clan- ”where the rivers come together” -TOO AAH HIDII LH-and had the teaching of offering prayers, corn pollen, and the four sacred mountain sacraments at the base and banks of where the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River come together. This was a sacred to place to them, where they offered prayers and placed sacraments on the banks -where the rivers come together-and what was offered was then taken to the ocean on their behalf-because that’s where the river ran to. This was done on an annual basis to bring abundance of rain for crops that were planted and for good forge for the livestock, water for the earthen dams. Then rain clouds originated from the ocean and the clouds came out to the reservation, from where rainwas requested from the Confluence area.
Many Navajos and other Native Americans offer their prayers and corn pollen from the rim of the cliffs of the Grand Canyon and call it a sacred site, but in reality its down in the Canyon where the two rivers meet. If a com pollen is offered from the rim of the cliff of the canyon, it is blown away by the strong winds and its no wonder all we have on the reservation is winds and occasional tornadoes.
I do my prayers and offerings at the foot of the river banks, where the two rivers meet, as taught by my ancestors and my grandmother.
There is more than this I have to give and can assist in haying a background history of the Confluence written up with Mr. Thompson. The other thing I am privileged to do is make a prayer and offering ceremony in the Canyon on behalf of the development. This will alleviate all the un-necessary delays or compliances people who oppose this development.
The site of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalde as it exists today.
Editors Note: The original post included Gevern Begay, Bodaway-Gap Chapter official in the picture contained within the post. Mrs. Begay attended the tour with Councilman Tsosie as part of her official Chapter duties and not as a supporter of the Escalade project. We apologize for any confusion the picture may have caused and have changed the picture attached to the post. KAL – Oct. 27, 2012
I was having a Facebook conversation with a friend yesterday and my friend called the Grand Canyon Escalade a “monstrosity“. So this got me thinking, If Escalade is a monstrosity what does that make Grand Canyon Village? I checked on Wikipedia and according to Wiki (click here for link) “Grand Canyon Village has a total area of 13.4 square miles (35 km2), all of it land.” They got their information from the US Census so I will go with it as accurate. So anyway, there are 640 acres in a square mile so Grand Canyon Village is 8,576 acres. Grand Canyon Escalade by comparison is 420 acres. That makes Grand Canyon Village 20.4 Escalades all rolled into one, and we haven’t even included Tusayan, Desert View and Phantom Ranch into the equation yet. Escalade is 5% the size of Grand Canyon Village! So if Escalade is a monstrosity, I asked my friend, does that make Grand Canyon Village a grotesque, hideous, blight on the Grand Canyon? My friend still didn’t believe me so I went to Google Earth and pulled up a picture of Grand Canyon Village and sent it to her.
Grand Canyon Village is 13.4 Sq. Miles or 8,576 acres, 20.4 times the size of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade.
“Ok”, my friend said, “it turns out that yes, the official land area is 8,576 acres but most of it is vacant forest. No way Grand Canyon Village is really bigger than Escalade”. So to check, I overlayed a Google image of GC Village on top of the Escalade land use plan and put both of those onto Google Earth to compare. It turns out Grand Canyon Village is still way bigger than Escalade, 4 times bigger! I sent this to my friend to see what she would say.
Grand Canyon Escalade is 420 Acres. Grand Village is 8,576 acres. The developed area of both are shown at the proposed location of Grand Canyon Escalade. Grand Canyon Village is 4 times larger than Escalade.
“Well”, my friend said, “maybe Escalade isn’t as big as I thought, but what about the tram down to the Confluence. Isn’t that really going to disrupt the Canyon and be an eyesore?” So I downloaded a PDF of Phantom Ranch from the NPS website and took a look. It turns out to be 25 times bigger than the Riverwalkin overall area and has a raft beach, campground, dormitory, lodge and canteen, mule corrals, amphitheater, and even a sewage treatment plant. OMG my friend said, shocked., when I sent if over.
Phantom Ranch has all the amenities, Lodge, Canteen, Boat Beach, Sewage Treatment Plant, Campground, Amphitheater. And its 25 times larger than planned Escalde River Walk.
“So why are people telling me this Escalade thing is terrible and is going to ruin the Canyon?” my friend said. “It’s tiny compared to all the National Park Service facilities.” Well, it must be that its desecrating sacred sites, that’s what people tell me.” OK, back to Google Earth. I posted an overlay that is the same length and location of the Riverwalk and Gondola Tram stop onto Google Earth and sent it to my friend. Look at that I told my friend, Escalade isn’t on the Confluence site. It’s quite aways away. I also told my friend that the Riverwalk was an elevated walkway with railings, so people couldn’t just wander off and go explore, they were stuck on the walkway and couldn’t go near the Confluence.
The Escalade Gondola Tram Stop and Riverwalk stay far away from the Confluence, a site many Navajo consider sacred. The Riverwalk is an elevated walkway with railings to keep visitors from leaving the walkway and disturbing the Confluence.
We also looked at the land plan overlay again. My friend wanted to know how far Escalade was from the Salt Trail, another site that holds sacred status with the Hopi and Navajo. We put a yellow line from the entrance to Escalade to the Salt Trail trailhead. According to Google Earth it is over 2 miles away. Anyway I told my friend, you can buy a hiking permit in Cameron for $10 to hike the Trail and the Sierra Club offers guided hikes for $995 a person, so how is Escalade going to be different than what is already going on?
My friend was staring at the picture of the Confluence and said, “Hey, right there in the Google image, there’s those rafters again, the ones from Grand Canyon River Guides (GCRG) that are opposed to the Escalade. Look close, they have their rafts pulled up right onto the Confluence! I checked on Google Earth and my friend was right. Not only that, but the rafters posted this photo on Google Earth for us. “Looks like they are having a good time.”, my friend said. “I think those two on the right just finished… Well, sacred site or not, when ya gotta go… I hope their partners from SavetheConfluence.com don’t find out about this.”
Grand Canyon river rafters on what many Navajo consider to be a sacred place, the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers.
- Commercial Rafters on Sacred Site of Confluence
We have been researching Sacred Sites because there has been so much talk about them by the opponents of the Escalade project. Because the proposed Escalade project is NEAR the Confluence and a prayer/offering site (not on them mind you, just near them) and within a few miles by air from the Salt Trail and the Hopi Sipapu we are told that the Escalade would be a desecration of Sacred Sites. So we decided to find out what is happening today on these same Sacred Sites.
We already posted that the Sierra Club is guiding hikes down the Salt Trail to the Hopi Sipapu and the Confluence for only $995 a person (click here for link)
. Now we find out that the National Park Service issues permits for 24,657 river runners, 16 commercial raft companies, and over 13,000 hiking permits each year. And 2006 Park Service regulations in effect today allow for motorized rafts, generators and helicopter insertion and extraction at two locations downstream of the Confluence. So where do 24,657 people go to party? Why the Confluence of course! It turns out that this is a primary stopping point, and they don’t stop nearby, they stop right on the Confluence, a Sacred Site. And what do they do when they stop? Why, they hike to the Sipapu and use the Salt Trail and Swim in the Little Colorado River. We keep asking ourselves why there is no outcry by the Save the Confluencee folks. Why isn’t it OK for the Navajo to charge $40 to ride a gondola to a secure site close to the Confluence but its ok to charge $2850 per rafter so they can tie up right on the Sacred Site and party? I guess that’s why Grand Canyon River Guides oppose the Escalde and has joined with Save The Confluence. Can’t have the Navajo making any money while they are raking it in.
Let’s Get That Party Started!! And we are led to believe that this is not a desecration of a Sacred Site as long as you’re willing to drop a cool $2,850 to a commercial raft concession. But don’t even think about $40 to ride a gondola.
24,567 commercial raft permits are issued each year and the Confluence Sacred Site is a primary stopping point.
Rafters party at the Little Colorado River after stopping at the Confluence.
The Park Service alllows rafters and reserachers to transport into the Canyon by helicopter.
Commercial Rafters use the Little Colorado at the Confluence as their personal swimming pool.
News Advisory – October 9, 2012
The Navajo tribal members of Confluence Partners, L.L.C. sent the following letter today to Tom Arviso, Candice Begody and Marley Shebala of the Navajo Times; Kathy Helms, Reporter for Gallup Independent; Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press; Editor of the Nava Hopi Observer; and Editor of Indian Country Today news magazine.
The Confluence Partners, LLC, has strived to inform the public on all aspects of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade (Escalade) project in order for the People and tribal leaders to make informed decisions. Escalade will be an international tourist destination featuring a Gondola Tramway to the floor of the Grand Canyon, a Navajo-land Cultural Discovery Center, and a Native American Artist-in-Residency program, (more details are available at www.grandcanyonescalade.com).
With so much false talk about Escalade, there are three major misconceptions.
Project Ownership. The greatest misconception is that non-Navajos will own the project.
Not so, the Navajo Nation will own 100% of the Grand Canyon Escalade development. When built-out, Escalade will create over 2000 jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs; $70 million in annual local payroll; an estimated $90 million plus in annual revenue for the Navajo Nation; and real tax revenue for the Bodaway/Gap Chapter.
Sacred sites. Another big misconception is that the project will desecrate sacred sites.
Not so, the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department visited the site and provided input and consultation to ensure sacred sites were respected. In addition, local area Navajo medicine men were consulted and they have stated support, in writing, for Escalade which they believe will: 1) create jobs for young people and bring them closer to home; 2) monitor and protect sacred sites that will alleviate desecration of sites currently made by river rafters and hikers in the Canyon; and 3) create revenues for the rehabilitation of the former Bennett Freeze Area.
Local Support. Another misconception is that Bodaway/Gap residents don’t support the project and somehow the project will disenfranchise local residents.
Not so, on October 3, 2012, the majority of the people from Bodaway/Gap Chapter voted to support the project. They understand Escalade will bring much needed employment opportunities that will afford their families a better way of life; the grandmas say Escalade will bring their grandchildren home. They understand the project will bring other benefits, such as a paved roadway, and electric and water infrastructure to an area that has been banned from development for over 40 years. Former Bodaway/Gap CLUP President Brian Kensley reminded the people that they supported this type of project years ago when: “The Chapter approved the land use plan identifying the confluence area as a future economic development zone.”
Unfortunately, the opponents seem more interested in stopping people from learning about Escalade than allowing decisions to be made on the merits. Groups like the Grand Canyon Trust also are promoting conflicting messages. Generally speaking, they oppose enterprises that threaten the environment and in the past they have encouraged tribes toward sustainable industries like tourism; yet when it comes to a tribally-owned project in the Grand Canyon, it is suddenly not a sustainable project. If their issue is about exposing sacred sites, shouldn’t they publicly oppose the Sierra Club’s October 14th commercial backpacking trip (#12174A) down the Salt Trail that offers “views of Native American sites”, including Hopi’s Sípàapuni?
Navajo Nation Attorney General Tsosie recently said: “So the one thing that every Navajo needs to understand is that the Navajo Nation is primarily a coal economy…” Should Navajos continue their dependency on declining nonrenewable coal revenues? Escalade is a renewable and sustainable way to enhance and diversify the Navajo economy. Isn’t it time that the Navajo People have their fair share of the Grand Canyon tourism?
Navajo Nation Council’s Resources and Development Committee Chairwoman Katherine Benally offered to mediate between the opposition and us, if we would reach out to them. We emailed them on September 24th and since have had a few phone conversations with them. We await their decision. Hopefully they will take Chairwoman Benally up on her gracious offer to peace-make.
To that end, Confluence Partners remain committed to meet with individuals or groups about Grand Canyon Escalade and to discuss their interest and concerns, as long as it is in a calm and respectful manner.
Confluence Partners LLC
The Sierra Club is offering a guided hike down the Salt Trail to visit the Hopi Sipapu and the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado River. Cost is only $995 so sign up here.
Sierra Club leads hikers to Sacred Sites on Salt Trail
According to the Sierra Club website: The Salt Trail on the Navajo Reservation is our route into the Grand Canyon and is an ancient one used by the Hopis, Navajos, Prehistoric Puebloans, and prospectors. Combining the Salt Trail with the Beamer, Escalante, and Hance trails, our days will be spent enjoying seldom-seen views of spectacular scenery unparalleled in the world. The confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers in Marble Canyon and the towering 4,000-foot cliffs of the Palisades of the Desert are dramatic backdrops for our hike.
We have heard so much about Sacred Site desecration from the Save the Confluence opposition to the Grand Canyon Escalade but the silence is deafening on this one. Why are they opposed to Navajo people making money by allowing visitors to the Canyon but not a word when the Sierra Club takes them right to the Sacred Sites? Hmmm…..
And what about the Hopi? Their Tribal Council is opposed to Escalde because it is within a few miles of the Salt Trail. But guided tours on the Salt Trail and visits to Sipapu are OK?
via Salt-Beamer-Escalante Trek, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona – Sierra Club Outings – 12174A.
Little Colorado River Near Confluence
Navajo Times, Oct.4, 2012 – Bodaway Opens Door to Escalade
Cindy Yurth reports in the Oct. 4 edition of the Navajo Times that the Bodaway-Gap Chapter voted to approve the Grand Canyon Escalade project Wednesday afternoon. To see the full article click here. According to Ms. Yurth the resolution to withdraw up to 420 acres on the cliff above the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, paving the way for a huge new resort with a tramway to the floor of the Grand Canyon. passed by seven votes.
According to the Navajo Times article the debate focused on economic development vs. preservation of sacred sites and the environment. The Times quoted one fo the local residents that voted on behalf of the project.
“We’re not looking out for ourselves,” said resort proponent Brian Kinsley, who identified himself as a former member of the chapter’s land use planning committee. “We’re looking out for our children.”
According to the Times article, Arizona State Rep. Albert Hale, who is also a partner in the company that hopes to develop the $180 million resort, commended the chapter for its action.
“It was a good vote,” he said. “We had a discussion. It really came down to the people.”