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.

Larry Hanks
Bodaway/Gap, Ariz.