With the recent article in the LA Times on Escalade and then the numerous spin-off stories in other papers, blogs, and Facebook pages, I find I absolutely have to make time to address some of the most flagrant misconceptions and canards (I love that word, it means 1. a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor, often intentionally misleading. 2. a fabricated report. 3. a hoax. 4. a duck for eating.) about Escalade and Confluence Partners.
Will Grand Canyon Escalade desecrate Sacred Sites?
ANSWER: We have uncovered no evidence of any sacred sites within the project boundaries or that would be negatively impacted by the project. The National Park Service, which is required by law to identify and protect Native American sacred places within the park, does not recognize the Confluence as a Sacred Site of either the Navajo or Hopi. Final determination will be made after the project undergoes a complete archeological and cultural clearance process as required by Navajo codes and Law and submitted to the Navajo Nation Department of Historic Preservation for review, comment, and, if everything is done properly, approval. If Sacred Sites will or would be desecrated, the project won’t go forward. This is how all projects on the Navajo Nation are handled.
For those interested you can download ”Significant Traditional Cultural Properties of the Navajo People” (otherwise known as the TCP Book) written by Judith A. Martin, NNHPD Navajo Cultural Specialist with assistance from Robert Begay, NNAD Director and Steven Begay, NNHPD Deputy Director. This book lists in great detail culturally significant places to the Navajo, including places of both major and minor significance, as well as information on the cultural clearances policies and procedure of the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department (NNHPD) requires reading and referencing Richard Van Valkenburg, “Navajo Sacred Places”, Clyde Kluckhohn, ed. In Navajo Indians III,pp. 9–199. Garland Publishing, New York, and “Dine Bikeyah”. Manuscript. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Indian Service, Navajo Agency, Window Rock, AZ. This research was used by the Navajo Nation in their successful lawsuit against the United States to reclaim historic lands by demonstrating the location and history of Navajo Sacred Sites and Sacred Places.
We also consulted “Navajo Sacred Places” by Klara B. Kelley and “Sacred Places of the Navajo” by Editha L. Watson. Navajo Sacred Places details many of the stories of Navajo theology and how it is these stories that make the places Sacred Places. Sacred Places of the Navajo is another catalog of Navajo Sacred Sites similar to the work of Van Valkenburg and lists nearly 100 sacred places and why they are sacred.
Finally, we consulted the National Park Service commissioned research “Ethnographic Resources in the Grand Canyon Region” prepared by the University of Arizona in 2010. The Park Service is required by law to protect TCP’s and areas considered sacred by the various Native American tribes. While there are sacred places of the Navajo and Hopi in Grand Canyon National Park, the Confluence is not referenced or identified.
Again, all this doesn’t mean the Confluence is or isn’t a Sacred Place, just that we can’t find any references to or identification of the Confluence in any of the published research or history of Navajo Sacred Places.
Is Grand Canyon Escalade in Grand Canyon National Park?
ANSWER: No, Grand Canyon Escalade is not within the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. It is wholly within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the Navajo Reservation. The property lies within what was once the Bennett Freeze area, land that was part of a dispute between the Hopi and Navajo. In 1966, then Secretary of the Interior Bennett forcibly removed Navajo ranchers and residents and prohibited new buildings or the construction of roads, power lines, water lines or sanitation facilities. The Navajo brought suit against the US Government and the property was made exclusively Navajo in 1979. The Bennett Freeze moratorium was lifted in 2009. For more information on the Bennett-Freeze and its impact on the area read BENNETT-FREEZE’S SURREAL NIGHTMARE SHOULD BE ENDING – BUT IT’S NOT.
The National Park Service recently stated that Escalade is a threat to the Grand Canyon. What is your response?
ANSWER: Nonsense. Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim is 8,576 acres and that doesn’t include Desert Viewpoint or the North Rim facilities. Grand Canyon Escalade is 420 acres or 1/20th the size. Grand Canyon Escalade will have almost no impact on the Canyon experience or environment and will be one of the most environmentally friendly and green projects ever built. And everyone agrees that Grand Canyon Village is one of the better national park venues ever created.
In addition, this property currently has virtually no regulation, control or monitoring. You can buy a permit for $10 and have unlimited access in your vehicle, four wheel drive, motorcycle or whatever. The Park Service and a variety of agencies operating in the Park use this as their primary helicopter landing and loading point for ventures into the Canyon. The Park Service provides no policing or monitoring of the area as it is outside Park boundaries. The Navajo do not have the resources to police and monitor.
The impact of Grand Canyon Escalade must be viewed in context with actual conditions and not with the portrayal of this area as a pristine and untouched wilderness. It is not. We understand fully the cumulative effects of multiple small encroachments. We do actually care about the Canyon and the protection of the resources. And we understand having done previous projects in environmentally delicate areas how to not only minimize impact but to actually improve the overall situation through offsetting mitigation measures. We want to optimize the financial viability of the project. The only way to do that is to optimize the experience. Degrading the environment and desecrating the Canyon experience are not compatible with our goals and objectives.
What does Grand Canyon Escalade consist of?
- Escalade, a gondola tramway from the Canyon rim to a location near the Colorado River.
- Riverwalk, an educational and sightseeing experience at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
- The Discovery Center, a themed cultural and historical recreation entertainment, arts, events, education, dining and shopping experience.
- Lease sites for hotels other services.
- Exhibit and sales areas for local Navajo craftsmen, artisans and jewelry vendors.
What about the Tram and Riverwalk at the Canyon floor and the intrusion into the pristine Canyon environment?
ANSWER: Phantom Ranch operated by the Park Service has a lodge, canteen (restaurant), boat beach, sewage treatment plant, campground, and an amphitheater and is 25 times larger than Riverwalk. Phantom Ranch is regarded as one of the most highly sought out places to visit in the Canyon. By comparison, the Escalade tram and Riverwalk will almost disappear into the natural surroundings much like the Marble Canyon Bridge does and have a fraction of the visual and environmental impact of Phantom Ranch. Both the tram and Riverwalk will be tightly controlled and regulated experiences with no opportunity for people to go “walkabout” or cause any harmful impact.
Won’t the Park Service stop the project?
ANSWER: The Park Service has conceded that the Navajo have rights to within a quarter mile of the river. The Navajo Nation believes it has the exclusive right to use and occupy the eastern bank of the Colorado River to a point above the high water mark. So the only remaining debate is over a very small sliver of land between the quarter mile mark and the high water mark. All of the legal research done to date (most of it by people or groups independent of and not contracted by Escalade) agrees with the Navajo position so we anticipate a speedy resolution with the Park Service when the time comes. For an excellent article on this matter click on this link to GCFUTURES.COM.
What about environmental permitting and compliance?
The Navajo Nation Trust Land Leasing Act of 2000 (25 U.S.C § 415) has authorized the Navajo Nation to conduct business site leasing without subsequent federal approval. The Grand Canyon Escalade will undergo a tribal environmental review in accordance with Subchapter 800 of the Navajo Nation Business Leasing Regulations which mirrors the Federal environmental review process.
What about the scarce water supplies in the area as mentioned by the Park Service?
ANSWER: Grand Canyon Escalade is different from Grand Canyon Village and Tusayan. Grand Canyon Escalade is in an area with a large and self-replenishing aquifer, so water is scarce only because there has not been the money to drill the wells and construct the pipelines. Construction of Grand Canyon Escalade will provide water for the surrounding communities and future homesites that could not be built without Escalade covering the cost of the wells and pipelines.
Is Grand Canyon Escalade is being developed by outsiders and non-Navajo?
ANSWER: Grand Canyon Escalade will be developed by Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprises (NNHE), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Navajo Nation. Confluence Partners, which has four Navajo partners, will construct and operate a cultural center, recreational venues, the tram to the Canyon floor and the necessary service facilities for the project (water systems, sewage treatment facilities, staff, security and maintenance). The Navajo Nation will own all land and improvements.
Do the local Chapter and community support the Grand Canyon Escalade Project?
ANSWER: The local Chapter voted and passed a Resolution supporting and approving Grand Canyon Escalade. In addition, the current Chapter President won his election running as a supporter of Escalade. His opponent ran opposing Escalade. The current President won a significant majority of the vote in that election.
While opponents have made much of the margin of victory for the Chapter Resolution supporting Escalade being only 7 votes, the fail to say that there were only 109 votes cast. Escalade was approved by 55% of the voters. Many of the voters against the project don’t actually live in the Bodaway-Gap chapter area. An example is Hopi Cultural Officer Leigh Kuwanwisiwma who admitted to being at the meeting and voting against the Project in a recent Navajo Hopi Observer newspaper article. The percentage of local residents voting approval was significantly higher than the final margin of victory.
What about Hopi opposition?
ANSWER: The project is in the area that is governed by the 1934 Navajo Hopi Compact and the 2009 Navajo Hopi Land Dispute settlement agreement. Both require that the Navajo give Hopi access to the Salt Trail, to protect Hopi sacred sites, not interfere with sacred springs and Golden Eagle nests. The development does not interfere with the Salt Trail, protected Hopi sacred sites, springs or Golden Eagle nests. Confluence Partners has had discussion with two former Hopi chairmen, and when they were briefed, they concurred that there is not any interference with Hopi TCPs or other issues concerning the Hopi. We plan on doing outreach to all of the 12 Hopi villages’ kikmongwi (religious leaders) on the project and invite them to participate in the Cultural Discovery Center.