Chapter tables man's tour business plans

By Krista Allen
Navajo Times

TONALEA-REDLAKE, Ariz., March 28, 2013

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(Times photo – Krista Allen)

White Mesa Arch is one of the natural attractions on the southeast side of White Mesa in northeastern Coconino County. The half-semicircular window was formed by erosion through the Dakota Sandstone cliffs with a vertical opening height of 85 feet and span of 55 feet.

W hen Gerald Secody presented White Mesa Arch Tours last weekend at the chapter meeting here, he thought it would be an easy sell. No such luck.

After some heated discussion, the chapter officials tabled the subject.

Secody grew up near White Mesa Arch, located on the southeast of White Mesa, where his paternal grandfathers lived for more than 160 years.

"White Mesa Arch Tours is something that I want to build," said the 30-year-old entrepreneur with a business management degree as he presented his proposition. "It's centered around astronomy, hiking, photography, and sightseeing."

The western region of the Navajo Nation offers almost unlimited opportunities for hiking and exploration. But all areas of the sovereign land are closed to non-Navajos unless they have a permit issued by Navajo Parks and Recreation or other duly delegated tribal authority.

Secody said his proposed tour operation is more than just a tour, "it's an experience."

"What I'm talking about I'd like to do next year, so I'm trying to plan ahead," he said. "And this is my first step: To talk to the people and to get their (motion)."

Secody said his plan is very easy.

First, he intends to build a hut near Indian Route 6062, approximately eight miles from East U.S. Highway 160 between here and Cow Springs, Ariz.

"The reason why I want to build my business is for control," Secody said as he pointed out Rainbow Bridge, one of the nearby natural wonders, receives 200,000 to 300,000 visitors each year according to the National Park Service. "So when (customers) come to my business site, they will be taken to the arch and back."

According to Secody's business plan, every customer will be assigned a Navajo guide who will start each guided tour with counsel about the sacred nature and proper interaction with the land.

After three years of running his business, Secody said he intends to put 20 percent of his earnings aside to help his family with farming, to give back to the community, and to fence off the arch site.

"I'd love to have scholarships, experiences and internships on the site for our people," Secody said as he concluded his presentation. "This is what I want to do. It's very simple and very small, and I believe I can do it."

Unfortunately for Secody, the meeting tabled his resolution after a ruckus over the land began.

An elderly man stood up and said in Navajo that many people want to open a tour-operating business at the arch, where one picture of the scenery is worth a million dollars.

"I know this because I've been around for 83 years," the man said, as he surprised himself that he could speak English. "I was raised around there. I just want to know, 'Have you asked those people that live around there?' You have to have their approval."

According to The Western Regional Business Development Office in Tuba City, to build a business on the site requires local approval, an environmental review and appraisals for rental purposes on the Navajo Nation.

"What you're doing is good," said a conservationist who didn't want to be named as he took a stand against Secody. "Yeah, you have a good idea, but I live there! I want to preserve the land. I would do it too but I was told not do that, not to go into nature. People say there'll be storms that will destroy the land if abused - just live on it the way you should be.

"It will be destroyed! I don't want the wildlife to be scared off either, I want to live with them," he continued as he asked Secody questions about why he wanted to damage the land.

The conservationist motioned to table the resolution as chapter president Darryl Jim asked for a first and second proposal.

Before the meeting voted, a woman stood up and asked the four-member council to give Secody an opportunity. Her comment was brought to an untimely end when Jim asked again for a motion to table the resolution.

As the attenders chattered among themselves, a man stood up and said he supported Secody's proposition.

"He's Navajo! Why do you guys give white people the right-of-way to make business sites on the reservation?" he asked.

For the third time, Jim asked for a motion to table the resolution.

Before a first motion was made, Secody's mother, Cheryl stood up to state that there are already Anglo people at the arch taking photos. She was interrupted when Jim asked for another motion to table the resolution.

After two more failed motions and several queries, the resolution was finally tabled.

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