Three misconceptions about the Escalade project

October 11, 2012

Text size: A A A

T he Confluence Partners, LLC, has strived to inform the public on all aspects of the proposed Grand Canyon 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.

With so much false talk about Escalade, there are three major misconceptions.

The greatest misconception is that non-Navajos will own the project. The Navajo Nation will own 100 percent of the Grand Canyon Escalade development. When built-out, Escalade will create over 2,000 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.

Another big misconception is that the project will desecrate sacred sites. 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.

Another misconception is that Bodaway/Gap residents don't support the project and somehow the project will disenfranchise local residents. On Oct. 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 Oct. 14th commercial backpacking trip (No. 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 Sept. 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.

Response to Aneth Chapter article

It was quite intriguing to read, "Bless with natural resources, Aneth hasn't fully reaped benefits" which appeared in your Sept. 27th issue. Having lived in the immediate area for the past 30 years, I do not agree fully with the way it was presented.

For instance, quoting Mr. Robert Whitehorse, my father by clan (Ta bahii) who proudly stated that "we have an oil field, and we have a river" and posed a question "Which other chapter has all that?"

The chapter vice president's immediate answer was "none" not realizing that other chapters have more than we do i.e., Local Governance Certification, etc. With the same chapter officials running in the upcoming election with the exception of a young promising candidate, I doubt much will change.

Furthermore, the "31 demand (Aneth bible?)" has never been recognized and honored by the Navajo Tribe. Despite this drawback, another "demand" should be added to make it "32 demand" by requiring all Navajo contractors to have medical insurance/benefits for their employees. I strongly recommend this because of a recent accident that caused a local young man to sustain near-fatal injuries including loss of limb(s) and whose family has no other resources to pay for the exorbitant medical expenses. It is regrettable to bring to light that not all "Navajo contractors" view us as "human beings".

We have one who insidiously operates an "industrial park" within our midst despite our complaints and was even printed in your paper once. So, how would any one of you live in a housing area with heavy equipment and trucks traveling our streets, noisy power washes going at night and on weekends, increased traffic by workers coming and going, loss of privacy/dignities, etc.

This is also indication that impact studies have never been conducted by RBDO and yet they are seeking private developers by boasting "the land is already here!" More recently, another "Navajo contractor" moved in close proximity to our residential area where most of us own our homes and painstakingly invested in upgrading them. That is why I feel that the title of this article could have been better titled "...fully realized its potentials" rather than "reaped benefits."

The quality of life would've been much better had those in decision-maker positions of both past and present made competent decision and pro-active in their thinking.

The article also mentions that "Whitehorse, who served 34 years on the Navajo Nation Council…" but either the Council has never heard of "Sunshine Law" or he doesn't have a clue of what this law means as evident by being on the UNHS who I feel they have a tendency to meet in secrecy as their meetings have never been posted.

Additionally, there are many facts that have been omitted in the article like the payment to "permittees" for oil wells on their grazing area including payment for nuisance caused by the noise, traffic, and stench. The need to get livestock owners educated to take better care of their animals so that we (including tourists) not only see them killed on our highways and often posing threats to motorists.

So, Mr. Whitehorse can dream on about tourist dollars for our area when most tourists would have their vacation ruined by the sight of dead animals and starved ones that linger at the stores.

Lastly, I whole-heartedly agree with Lyndon Sandoval who is quoted as saying "…there's no much for kids to do in Aneth" and that's because the indoor swimming pool I referred to sits empty. These may be some of the reasons why, of any other chapter that I am aware of, we have an unusually high number of our young people being sentenced or having become a felon. The quality of life that I referred to previously in the letter, for our community members can then be elevated if Aneth would only realize all its potentials in electing well-informed leaders who aren't in these positions for self-serving motives.

Kenneth Chester
Montezuma Creek, Utah

Only through vote of the people can laws of permanent trust fund altered

In the most recent Navajo Times (Oct. 6, 2012), I found the contents of three articles: (1) "2013 budget is turned over to President Shelly", (2) "Loss of federal funds=lost services to the people", and (3) "Statements made by Zah 'dangerously generalized,' inaccurate headline used to trick Navajo people" to be contradictory.

The inconsistency lies in the unguided and insatiable desire of a majority of the Council to drain the Permanent Trust Fund without the proper referendum vote required by the citizens of the Navajo Nation.

Speaker Naize's criticism of former President/Chairman Zah (in "Statements made by Zah 'dangerously generalized,' inaccurate headline used to trick Navajo people") for supposed inaccurate statements regarding the Permanent Trust Fund is suspect on at least two important bases – law and fact.

Speaker Naize stated, "…there are laws in place defining very clearly how the trust fund can be accessed. A big part of that is putting a question before the people in the form of a referendum. This means the people have and always will have the final decision."

It was then reported (in "2013 budget is turned over to President Shelly") that "Delegate Leonard Tsosie successfully led a motion to decrease the 12 percent set aside of the 2013 projected tribal general funds for the Permanent Trust Fund to two percent…with the Council's vote of 12 to 7 in favor, 10 percent of the $228.7 million became available for deposit into a 'nation building' account instead of the Permanent Trust Fund."

While the Speaker states that the Council operates under rule of law, their recent actions concerning the Permanent Trust Fund clearly demonstrate the opposite. The only way the Permanent Trust Fund can be altered is by a vote of the Navajo people. Therefore, the action taken by the Council does not comply with the rule of law.

It seems that the Council is hungry for money – any kind of money – and they are willing to make the Permanent Trust Fund – a Fund set up to secure the future of the Navajo Nation – into a "temporary fund." Furthermore, it was reported (in "Loss of federal funds=lost services to the people") that, "The Navajo Nation has returned about $63.1 million in federal funding to the federal government since 2008," and the Navajo Nation is about to return an estimated $2.7 million from the 2012 budget. If the Council needs more money, then it should be fiscally responsible, i.e., better manage the funds it already has, rather than seeking to tap into the Permanent Trust Fund under the guise of "economic disparities".

I was invited to and participated in the Nation Building Summit in August. I found that few of the attendees were grassroots Navajos; rather, the majority of those present were either Summit hirees or Navajo Nation employees. This attendance did not accurately represent the voice and visions of the entire Navajo people.

Although Speaker Naize stated, "The only agenda for this summit was to begin a process that would capture how Diné citizens felt about the possible use of the trust fund to directly benefit our nation," however, a majority of the Council already voted on how the Permanent Trust Fund was going to be altered. In fact, before the Council vote took place Delegate Katherine Benally reportedly said, "The fund belongs to the people and the people are saying, 'It's my money and I want it now.'"

While at the summit, I did not hear anyone make this statement; on the contrary, people expressed the opposite belief, i.e., the majority of the Navajo people present at the summit were in favor of the Council keeping their hands off the Permanent Trust Fund.

If the Nation Building Summit was planned to "begin a process of discussion with the Navajo people," then why did the Council make a decision about the Permanent Trust Fund without input by the entire Navajo citizenship as specified by law?

A single summit is not sufficient to make momentous decisions about the future of our grandchildren. Indeed, many summits held throughout the Navajo Nation are necessary to determine what the Navajo people really think about the Council wanting to tap into the Fund. This must occur before the Council takes further action.

Lastly, I question the hiring of non-Navajo consultants to report on what transpired at the summit. After reviewing their report, I determined that they did not properly record and report the thoughts expressed by attendees who spoke in Navajo. Therefore, the accuracy of the summit report is dubious at best.

We ought to heed the words of former President/Chairman Zah and other notable leaders about how some members of the Council are toying with the future of the Navajo Nation without proper input from the entire Navajo citizenry.

Manley A. Begay Jr.
Tucson, Ariz.

Country is in decline with leadership of Obama Administration

We have two choices to make on Nov. 6, 2012, when the American people cast their vote. As the first American and members of the Navajo Nation, we have that privilege to elect the president of United States.

Since Mr. Barack Obama was elected to the highest position as the president of American people, the country is in decline in every aspect of our government - our national security, economy, immigration, and our liberty freedom, etc.

Sept. 11, 2012, we had four Americans that were attacked on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The attack had been carried out by terrorist Al-Qaeda. The American Ambassador, Chris Stevens, was tortured, sodomized and dragged down the street and then killed. Also murdered were two former Navy Seals and another American for the total of four Americans.

Immediately the White House Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Ambassador to UN Susan Rice jumped to the conclusion that an anti-Muslim video that was produced that no one had seen created the attacks. The Obama administration repeatedly denied security and they knew within 24 hours of the attack carried out by terrorists.

Our economy is rock bottom with 23 million Americans out of the workforce. Obama and his administration have chained the employer with rules, regulations and taxation. He has attacked the coal industries and closed them up, oil companies that cannot drill for oil and natural gas. This is the reason why we the people pay high price for fuel. The Middle East dictates our oil imports with enormous high dollars. The farmers are going through the same regulations and are told what and how much they can produce their goods. Much of our produce and products are coming in from foreign countries.

Sixteen trillion is our national debt and is climbing each day. This debt is so enormous that our country has never had this much debt before. Our children and grandchildren will have to pay on it for the rest of their lives. It is a huge debt because Obama is redistributing our tax dollars to the rest of the world. We are broke!

Are you willing to vote for a man that will help keep your liberty and freedom or socialism that depends on the government for handouts?

Obama can give handouts now for your vote, when elected he can turn off the handouts (freebies) like turning off the water at the faucet. Obama wants power over people like Castro did to his people. Private properties can be taken away from people and the government takes over. Is the Navajo Nation willing to give up their freedom and allow Obama to grab our reservations?

Florine Benally Marcell Wickenburg, Ariz.

Priest leaves Navajoland

Thank you Father Blane for making your hometown in Chinle for 34 years of ministry and for being an excellent priest who preached and taught at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with all your heart.

Father Blane will be leaving back to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, for a month and to Jamaica for six months and from there he will decide to stay for more years pending if he is to be assigned there.

I've seen tears of joy and laughter at the retirement dinner celebration Sept. 30, 2012, and all walks of life were there to witness more great memories that will be cherished in our hearts forever.

A new church, a small hogan, and a food bank were built in his presence and

Father Blane always talked good and his heart will stay strong for all his safe travels to come wherever he goes on this mother earth and he is blessed with peace. He joked during the celebration and said, "One thing I will miss is the strong sand storm here in Chinle." Everyone laughed with joy and teary eyes. He continued his speech and we all listened to a great man of love. He will continue to care as he walks in beauty throughout his life.

Joe Indian Yazzie Jr.
Chinle, Ariz.
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Back to top ^