Bodaway opens door to the Escalade

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

BODAWAY/GAP, Ariz., October 4, 2012

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B odaway/Gap Chapter Wednesday passed by seven votes a 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.

The 59-52 vote came after about two hours of heated discussion during which former Coconino County Supervisor Louise Yellowman was removed from the chapter house by police for approaching the chapter officials without permission.

Both tribal and state police were on hand to secure the meeting, and an ambulance was parked outside.

As it had in the past, the debate focused on economic development vs. preservation of sacred sites and the environment.

"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."

"Prayers daholo (we have prayers)," countered another resident. "That's the greatest gift that you can give them."

In Navajo tradition, the two rivers are powerful deities and the place they come together is considered sacred.

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."

Opponents of the Grand Canyon Escalade, as the planned resort is known, said they would make a complaint to the Navajo Nation Council's Ethics and Rules Committee for what they said were multiple violations of Title 26.

"They were supposed to have the resolution available 24 hours in advance, which they didn't," said Darlene Martin. "They didn't even have one available during the meeting."

Martin said the resolution was supposed to be voted on item by item, and other attendees argued that not enough notice was given for the special chapter meeting.

The resolution, which accused the resort's opponents of "bullying and intimidation," was read once rapidly in English by Chapter Vice President Marie Williams. It rescinded two previous resolutions opposing the development.

Hopi Cultural Preservation Director Leigh Kuwanwiwsiwma said he was disappointed in the vote and hoped the Navajos and Hopis could meet and discuss the project before it goes any further.

Kuwanwiwsiwma came to the meeting armed with a resolution of the Hopi Tribal Council opposing the project, but never got a chance to read it before Perry Slim, a candidate for chapter president, called for the vote.

The resolution was sponsored by Larry Hanks, who said he was a former hotel employee who had seen how much money resorts can make. The resolution stated the Escalade would furnish 2,000 jobs and $50 to $95 million in annual revenue.

"We're just simply opposed to it," Kuwanwiwsiwma said of the Hopis. "Not only the tribal council, which was unanimous, but the entire traditional leadership."

He explained that the entire Grand Canyon, but especially the area around the Confluence, figures prominently in the Hopi emergence story. There is also a sacred trail to a salt dome at the Confluence.

The plan will still have to be cleared through the Navajo Nation's Historic Preservation Department, Fish and Wildlife, and four other agencies, Kinsley pointed out.

The area's Council Delegate, Duane Tsinigine (Bodaway-Gap/Coppermine/K'ai'bii'to/LeChee/Red Lake-Tonalea), said he would present it to the Council today.

Deon Ben of the Grand Canyon Trust, which this week decided to join the resort's opponents, said the opponents still have plenty of opportunities to try to block the resort.

"The fact that it was such a close vote is exciting," he said. "That means we have an opportunity to mobilize more people."

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