Group walks from Tuba City to Window Rock opposing Confluence project

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK , October 11, 2012

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B odaway-Gap resident Wilson O. Wilson recently ran from his land near the Confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers to Tuba City, Ariz. to show his opposition to a proposed resort and tramway development at the site.

It was one leg of a journey that Wilson embarked on earlier this week before joining a group of people to continue walking from Tuba City to Window Rock to show their opposition to the Grand Canyon Escalade, a $120 million development being proposed by Confluence Partners LLC.

The group was here Tuesday to talk to Navajo lawmakers and in Wilson's case, address members of the Navajo Nation Council's Naa'bik'iyati' Committee.

Before speaking to the committee, Wilson said he grew up near the Confluence, where he continues to live and raise livestock, and was approached by the project developers to sign a letter of intent but declined.

"We told them we have to think about it," he said.

Wilson, like some of the individuals gathered here, opposes the project because he would rather have economic development projects built and managed by Navajos and to benefit the community, which is still trying to recover from the affects of decades under the Bennett Freeze.

"We want our own relations and our own Indians to build this thing rather than have it belong to someone else, like white people," he said.

Sitting near Wilson was Alice Dougi, who also lives near the Confluence and holds a permit to have her sheep and cattle graze on the land.

"I was never told about the situation with the resort. Nobody came to me and told me that they were going to build a resort out there," Dougi said in Navajo.

She added that she found out about the development from a clan sister.

Dougi's daughter, Darlene Martin, said her brothers and sisters also have permits for the area.

The people who have permits or houses near the development site should have been asked for permission but that did not happen, she said.

"We do want to keep the land the way it is," Martin said. "We're not against economic development because we want so much for our community. There is so much need there but we also want to keep what's sacred."

She said residents are concerned about damage to areas used for prayers offerings, the theft of artifacts, visitors entering residential areas, and safety for residents.

"You never know. You could actually bring in a serial killer one day and harm some of the people living out there and that is a concern," Martin said.

Martin, like Wilson, prefers that any revenue generated by such projects should benefit the community rather than outside entities or the central tribal government.

"We really, really want something for the community and for the people that live there," Martin said.

Last week, the Grand Canyon Trust accepted an invitation from the People of the Confluence, an organized group of local families and chapter voters, to oppose and to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations, coalitions and grassroots organizers to create the Protect the Confluence Coalition.

Deon Ben of the Grand Canyon Trust accompanied the Bodaway-Gap residents to the Naa'bik'iyati Committee meeting.

"It's disheartening to see that outside influences are still impacting tribal communities," Ben said. "To see first hand, distrust and no communication then the split of family members and community members based on those outside influences."

Hopis oppose Escalade

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau
DURANGO, Colo. , October 11, 2012

The Hopi Tribal Council last week passed a resolution opposing the proposed development of a resort and tramway at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, saying the site is sacred to the tribe and should not be exploited for tourism.

In a statement released this week, Hopi Vice Chairman Herman Honanie called the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade, supported by a vote of Bodaway/Gap Chapter last week, "unacceptable" to the Hopis as "it will significantly and forever adversely impact Hopi sacred places to which Hopis have aboriginal title and use."

The tribe's Cultural Preservation Director Leigh Kuwanwisiwma said Hopis still travel to the Confluence to make prayer offerings, a practice that would be disrupted by a huge resort and walkway.

Added Hopi Tribal Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa, "This development will forever compromise the tranquility and sacredness of all the surrounding area."

In the statement, he said the Hopi people and the Hopi Tribal Council "will continue to advocate for protection of Öngtupqa (the Grand Canyon) and all its elements" and called upon "the Pueblo of Zuni, Navajo People, and other tribes to which the Grand Canyon is sacred, the National Congress of American Indians, Inter-tribal Council of Arizona, All Indian Pueblo Council and the National Park Service to join in opposing this development and collectively support legislation to protect the Grand Canyon and other Native American sites."

Confluence Partners LLC, the Scottsdale-based company that proposed the Escalade, has said it will protect sacred sites in the area by fencing them off and having them regularly patrolled.

By a margin of seven votes, Gap/Bodaway Chapter last week passed a resolution withdrawing up to 420 acres for the resort, which will include a hotel, restaurant, tramway to the bottom of the canyon and elevated river walk.

Confluence Partners has projected it will employ about 2,000 people at full build-out, jobs desperately needed in the former Bennett Freeze.

Kuwanwisiwma had traveled to Gap for the chapter meeting to read the Hopi resolution, but was not given a chance to speak before the vote was called.

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