Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

November 1, 2017

Navajo Council Kills Escalade Monster, Tourism on Colorado Rivers Confluence

Photo copyright Earl Tulley, Censored News
Photo copyright Earl Tulley
Censored News
Navajo Council kills Escalade, Tourism Monster on Dineh Sacred Land, at Colorado Rivers Confluence, in Grand Canyon

By Save the Confluence
Censored News
Oct. 31, 2017

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation Council, tonight, put an end to a years-long battle to kill a controversial proposal to build a tourist development at the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado rivers.

At a special session, the council skewered the Confluence Partners, who wanted to bring more than 10,000 tourists per day to an area containing sacred sites, grazing land, and traditional homelands to hundreds of Navajo families in order to build a tram leading down into the Grand Canyon National Park.
Ultimately, the council voted 16-2 and killed the measure.
Don Yellowman, president of the Bodaway/Gap Chapter, said this is a step toward unity. For years, the proposed Escalade had divided the community, as it had attempted to reclaim land they had been exiled from for more than half a century under the federal Bennet Freeze Act.
Numerous neighbor tribes joined the battle to oppose the Escalade, including the Hopi Tribe, which has shared sacred sites and ancestral claims to the region that the outside developers had sought to once again strip away from the people,
More than 65,000 people worldwide had opposed the effort. The National Parks Service opposed it. All neighboring tribes opposed it. Navajo medicine men opposed it. Families that have lived on the land since at least the late 1700s, and have even buried their relatives on the proposed site, opposed it.
In spite of that — in a last-ditch effort — Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Confluence Partners, LLC,  on a Halloween “trick-or-trick night” — tried to sweeten the deal by offering to build a Boys and Girls Club for the local residents. Their final offer underscored how out of touch they were with the community and the Navajo Nation, of which many chapters also joined hands to fight the effort.
The prospective developers had been supported by Navajo Councilman Ben Bennett, the bill’s sponsor. Bennett said he wanted to give a five-member committee a chance to negotiate problems lawmakers found and raised about the bill. His colleagues made fiery statements in opposition, ranging from delegate Dwight Witherspoon’s comment that, “This (proposal) is exploitation!!”, to delegate Jonathan Perry who said, “We’re setting ourselves up for something bad.”
Norman. M. Begaye, the council delegate representing Alamo area, said, “It’s the People. .. We realize it’s the people. If we approve this, we would open the flood gates on what is sacred.”
The on-and-off again bill struggled to reach the full council starting in August, 2016. None of the council’s four standing committees, charged with scrutinizing the bill, endorsed the legislation.
But, three committees shot down the proposal, and Bennett tried numerous times to re-introduce the measure. He often withdrew it on a moment’s notice if the political winds indicated supporters would not be present to vote. Then, in a last-ditch effort, Bennett called a special session on Halloween Day, when it appeared a majority of opponents of his bill would be out of town at a conference. Opposition remained overwhelming, regardless.
Former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale, who left office years ago in the middle of his term amid financial and sexual scandals, and yet later became an elected member of the Arizona State Legislature, was among the Confluence Partners advancing the effort to undermine the Navajo People.

The Confluence Partners wanted the Navajo Nation  to invest $65 million for off-site infrastructure, withdraw 420 acres for development, agree to ban tourist-related businesses within 25 miles, and waive portions of the tribe’s sovereignty.

The partners proposed to install a gondola that takes tourists from the rim to floor of the canyon where a river walk, an amphitheater and café would be available. The rim would consist of A discovery center, a restaurant, cafeteria and parking lot.
Under the agreement, the Nation would have received a mere 8 cents of the gross revenue per year while the outside non-Navajo partners – plus Hale — took 92 percent.
The revenue would have been dependent on the number of tourists who visited Escalade.
Stay tuned for more updates.

Photo by Save the Confluence

Navajo Western Fair, Oct. 14, 2017 Photo copyright Earl Tulley, Dineh, Censored News


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