Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 19, 2023

Native Leaders Urge Designation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument

Carletta Tilousi, Dianna Uqualla, and Stuart Chavez. Photo by Raymond Chee

Native Leaders Urge Protection of Grand Canyon with the Designation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument

Courtesy Anna Peterson
Conservation Communications
Censored News

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona -- Speaking out for their sacred homelands and precious water, Native leaders urged the protection of the Grand Canyon, and the designation of the 
Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument, during a public listening session with the Department of Interior and U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday.

Havasupai Vice Chairman Edmund Tilousi said, “Red Butte, our sacred mountain, needs to be protected and preserved for future generations to come.”

“The threat of contaminating our water is real and current.”

Supporting the need to protect the water, Hualapai Vice Chair Scott Crozier said, “This land, this water means a lot to us.”

Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma said it is Hopi's place of emergence.

“For Hopi and many tribal nations, there’s an intimate connection that we have with this. For Hopi, it’s our place of emergence, a place where we still hold pilgrimages and offerings. It’s what we consider the heartbeat. Much like a human being, the waterways are arteries and veins carrying that lifeblood, not only to Arizona, but the entire world. It keeps life going. And if we poison that blood, life dies.”

“The Grand Canyon is a melting pot. It draws people from around the world.”

Special to Censored News. Photo by Jim Dublinski

Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument will safeguard Native Peoples' cultural landscapes, sacred places, and the spectacular rimlands of the Grand Canyon. It will protect the region's precious aquifers, life-giving springs, and endangered species from uranium mining's deadly pollution.

Chairperson Amelia Flores of Colorado River Indian Tribes said, "People of our tribes have a timeless and religious and deep economic connection to the Colorado River, and the lands of the proposed Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.”

“For millennia, the waters that flow through the Grand Canyon have carried to us the rocks, gravel, sands, and soil that form our homeland. Spring floods carved and then spread the fertile material of the Grand Canyon across the valleys on which we build our homes, raise our children, and grow our food.”

Corrina Bow, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Chair said, “The Grand Canyon is where we came from, and when the Creator calls us, it is where we will go home.”

“This land must be preserved and our sacred areas protected. I want to believe that you hear and listen to the voices of your Indigenous people and you will help us preserve and protect the lands that need to be protected.”

Chairperson Hope Silvas of the Shivwits Band of Paiutes said it is important to protect these lands as a place where Paiute harvest food, fish and conduct ceremonies.

“From birth, as Native people, we are taught to respect, protect, and manage the land. This includes its waters and natural resources.”

“The Grand Canyon is the traditional homeland of the Southern Paiute people. It’s a place our people harvested food and fish and conducted ceremonies, and they still do today. So you see why it’s important for us to protect and preserve this area as it is our history, our people. It is us.”

No to uranium mining in the Grand Canyon -- Supporters with Chispa Arizona and other groups rally outside Tuesday’s federal listening session in Flagstaff for the creation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. Photo credit: Laiken Jordahl, Center for Biological Diversity.

Local Conservation and Business Support

Center for Biological Diversity

Taylor McKinnon, Southwest director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the designation is important for protection.

"It will protect the region’s precious aquifers, life-giving springs and endangered species from uranium mining’s deadly pollution."

"On behalf of the Center’s more than 1 million members and supporters, huge thanks to the Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo and other Tribal leaders for their vision in creating this historic proposal,” McKinnon said.

Arizona Faith Network

Reverend Katie Sexton-Wood, Arizona Faith Network said, “As a network representing thousands of interfaith leaders across Arizona, we are filled with hope following today’s public listening session to discuss the establishment of Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

We know the profound importance of this land to the Hopi, Havasupai, and other Tribal communities. As interfaith leaders representing diverse faith communities throughout Arizona, we wholeheartedly support their voices, leadership, and tireless efforts to preserve this magnificent sanctuary. By actively listening to and profoundly respecting the wisdom shared by Tribal leaders, our lawmakers and leaders have taken a crucial step toward acknowledging the interconnectedness of humanity and the natural world and respecting the long-held spiritual traditions of the people of this land.

Together, we call on President Biden to actively protect these sacred lands and foster a world where all faiths and cultures find solace in preserving our natural wonders by establishing Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.”

Arizona Trail Association

Brittany Chavez, Arizona Trail Association Development Director said: On July 18, 2023, the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management held a public meeting in Flagstaff, Arizona to discuss the creation of the proposed BaajNwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. Arizona Trail Association members participated in the widely attended and successful public discussion to show their support for the proposed national monument. “The Arizona Trail Association appreciated the opportunity to hear broad bipartisan supportive voices from tribal leaders, Arizona business owners, wildlife and hunting groups, and the wider recreational community to permanently protect this sacred area.”

Arizona Wildlife Federation

Michael Cravens, Advocacy and Conservation Director for the Arizona Wildlife Federation said, “The proposed Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument is a sportsman’s paradise that supports a world-renowned mule deer herd. Declaring this iconic landscape a National Monument, along with preserving access for sportsmen and women and keeping authority over wildlife management in the capable hands our Arizona Game and Fish Department, not only successfully protects this region from the detrimental effects of uranium mining but also preserves the imperative connection that people have to the land.”


Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley said, “The public has spoken loud and clear. This unique place should be nationally recognized and quickly and permanently protected from the mining industry’s dirty practices. It is time to establish the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.”

“We’re thankful to each person who turned out to share their connection to this beautiful and historic area. It was frightening to hear about the impact toxic mining could have on the water and sacred sites near this ‘Wonder of the World’. By following the lead of Tribes including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, and Navajo, we can raise our voices in defense of a cultural and spiritual resource that nurtures biological diversity, preserves archeological data, and sustains an outdoor tourism economy into the future.”

Environment America

Ellen Montgomery, Public Lands Campaign Director for Environment Arizona - "We're not surprised to see an outpouring of support for more protection for the Grand Canyon area. Arizonans know how special this place is and thanks to the Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition, we now have a real chance of protecting the entire landscape for future generations."

Special to Censored News. Photo by Jim Dublinski

Grand Canyon Trust

Amber Reimondo, energy director at the Grand Canyon Trust said, “Grand Canyon tribes and their supporters have worked for decades to see these lands permanently protected. We extend our most sincere thanks to the Biden administration for coming to the region and hearing for themselves the Grand Canyon state’s broad and resounding support for the designation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.”


Camilla Simon, executive director of HECHO said, "As we heard during this listening session, this designation has strong support because people love and want to protect the Grand Canyon watershed. Over one hundred people, including HECHO's Hispanic Conservation Leadership Council members, attended this public listening session to share the many reasons why the Grand Canyon must be protected. The Tribal Coalition-led proposal to safeguard the Grand Canyon region from uranium mining is supported by a large majority of people.

"This irreplaceable landscape and its vital natural resources are too valuable to risk. This is a sacred land for many Tribes, who have been the original stewards of the Grand Canyon region since time immemorial. Its watershed is vitally important for communities and wildlife that depend on it. This Arizonan icon offers many outdoor experiences and is a major economic driver. The time has come to finally protect it for present and future generations.”


Danny Giovale, founder/owner Kahtoola said, “The community turnout at this week's public listening session was truly amazing. It is clear that businesses and individuals alike recognize the value and importance of the Baaj Nwaavjo I'tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. We witnessed a diverse representation of interests and were pleased and relieved to see that this designation is valued by so many. At Kahtoola, we understand and appreciate the significance of each interest group, and we believe that this designation can bring us together to meet land use needs in a diverse and inclusive manner.

"We have clear reasons why we support this designation: it holds economic value for the outdoor industry, facilitates recreational and spiritual experiences in these breathtaking landscapes, fosters a connection with oneself and nature, and importantly, it provides environmental protections for the unique, fragile, and irreplaceable ecosystems.

"Perhaps less apparent is the significance of honoring the Tribes' proposal. By doing so, we go beyond merely giving them a seat at the table; we actively re-establish opportunities for each tribe to practice their traditions, and ceremonies, and preserve their cultural way of life. This designation also safeguards their ancestral lands and sacred sites, which hold deeply-rooted stories, meaning, and spiritual connections for each tribe in their distinct ways. It is through designations like this that we collectively work towards preserving the human-earth connection that is at risk of being lost in modern society.

"At Kahtoola, we recognize the profound importance of preserving ancestral ways of life, which inherently and intrinsically maintain a harmonious human-earth connection. We firmly believe that by standing in solidarity with the Tribes, we not only benefit them but also contribute to the well-being of humanity.”

League of Conservation Voters and Chispa Arizona

America Fitzpatrick, LCV’s Conservation Program Director said, “We proudly stand with the local coalition of Tribes and advocates who are calling on President Biden to designate the sacred lands of the Grand Canyon region as the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument. This Indigenous-led proposal will ensure that the Grand Canyon is protected from new uranium mining and other harmful development, and ensure that Indigenous communities continue to steward the lands they’ve been rooted in since time immemorial.

DJ Portugal, Chispa Arizona’s Federal Organizer said, “The Grand Canyon is tied to the place of origin of the Navajo, Hopi, Paiute and Zuni peoples and holds sacred significance for at least 12 Tribes and Nations. Like many public lands, the Grand Canyon is a beautiful place full of wonder, sacredness and inspiration but also a reminder of displacement, denial of heritage rights and political oppression for Indigenous peoples. Chispa Arizona holds this balance in mind as our Latinx community joins the local coalition of Tribes in calling on President Biden to designate a national monument and safeguard the landscape in the protection of the Grand Canyon, water and Indigenous access to lands they’ve stewarded since time immemorial.”

National Parks Conservation Association

Ernie Atencio, Southwest Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association said, “We strongly support the Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition’s leadership and vision of protection for Tribal nations’ homelands and the enduring landscape surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. Designating the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument would ensure Tribal leadership in its management, create stronger linkages with other protected lands, and protect the watershed of the Grand Canyon in perpetuity. We are excited and encouraged by the strong public support in the recent listening session and trust that the Biden Administration is listening!”

Sierra Club

Sandy Bahr, director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said, "Establishing the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument is key to protecting the region’s biological diversity and cultural values, along with its lands, waters, and wildlife. Species such as the majestic California condor and top predators such as mountain lions can be found in the footprint of the monument. As was demonstrated by today’s comments from Tribes, businesses, local community leaders, environmental protection advocates, and many more, there is strong support for the proposed monument. President Biden has an opportunity to build on historic efforts to safeguard the greater Grand Canyon region and to ensure that the Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition has a leadership role in the management of these lands going forward as they continue their stewardship roles, which have been in place since time immemorial."

The Conservation Alliance

Shoren Brown, Vice President for Public Affairs at The Conservation Alliance said,  “The Conservation Alliance was proud to stand with tribes, recreationists, community members, and other businesses to show support for the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni National Monument during the Flagstaff Public Listening Session. The success and broad support shown at the listening session confirms the importance of permanently protecting this iconic landscape for the health of the environment, communities, and continuing to champion the thriving outdoor economy in the Colorado Plateau.”

The Wilderness Society

Mike Quigley, Arizona State Director of The Wilderness Society said, "Arizonans showed up today to voice their support for a National Monument around Grand Canyon. We witnessed the historic and cultural importance of the area to Tribes that have deep connections to place. We heard speaker after speaker -- local business leaders, outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen and women, river runners -- talk about how they value and cherish these lands and want to see permanent protection. We're grateful to the Biden Administration for coming to Arizona to learn these things first-hand and we look forward to celebrating the creation of Baaj Nwaavjo I’txah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument."

Trout Unlimited

Nathan Rees, Arizona Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited said, “Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument is broadly supported by Arizonans across party lines and has long been a priority for sportsmen and sportswomen in the state. Given the toxic history of uranium mining in this region, we commend the leadership at the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture for hosting this public listening session and enacting the wishes of millions of people hoping to preserve the beauty of this idyllic landscape. As sportsmen and sportswomen, we value a multi-use approach on our public lands and insist on practical and science-based management of our natural resources. A national monument does just that.”

Wild Arizona

Executive Director Kelly Burke said, “Wild Arizona fully supports the Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition’s proposal, reflecting its tremendous significance to our members in the outdoor recreation, outdoor business, river outfitting, river running, veterans, youth, outdoor education, ecosystem science, and river restoration communities. We urgently request President Biden and his administration move the proposal forward swiftly and designate the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument to preserve the Grand Canyon’s vibrant and diverse natural and cultural legacy to honor this gift of life and beauty to past, present and future generations. Now is the time.”

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