Navajos Split on Grand Canyon Mega Development

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confluence partners Grand Canyon tram
For more than 50 years, residents of Gap, Arizona, a western sliver of the Navajo Nation, have watched tourist traffic zoom by on Highway 89, headed for the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and southern Utah’s national parks. Except for a single gas station and a few ramshackle jewelry stands, there’s little here to attract vacationers’ dollars. And so, few locals objected in July when the Navajo-Hopi Observer began running full-page ads that blared: “It’s time that the Navajo People enjoy a fair share of Grand Canyon Tourism!”

But they weren’t prepared for the scale of those tourism plans — a mega-development with hotels, stores and even a tram. The ambitious proposal raises questions about who has the authority to make land-use decisions here, where an impoverished Indian nation borders federal land that most Americans believe should remain protected forever. It also threatens relations with the neighboring Hopi Tribe and Grand Canyon National Park, highlighting divisions between tribal, local and national decision-making as well as competing visions of the best way forward for a community stuck in neutral.

“We know that we can make money without destroying the place,” says Navajo rancher Franklin Martin. “But we have to learn to do things ourselves. I think we’d be gullible to take this offer.”

Geographers use the term “Marble Canyon” to identify the western edge of the Navajo Nation — 61 Colorado River miles above the river’s confluence with a major tributary, the Little Colorado River. Navajo people, also known as Diné, have lived here for generations, but until 2009, this tract was embroiled in a land-use dispute with the Hopi that in 1966 caused the federal government to halt almost all development on some 1.5 million acres between the Hopi Reservation and Marble Canyon.

The effects of the Bennett Freeze — named for the then-commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs — were profound. Businesses couldn’t start; new homes couldn’t be built or existing ones renovated; modern infrastructure couldn’t be installed. Only 3 percent of the estimated 8,000 Navajo in the area had electricity, only 10 percent running water. The Bureau of Indian Affairs deemed about three-quarters of the housing uninhabitable. When a federally mediated agreement finally ended the freeze a few years ago, the future suddenly looked brighter.

Yet the site and scale of the proposal outlined in the Observer ads astonished almost everyone. From a complex of hotels, restaurants, shops and other facilities on the canyon rim, Grand Canyon Escalade visitors could ride a gondola down into Marble Canyon to a restaurant and a riverside walkway with a view of the rivers’ confluence. An amphitheater and Navajo cultural center are also planned. Supporters say the development could bring in $90 million a year.

The proposal, spearheaded by Scottsdale developer Lamar Whitmer and former Navajo Nation President Albert Hale, immediately divided the community. The local Bodaway/Gap chapter passed two resolutions opposing it, citing the spiritual importance of the confluence site, as well as disregard for local decision-making and doubts about the project’s long-term viability. Tribal President Ben Shelley gave the developers, Confluence Partners LLC, until the end of the year to demonstrate greater community support.

That came on October 3 — sort of. During a contentious meeting called by chapter officials on short notice, attendees voted 59 to 52 to support the proposal. Both sides claimed vote fraud, but development proponents declared victory.

“A difference of seven votes is not a mandate,” disagrees Deon Ben, a Navajo who is the Grand Canyon Trust’s liaison to the project’s local opponents. “That just indicates that there is a real split in the community.”

“There’s the potential for 2,000 full-time jobs,” counters Michele Crank, a Navajo tourism and public-relations consultant who is one of the Confluence Partners. “It is my responsibility as a Navajo person to make sure my people are taken care of. Those views of the canyon will still be there. It’s just the Navajo Nation will capture some of the revenues as the North and South Rim already do.”

Despite the October vote, the proposal still has hurdles to overcome, as it navigates several levels of bureaucratic review within the tribe. Local opponents, meanwhile, have created a grassroots group — Save the Confluence — which has allied with the Trust, a regional environmental group, to fight the project.

Chapter member Leonard Sloan, whose family raises livestock on the scrubby plateau above the confluence, sees the development as a desecration. “To make a better living, there are things that you can’t sacrifice, and this is one of them,” he says. “It’s like your parents’ jewelry or your parents’ blankets. This is not something you can sell, because of the traditional values we have as Diné.”

Even if it gains the necessary Navajo support, the Escalade still faces an even bigger question: What will the neighbors think? The important neighbors, in this case, are the National Park Service and the Hopi Tribe, which may hold enough legal influence to stop the project.

The boundary between the Navajo Nation and Grand Canyon National Park has always been less than crystal-clear. Many Navajos maintain that the Nation’s western border is inside Marble Canyon at the old high-water mark of the Colorado River, as delineated by the 1934 Navajo Boundary Act. But Park Service officials point to a 1969 solicitor general’s opinion, supporting an expansion of the park, that the boundary actually lies a quarter-mile from the river. That would mean that the proposed tramway, restaurant and riverside walk would be inside the park, and the Park Service would have the power to stop at least that part of the development. In an October phone interview, Park Superintendent David Uberuaga seemed surprised that the developers had yet to make any formal approach to the Park Service.

“There’s no need to,” Crank says. “Our development project has no effect on the national park. They run their business, we run our business.”

The Park Service has so far soft-pedaled its response; officials say that the decision-making process first needs to run its course at the chapter and tribal levels. If the project moves forward, though, it’s likely that the location of the park boundary will have to be decided in federal court.

The Hopi Tribe has made its own feelings clear. In October, the tribal council passed a resolution opposing the project. Tribal members say it would despoil a sacred place: Oral tradition holds that the Hopi people emerged from a mineral dome, the Sipapu, near the confluence. Some Hopi believe that the spirits of their dead reside at the confluence itself, and a pilgrimage to nearby salt mines remains an important spiritual practice.

“The tramway would be descending right into one of the most sacred areas that we believe in,” says Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office. He notes that Navajo officials have been prominent critics of a controversial plan to create snow with reclaimed wastewater at the Arizona Snowbowl ski area in the Coconino National Forest, in a mountain range regarded as sacred by Navajos, Hopis and members of other tribes — and that Escalade developer Whitmer has business ties to the family that owns the Snowbowl.

“When you simply say, ‘It’s our jurisdiction’ and shrug off the Hopi, that’s a lame argument,” he says. “It’s an affront to the Hopi people and government that they’ve chosen to ignore Hopi interests in the canyon. We will do everything we can to oppose this development.”

That will likely require more than just passing resolutions. The agreement that ended the Bennett Freeze clearly designates the Bodaway/Gap area as part of the Navajo Nation, but according to federal law also “guarantees access to protected religious sites of both tribes.” The Escalade developers say tribal members — both Navajo and Hopi — would continue to have such access. Conservationists, however, believe that the agreement may grant the Hopi veto power over development in such a sensitive area. The issue will probably end up in court.

“We don’t know what kind of power that agreement has, but we know the Hopis will have a big say in this,” says Deon Ben. After decades during which the Bennett Freeze stalled virtually all development, Ben believes that decision-making needs to be done more carefully, with a stronger local focus.

That dovetails with the beliefs of Franklin Martin, who sees potential in small-scale, locally developed tourism, like the Navajo-run tourist enterprises at Antelope Canyon, an hour away, where visitors typically pay $35 to $80 for scenic tours on tribal land.

“Here we have people coming in from all over the world to see how we live and how we do things,” he says. “Most of the visitors out here would probably want to see how Native Americans live, maybe spend the night the way the Navajos used to spend the night in a hogan, or see daily events like butchering a sheep. But building a luxury resort — that’s for really rich people. I’d rather be put back in the Bennett Freeze again than have it built.”

Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit www.patagonia.com. In affiliation with High Country News.

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{ 9 comments…read them below or write one }

  • cafebmw

    that is absolutey insane! when i first heard about it last april (!), i thought it’s joke. but no, the really mean it! what a terrible idea! just look at upper antelope canyon which is nowadays hard to enjoy because of the masses of visitors being literally herded through…
    when the pro-developement factions compares their idea with grand canyon np, they conveniently omit that there is no disney-esque developement (tramway???, mega hotels???, outlet center???). in fact, to a certain extent the nps is scaling/building back existing developement not only in gc np.

  • Don Yellowman

    Editorial Letter Regarding October 3, 2012 Special Meeting at Bodaway Gap Chapter

    From: Louise Yellowman Former Coconino County Supervisor

    I am going to be very direct and candid in this letter. First of all, I am very upset with the Bodaway Gap Chapter Special Meeting held on October 3, 2012, regarding the Escalade Project at the Sacred Site known as the Confluence, in the Grand Canyon on the Navajo Nation reservation lands.

    I am expressing publicly my anger and dissatisfaction with the heavy-handed decision by forced down the people’s throats by Gap Chapter officials. It is also disappointing to learn that they have been secretly consulting and meeting with Navajo Nation leaders on how to conduct the meeting in order to move the Escalade Project forward.

    On October 3rd a “Special Meeting” was called, which was posted at the last minute and also held in the middle of the week, purposely disenfranchising people from participating in the discussion and decision being made on their behalf. This decision to move forward ignores the local residents (grazing permit holders and allottees their rights and desires of what is in their best interest of that of our lands.

    The meeting was called to order by President Arizona and immediately called for a motion and vote to approve a resolution to rescind all prior resolutions opposing the Escalade Project and accept a new resolution in support of the project. This action was in complete violation of Robert’s Rule of Order by purposely not allowing a discussion by the people before voting. It was then, I stood up and protested and was then escorted out of the Chapter by two policewomen for voicing my concerns.

    When it came to the vote, I could not see Chapter Vice President Marie counting votes so fast and counting only those inside the Chapter building. The policewomen kept me from re-entering the Chapter, disenfranchising me from voting against the development of the Escalade Project at the Sacred Site in the Grand Canyon near the Confluence on the Navajo Nation reservation.

    The Gap Chapter leadership demonstrated in its decision to rescind the resolutions to oppose the Project to betray their moral and ethical obligation to respect our ancestor’s sacrifice in establishing our Treaties.

    I, Louise Yellowman strongly urge the Navajo Nation President Shelly and Vice President Jim, State Representative Hale, Bodaway Gap Chapter Officials, and all leadership officials in favor of this project to reconsider this ill-advised support of the Escalade Project. Furthermore, cease and desist any development that exposes and exploits our Sacred Sites and allow the Natural and Beautiful exist undisturbed.

    It would be more prudent of our leadership to consider other type of projects that empower its people to develop public projects whereby the people have a say in their future. Rather than focus on tourism as a form of development that serves non-dine, that also supports further exploitation of our people and lands…consider projects like the ones I supported while in public service. During my time I accomplished many things…advocating tenaciously for my Native American people and served as their voice on important issues such as Rare Medals Uranium Mine clean-up in Tuba City, which resulted in the creation of a Victims Compensations Appropriations by Congress, and more funding for Veterans, our elderly and youth. I further advocated for intervention programs dealing with alcohol and domestic violence prevention programs.

    I lived and raised my children in Gap and Cedar Ridge from 1965 – 1984. I was voted Chapter Secretary in 1968 and served until 1980 following I served as Coconino County Supervisor from 1980 – 2008. During my professional tenure, I accomplished a lot. For example:

    As a long time supporter of education, I’m solely responsible for starting a pre-school program. Enrollment was immediate, I was teaching 30 students, 4-5 years old. I was instrumental in drafting proposals for the Gap Elementary and Cameron Schools to meet the need for K-4th grade with the help of these communities, district school officials. The state of the art schools for Cameron opened in 1978 and the Gap school opened in 1979.

    I also participated in bring water, electricity and housing from Gap to Cedar Ridge and additional housing to the Bitter Springs area.

    I addressed the real bad sewer problem in front of the Gap Chapter, which was an environmental hazard not only to the children but also to those who worked and visited the chapter. I was decided to move the sewer system ½ mile away.

    In terms of Solid Waste, I was responsible in establishing a transfer station at Gap. I also negotiated a waste collection and disposal shared cost between Navajo Nation and Coconino County. Unfortunately, the agreement to have Coconino County subsidize the costs to the Navajo Nation were not valued and/or the agreement not upheld by the Navajo Nation and now the people are once again having to deal with waste disposal issues and concerns on a local level.

    In closing, I am not nor is my family opposed to development. I am only opposed to the proposed Escalade Project because it is near our Sacred Site in the Grand Canyon where many of our relatives live and care for their livestock and value their traditional way of life. This project simply stated, jeopardizes their survival. We are grazing permit holders and our voices have not been heard or our vote recognized.

    I strongly recommend here and now, before our leaders and decision-making bodies agree to ANY and ALL economic development adhere to the following set of criteria, values and standards to ensure that the people’s best interest and voices are respected and protected:

    The basic issues in responsible develop include transparency, consent of the governed, third party monitoring, establishment of best management practices and metrics, indemnification, and social contract.

    1. Transparency means opening the process from cradle to grave for community review of any and all documents, proposals and related studies available for the people’s analysis.
    2. Consent of the governed is more than just having some government official claim that the people have given them a mandate. Consent of the governed means community meetings and clear no-nonsense public forums and referendums put forth by and for the people.
    3. Third party monitoring means mutually respected institutions like Universities should review plans and project documents for legality and due process that supports the people’s interest.
    4. Establishment of best management practices should be trusted as having the community’s best interest at heart. They are guidelines of accountability to process.
    5. Identifying the metrics means that objective standards must be established and rigorous effort must be exerted by respected third parties to determine if the people’s required standards are really being considered and achieved.
    6. Indemnification begins with bonding but requires skin in the game. Breaking ground on a school or installing solar power where no power is available for example.
    7. Social contracting should come from the developer. Just saying that the government will divert revenue to a desired end just lets the developer off the hook. The government is supposed to do that anyway. The developer needs to say what steps they will take to make sure that the community gets something of lasting value and not just a few low paying jobs that could dry up tomorrow after the land has forever been desecrated and the developer is nowhere to be found.

    Forgotten People believe the Dine who have been displaced and/or deprived of opportunity resulting from the Bennett Freeze deserve better and entitled to be informed and empowered to determine a way of life that is not dictated for them. In closing the Escalade cronies have one thing in common; their own self-interest, and short term gain. We stand for Social, Environmental and Economic Justice and do not support selling out to non-native corporate interests for the sake of Seasonal Tourism.

  • mike mcdonald

    Be sure to read the comments at the end by Louise Yellowman. Very powerful concerns from a local stakeholder. Louise is a respected and appreciated former member of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. She has always been an articulate voice for under represented people in the community. I trust the Dine people, in conjunction with the Hopi, who have regarded this area as most sacred since the beginning of this present world to make the right decision for themselves without outside intervention.

  • Lance

    Force the developers to document the so called ‘jobs’ specifically with accurate job titles, position descriptions, all qualifications required to apply for these jobs, pay rates (with wage scales), are they full time/part time, actual benefit package to be included. The number of each of these positions and a comparison of area wages. The exact number to be filled by native locals with in the commuting area with certifications in writing. Access of all this information to be posted publicly and copies prominently made available at the local level for the residents of the area and submitted to the tribal offices.

    Same with any community amenities/benefits they talk about.

    When developers balk at providing documentation/certifications to back up their claims you can be assured that it’s all just talk. That’s the reason independent 3rd parties are needed in the process. Where profit is concerned with public space the peoples interest needs to be protected.
    If you have developers worth working with they should have understood this up front before making any proposals. Maybe they can take a step back and think about it.

    Suggest the local groups hold meetings and do an objective survey of all the local residents and what they want. Include alternative ideas including change of scale of proposed project. If this has not been done already. Then take that information to your elected leaders. Honest leaders should show the respect of what their people want and work accordingly.

    The locals need to stay engaged so they have a voice in their community and future. Any doubts at this point just look at your kids in the community. You will find it well worth the effort.

    • Don Yellowman

      Navajo Times Editorial Rebuttal To Vallerie Crank’s Article Re: Forgotten People

      The Forgotten People are not against development; it is a question of how can it be done responsibly so that People’s desired outcomes are achieved in a just manner; so that in the end, the development leaves a legacy that benefits the People and preserves what matters.

      We believe economic development on Navajo Nation is long overdue. It’s about creating prosperity for the Dine and it must begin by educating our people about the many alternative economic opportunities available that are aligned with preserving our way of life and traditional values. It’s important to offer our people workforce development training to hone skills required to implement, manage and operate holistic solutions that build sustainable and thriving communities.

      The basic issues in responsible develop include transparency, consent of the governed, third party monitoring, establishment of best management practices and metrics, indemnification, and social contract.

      1. Transparency means opening the process from cradle to grave for community review of any and all documents, proposals and related studies available for the people’s analysis.
      2. Consent of the governed is more than just having some government official claim that the people have given them a mandate. Consent of the governed means community meetings and clear no-nonsense public forums and referendums put forth by and for the people.
      3. Third party monitoring means mutually respected institutions like Universities should review plans and project documents for legality and due process that supports the people’s interest.
      4. Establishment of best management practices should be trusted as having the community’s best interest at heart. They are guidelines of accountability to process.
      5. Identifying the metrics means that objective standards must be established and rigorous effort must be exerted by respected third parties to determine if the people’s required standards are really being considered and achieved.
      6. Indemnification begins with bonding but requires skin in the game. Breaking ground on a school or installing solar power where no power is available for example.
      7. Social contracting should come from the developer. Just saying that the government will divert revenue to a desired end just lets the developer off the hook. The government is supposed to do that anyway. The developer needs to say what steps they will take to make sure that the community gets something of lasting value and not just a few low paying jobs that could dry up tomorrow after the land has forever been desecrated and the developer is nowhere to be found.

      Forgotten People believe the Dine who have been displaced and/or deprived of opportunity resulting from the Bennett Freeze deserve better and entitled to be informed and empowered to determine a way of life that is not dictated for them. In closing the Escalade cronies have one thing in common; their own self-interest, and short term gain. We stand for Social, Environmental and Economic Justice and do not support selling out to non-native corporate interests for the sake of Seasonal Tourism.

  • Louise Yellowman

    January 14, 2013 Editorial Letter From: Louise Yellowman, Former Coconino County Supervisor regarding October 3, 2012 Special Meeting at Bodaway Gap Chapter

    I am going to be very direct and candid in this letter. First of all, I am very upset with the leadership of the Bodaway Gap Chapter and proceedings of the Special Meeting held on October 3, 2012, regarding the Escalade Project at the Sacred Site known as the Confluence, in the Grand Canyon on the Navajo Nation reservation lands.

    I am expressing publicly my anger and dissatisfaction with the heavy-handed decisions being forced down the people’s throats by Gap Chapter officials. It is also disappointing to learn that they have been secretly consulting and meeting with Navajo Nation leaders, receiving instructions on how to conduct the meeting in order to move the Escalade Project forward.

    On October 3rd a “Special Meeting” was called, which was posted at the last minute and also held in the middle of the week, purposely disenfranchising people from participating in the discussion and decision being made on their behalf. This decision to move forward ignores the rights of local residents (grazing permit holders and allottees) and excludes them from voicing their opinions on what is in their best interest in regards to development of their ancestral lands.

    President Arizona barely called the meeting to order when he immediately called for a motion and vote to approve a resolution to rescind all prior resolutions opposing the Escalade Project and accept a new resolution in support of the project. This action was in complete violation of Robert’s Rule of Order, because it purposely disallowed a discussion by the people before voting on such an important and contentious issue. It was then, I stood up and protested and I was punished by being escorted out of the Chapter by two policewomen for voicing my concerns.

    When it came to the vote, I could see Chapter Vice President Williams counting votes in a rapid and disorderly way. I witnessed also that even though there were many people outside peering into the crowded chapter trying to participate she was counting only those inside the Chapter building. The policewomen kept me from re-entering the Chapter completely and effectively disenfranchising me from having my vote counted AGAINST the development of the Escalade Project at the Sacred Site in the Grand Canyon near the Confluence on the Navajo Nation reservation.

    The Gap Chapter leadership betrayed their moral and ethical obligation to respect our Treaties, established to protect the peoples’ rights in the development of our precious Dinetah, by conducting themselves the way they did to rescind the resolutions in opposition of the Project.

    I, Louise Yellowman strongly urge the Navajo Nation President Shelly and Vice President Jim, State Representative Hale, Bodaway Gap Chapter Officials, and all leadership officials in favor of this project to reconsider their ill-advised support of the Escalade Project.
    Furthermore, I ask that they cease and desist any development that exposes and exploits our Sacred Sites and allow the Natural and Beautiful to exist undisturbed.

    I lived and raised my children in Gap and Cedar Ridge from 1965 – 1984. I was voted Chapter Secretary in 1968 and served until 1980. I also served as Coconino County Supervisor from 1980 – 2008. During my time I accomplished many things…advocating tenaciously for my Native American people and served as their voice on important issues such as Rare Medals Uranium Mine clean-up in Tuba City, which resulted in the creation of a Victims Compensations Appropriations by Congress, and more funding for Veterans, our elderly and youth. I further advocated for intervention programs dealing with alcohol and domestic violence prevention programs.

    As a long time supporter of education, I’m solely responsible for starting a pre-school program. Enrollment was immediate, I was teaching 30 students, 4-5 years old. I was instrumental in drafting proposals for the Gap Elementary and Cameron Schools to meet the need for K-4th grade with the help of these communities, district school officials. The state of the art schools for Cameron opened in 1978 and the Gap school opened in 1979.

    I also participated in bringing water, electricity and housing from Gap to Cedar Ridge and additional housing to the Bitter Springs area. I addressed a bad sewer problem in front of the Gap Chapter, which was an environmental hazard not only to the children but also to those who worked and visited the chapter. I decided to move the sewer system ½ mile away.

    In terms of Solid Waste, I was responsible in establishing a transfer station at Gap. I also negotiated a waste collection and disposal shared cost between Navajo Nation and Coconino County. Unfortunately, the agreement to have Coconino County subsidize the costs to the Navajo Nation was not valued and/or the agreement not upheld by the Navajo Nation and now the people are once again having to deal with waste disposal issues and concerns on a local level.

    It would be more prudent and wise of our leadership to consider other type of projects that empower the Dine; projects that benefit the people and respect the voice of the people who have a right to participate in discussions and decisions that affect their future and their livelihood. Rather than focus on tourism as a form of development that serves non-Dine, and further supports the exploitation of our people and lands…consider projects like the ones I supported while in public service.

    Neither I, nor my family is against development or progress. We are only opposed to the proposed Escalade Project because it is near our Sacred Site in the Grand Canyon where many of our relatives live and care for their livestock and value their traditional way of life. This project simply stated, jeopardizes their survival. We are grazing permit holders and our voices have not been heard or our vote recognized.

    I strongly recommend here and now that before our leaders and decision-making bodies agree to ANY and ALL economic development they adhere to the following set of criteria, values and standards to ensure that the people’s best interest and voices are respected and protected; and not rejected or ignored which is a current standard.

    The basic issues in responsible develop include transparency, consent of the governed, third party monitoring, establishment of best management practices, metrics, indemnification, and social contracting.

    1. Transparency means opening the process from beginning to end for community review of any and all documents, proposals and related studies available for the people’s analysis.
    2. Consent of the governed is more than just having some government official claim that the people have given them a mandate. Consent of the governed means community meetings and clear no-nonsense public forums and referendums put forth by and for the people.
    3. Third party monitoring means mutually respected institutions like Universities should review plans and project documents for legality and due process that supports the people’s interest.
    4. Establishment of best management practices should be trusted as having the community’s best interest at heart. They are guidelines of accountability to process.
    5. Identifying the metrics means that objective standards must be established and rigorous effort must be exerted by respected third parties to determine if the people’s required standards are really being considered and achieved.
    6. Indemnification begins with bonding but requires skin in the game. Breaking ground on a school or installing solar power where no power is available for example.
    7. Social contracting should come from the developer. Just saying that the government will divert revenue to a desired end just lets the developer off the hook. The government is supposed to do that anyway. The developer needs to say what steps they will take to make sure that the community gets something of lasting value and not just a few low paying jobs that could dry up tomorrow after the land has forever been desecrated and the developer is nowhere to be found.

    My Son, Don Yellowman who now serves as President for Forgotten People, believes and I agree with him…that the Dine who have been displaced and/or deprived of opportunity resulting from the Bennett Freeze deserve better! We are entitled by our Treaties to be informed and empowered to determine a way of life that is not dictated for our community. In closing, the Escalade cronies have one thing in common; their own self-interest, and short term gain. We stand for Social, Environmental and Economic Justice and do not support selling out to non-native corporate interests for the sake of Seasonal Tourism.

    Thank you,

    Louise Yellowman

  • Anke Gorman

    No matter what you may know about Hopi culture and their historical beliefs or not, this would be a complete disregard of one of their – if not – their most sacred sites. Having been fortunate enough to be taken to the LCRC on a rafting trip, I cringe and do not even want to trty to imagine this development to become reality.
    I do agree with and would wholeheartedly support the concept of a “softer” approach for touristic development as mentioned in this article. That is to introduce visitors in the area to the Navajo and Hopi cultures and traditons by offering them insight into their tradional living, customs, etc. which I think could benefit the local tribes on a lot of different levels in the long run.
    I personally love the idea of potentially being able to spend one or several days with a Navajo or Hopi family and therefore experience first hand what I have only been reading about so far. Will there be tourists who would be interested in a Navajo version of Las Vegas? Probably. However, not everybody on this planet is interested in resort types of places to go to. Soft, or green tourism where you try to leave no, or as little a footprint as possible, is attracting increasing numbers of people who try to be conscious of peopels customs and traditions as well as of sustainability issues in the areas they are interesed to visit.

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