Friday, January 11, 2019

The River, the Park Service. The Left Bank, the Hualapai

History and Policy for the Left Bank of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon (cont.)

The recent stir over Hualapai rights on the Colorado's left bank led me to review the two Interior Department's Solicitor's office reports (1976 and 1997) on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and Grand Canyon National Park boundaries. It is good to see our agreement that the Reservation line was established to go TO and ALONG the River. And not to go to the River's middle, the Hualapai's haitat, and not to include the riverbed. Nevertheless the Solicitor officials were incorrect when they inserted the "high water mark" (HWM) language in their opinions, whatever legal theories may have led them to assert this. The HWM was never under consideration or of importance in the 1883 Reservation establishment nor in the 1975 Park Enlargement Act. As we shall see, other considerations were of greater import in the early 1880's and were explicitly expressed in the Act.
The Solicitor was correct to bring up the often-neglected question of navigability of the River under the Commerce Power. It is of overriding importance in the question of Park jurisdiction, since the sponsor's intent was to unify administration over river traffic, on all of the river in the new Park, on all of the water surface. There was no intent to disturb existing ideas about the Hualapai boundary, or to stage a raid on Hualapai land. Unifying a fragmented responsibility for river travel was a desired and desirable object, which the 1975 Act met.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Common Sense On The River -- And Off It

History and Policy for the Left Bank of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon's lands east and south of the Colorado River have four major landlords. From the Canyon's beginning at the Paria junction to the Grand Wash Cliffs 277 Miles downstream, they are the Navajo Nation, the National Park Service (NPS), the Havasupai Tribe, and the Hulapai Tribe, ending again with NPS, an agency in the federal Department of the Interior.

Since the matters I will be discussing involve the prickly matter of sovereignty, it is necessary to recognize that in an important sense, the Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai have sovereignty over their lands, though it is of course a jurisdiction and ownership granted by and resting on the foundation of the overall national sovereign, the United States of America.

For those involved in the protection and presentation of the Grand Canyon as a natural and environmental icon of world-wide recognition and concern, as well as for those interested in exploiting the Canyon for their own short-term financial gain, recent years have seen intense debate over actions that are inextricable from questions about sovereignty, and thus inevitably, the boundaries that separate one landlord’s jurisdiction from another’s.

I have written at length about boundary matters in my on-line history blog, “Celebrating the Grand Canyon”, at, under the headings for Boundaries, Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, & The Park. A century-and-a-half (and of course many centuries further in the past) of political history have proven the Canyon to be a center of charged affairs; charged with emotion, yes, but more significantly, charged with importance for the question of how humanity conducts itself in and for the world.

A major example of such an affair – recently, and I hope finally, happily concluded – was the question centered on Navajo land at the junction of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers: Should the Navajo Nation approve a tacky, greedy proposition for building a mass-industrial tourist site that would irreparably damage this extraordinary part of the Grand Canyon and be contrary to the benefit of the Navajo people, solely for the enrichment of a few non-Navajo speculators? While the question was presented in the arena of Navajo Nation government, clearly it struck home in the hearts and minds of people, not just in the rest of the United States, but across the world. And threaded throughout this struggle were the intricacies of how this vital tract of Grand Canyon heartland came under Navajo jurisdiction, decision-making, sovereignty.

A minor example is the quiet acquisition by the Havasupai of National Park land that includes Beaver Falls on Havasu Creek. At present, paralyzed by a lack of agency leadership and coherence, the National Park Service at the Park has taken no action to protect public access to these Falls, allowing the Havasupai to either exclude the visiting public or charge them a not-insignificant fee.

Monday, September 17, 2018

One Story The Newspapers Tell

Fifty years ago, 30 September 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation that gave Arizona its big Central Arizona Project (CAP) waterworks, while firmly protecting the Grand Canyon by rejecting the idea of ever approving construction in it of two huge concrete dams. 

In three dozen recent posts, I have summarized, as written about in the public press, the climax years for Congressional action on a complex of Colorado River Basin projects and policies that included the Central Arizona Project, the future of the Grand Canyon, and associated items that wrapped up a half century of Basin law-making and project-building.

Reading through the media summaries, more than one narrative will be evident; there was, after all, a plethora of interests and actors. One set sought to push through the CAP, others wanted to protect interests they saw threatened by the CAP, still others to bring some kind of resolution to a debate that had started with the century. In this very long post, I aim to delineate the key moments and flow of events from my perspective as an advocate for a damless Grand Canyon. 

The narratives, as always, proceeded as they did with a heavy dependence on the particular actors and their situations, as well as the real policy considerations they all had to contend with. (A glossary of names and terms is appended to this document, along with a note on the sources.) Sometimes it seems an actor appears determinative; sometimes, the events flowed as with their own life.
While the interpretation here is mine, I also hope it sets up an armature from which the important bits and pieces of the story can be hung and make sense in their relation to the whole.

Dams, Of Course (1965)

It is a measure of how different a society we were in mid-century that the assumption undergirding news reporting on the CAP legislation was that the decision to build dams in the Grand Canyon was foregone, essential, right, a social good. It was barely credible that the damage they would do (underestimated for sure) could power an opposition that would shape the 1966-7 events and make dams forsaken, unnecessary, wrong, and their rejection a great social step forward.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Update: Beaver Falls is inside Grand Canyon National Park

I posted the entry on how the Havasupai Reservation boundary crosses at the top, upstream end, of Beaver Falls on 22 May 2018.
Since then, there have been a few comments by others, and I have responded. I have published them all; they show up attached to the entry on that date.
I welcome comments and discussion on this matter.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Post-Postscript to "Beaver Falls Is In Grand Canyon National Park"

Krista Langlois and Amy Martin have offered their opinion that the boundary between Grand Canyon National Park and the Havasupai Reservation, where it crosses Havasu Creek, is "disputable". However, the documents generated during the legislative history of the 1975 Enlargement belie that opinion. 

The documents are clear that the boundary crosses at the upstream end, top, of Beaver Falls. From that location, the boundary goes in two straight lines, east-north-easterly and south-westerly respectively, to Ukwalla and Yumtheska Points. (See the maps in my previous posts.) That boundary was explicitly set by Congress so that the stretch of Havasu Creek known as Beaver Falls and the adjoining land on either side of the Creek would be retained in the National Park.

Any Park visitor travelling down the Colorado River who stops at the junction with Havasu Creek and walks upstream and visits Beaver Falls can take that trip entirely within the National Park. Visiting those Falls from the river therefore does not require any payment to the Havasupai. 

Since a Havasupai at Beaver Falls has been asking Park visitors up from the river to pay a fee, the Havasupai must somehow have forgotten or mislaid the documents relevant to their successful 1974-5 effort to have the United States repatriate a portion of their ancestral lands. Im sure they have and can consult such important material archived in Supai or some other appropriate place. 

Langlois and Martin make the point that Beaver Falls was part of ancestral Havasupai land. That is true, as it is for lands running east from Hualapai territory, down toward northern Arizona's great east-west travel corridor, past Flagstaff, and out into Navajo and Hopi lands, and including parts of the Grand Canyon below the rim (e.g., Indian Gardens) -- some million acres or so. 

However, the 1975 Act, in repatriating some of their ancestral land to the Havasupai, says about the remainder:  Sec. 10(f): "By the enactment of this Act, the Congress recognizes and declares that all right, title, and interest in any lands not otherwise declared to be held in trust for the Havasupai Tribe or otherwise covered by this Act is extinguished. Section 3 of the Act of February 26, 1919 (40 Stat. 1177; 16 U.S.C. 223), is hereby repealed." [That second sentence refers to how the Havasupai were dealt with in the original Grand Canyon National Park Act.]

Furthermore, the repatriated lands (those "held in trust"), except for uses specifically provided for by the Act or in the Havasupai's Secretarial Land Use Plan, "shall remain forever wild" (Sec. 10(b)7. Beaver Falls is nowhere mentioned in the exceptions -- for the simple reason that the Falls remained in the Park. 

Finally, I have a question about this whole matter. For decades following the 1975 Act, the Havasupai dealt with Beaver Falls as the Act intended, that is, they left that Park land alone. Just a few years ago, somehow they decided that Beaver Falls was not only not in the Park, but rather than being left "forever wild" should be tarted up and charged for. How come? What has led them to ignore the law they worked so hard for? Should we worry about other provisions of that law that protect access of "nonmembers of the tribe" to this National park?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Postscript to "Beaver Falls Is In Grand Canyon National Park"

There has been a response to my posts on Beaver Falls.

In "Outside Magazine Online", July 5, there is an article entitled "Sacred Native American Sites Are Not Your Playgrounds" by Krista Langlois. It begins with three paragraphs, copied at the end of this post.

Without giving in to the temptations offered by the writer's errors, I want to state again the truth (not a fake), the legal, legislated, fact that:
Beaver Falls and the land on either side are within Grand Canyon National Park.

The article says some river runners "circumvent" the Havasupai fee system by hiking up from the river. Given that river trips come from Lees Ferry, that is quite a circumvention. However, it is not, really, since river runners are within the Park from the Paria River to the Grand Wash Cliffs, including lower Havasu Creek (from the top of Beaver Falls) and the land adjoining it. Hikers to Beaver Falls up from the river do not owe any Havasupai fee since they are never on Havasupai land, never leave the Park.

The article links to my blog post (thank you very much), saying I am "disputing the park's boundary". Of course, I am really relating the Park's history, some of which seems to have slipped out of the institutional memory of the National Park Service, the Havasupai, and other involved parties. 

The rest of the article offers ways to reverence age-old attachments to the land, which those of us who are advocates of the National Park System, or just star-struck by this grand continent, can readily endorse.

Here is the article opening:

Deep in the Grand Canyon, on land that Havasupai Native Americans have called home for generations, is a place known as Beaver Falls. It’s an unimaginative name for an otherworldly landscape, where turquoise water tumbles over a series of terraces gouged into red desert walls. To legally reach the falls, you have to pay the Havasupai $140, hike ten miles to the tribe’s campground, then hike an additional four miles to the waterfall. The camping and hiking permits are one of the tribe’s few sources of revenue, and help ensure that Beaver Falls stays protected. 
Some Grand Canyon river runners, however, circumvent the permit system by hiking upstream from the river, without paying the Havasupai. In response, the Havasupai now station a ranger where their land meets National Park Service land, asking river runners to fork over $44 or else return to their rafts. 
It’s a fairly simple request, but some river runners are so upset they’ve begun circulating an obscure document disputing the park’s boundary, suggesting that rafters can freely hike to the falls despite the Havasupai's wishes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Beaver Falls Is In Grand Canyon National Park.

Beaver Falls Is In Grand Canyon National Park.
It was kept in the Park by Congress passing and the President signing the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act of 3 Jan. 1975.*
Coming up from the river, you can travel without hindrance up its entire length because all of it, — to its top, upstream end — is in the National Park.

This entry has these parts:


The need to go over this situation again arises from a 5 Jun comment by Amy Martin on my blog entry VISITING BEAVER FALLS IN GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, May 22, 2018.
“As an NPS employee who works in this specific area, i would urge you to look closely at the map that you have provided as your evidence. The topo map shows that Lower Beaver Falls is in park land, but upper Beaver Falls is squarely in Havasupai land. When you do the up and over hike from the creek, you enter tribal land, which, as we charge to enter GCNP, the tribe reserves the right to charge visitors to their land.”