Monday, September 21, 2009

Meanwhile, in the Canyon, another mystery

The early 1880's were pregnant with events that would grow into long-continuing political sibling rivalries. In 1882, in the capital, Powell and Harrison were launching the concept of a Grand Canyon National Park. West of the boxy tract that interested them, and south of the Colorado, the army in 1881 was mid-wife first to a million-acre reservation intended to settle down the Hualapai and second to a reservation for the Havasupai that was so miniscule--a few hundred acres-- it can be thought of as the eye of a needle intended to be lost in the haystack of the Grand Canyon. 

Mixed metaphors aside, this disparity is a mystery -- a tragedy for the Havasupai, but a mystery, hidden in human relationships of which there is little record. First, the army, General Wilcox commanding, Lt. Col. Price in charge out in the field, and engineer Lt. Palfrey. Second, the Hualapai; four leaders -- Se-rum, Soquonya, So-skurr-e-ma, Co-warron-- along with a majority of what the whitefolk were already calling a tribe. Third, the Havasupai, represented only by Ko-hot' (the name given by 1881 visitor to Havasu Frank Cushing), called "Navajo" by many and, by the army, chief. The whitefolk prospectors who were messing about in Havasu Canyon can remain unnamed, immediate cause of trouble though they were.

No mystery, indeed the usual course, was that when the army decided the Hualapai needed a reservation of their own, the officers chose a tract with little arable land and no minerals, mostly, they mistakenly thought, safely north of the line of the new railroad. This military reserve was supposed to end 20 years and more of conflict and intrusion, events that, taking place south of the Grand Canyon, are not in our purview. The part of Hualapai land Crook and Price and Palfrey marked out was that most remote from whitefolk and utility. Price then met with the Hualapai in a general gathering on Jul 1 1881, consulting with the leaders of four Hualapai bands (there were 12 or 13) and a majority of the tribe. The army's proposal met with general agreement. 

And if there had been disagreement, who would have recorded it? The tract was large; it was part of the range of some of the bands; there had been years of incursion, battle, disease, death, dispossession, and wandering. Even so, it was not trouble-free; whitefolk were taking up the water, fencing off land, and running cattle. Moreover, the federal Indian agency, the settlements, work, and food were all along the rail line, and it would be a matter of obscurity as to how much of the million acres was used by anyone other than the whitefolk's livestock and how many of the Hualapai spent time away from the railroad. Nevertheless on July 8, Order 16 set aside a military reservation for, as Price stated, Hualapai subsistence and better control over them. 

The army's action was confirmed on Jan 4 1883 in a Presidential proclamation. The delay  was due to President Garfield's having been fatally shot, which in time brought in Chester Arthur, which arguably led to a Republican loss in 1884, thus perhaps opening the way for the election in 1888 of Benjamin Harrison. 

And with Harrison in office, Powell would get another chance to gain recognition for the Grand Canyon, which would mean, in a few years, trouble for the other long-time inhabitants of the Canyon's south side, the Havasupai. I will look at the mystery of their case in the following entry.

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