Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Havasupai learn the ropes -- lasso or noose?

In my Sep 21, 2009 entry, I described the mystery (to me) of how the Havasupai got stuck with the miniscule reservation of 1881. Just as the next three decades were full of partial and inconclusive action with respect to national recognition and protection of the Canyon itself, so these decades brought realization to the Havasupai and those who sympathized with them, that the reservation was not a base from which they could continue their ways of living undisturbed, but on its way to becoming a prison, work furloughs allowed. And there is little mystery as to how that came about.

The Havasupai now “had” ( not “owned”) a reservation-- land held-in-trust by the government just for them. What happened, then, when the days shortened and the temperature dropped, and the Havsupai went up onto the plateau to hunt and otherwise occupy their usual haunts?
After 300 years of Spanish presence, the Havasupai would have had horses. Were there many or few? Did they wander or keep close? Were they brought to the canyon, and then taken up in the winter? The animals must have been a great boon in the seasonal activities of gathering, trading, visiting across the couple of hundred miles the Havasupai covered. So, with only a summer visit from the Army and the off and on presence of the prospectors to remind them of the whitefolk, did they feel “safe from encroachment”? What, then, did they make of the arrival & passage across the uplands of huge herds of cattle and sheep, demanding food and more especially water? Were they worried by encountering the stockmen’s camps-- or their remains – , inevitably near their own sources of water? As they hunted deer –with rifles now--, did they take a cow or sheep or two? Ko-hot' had said they had, along with the other “hostiles”. How long was it before the Havasupai understood that the Palfrey-Price error, instead of avoiding conflict, resulted in it, with the self-entitled whitefolk telling the exiles to get back to their own hole and stay away from the grasslands the whitefolk had had little to do to overrun and degrade? Could it have started even earlier, with Mexican sheepherders, followed by cattle herds? What did they make of the railroad all across the southern sections. Were the Havasupai curious about the railroad towns & the settlers, or did they retreat back toward the rim of the big canyon, out of which at least, no whitefolk were yet coming?

In fact, the 1880’s brought plenty of testimony, from whitefolk as well as that old reliable Navajo, on the unfortunate results of the mini-res: The miners did impact them, of course. Worse, the transient stock trampled across the hunting range. Complaints were made in Washington, where action might have been taken, as urged by the territorial delegate and the army. The words most strongly flew over the water, like Black Tank, whitefolk objecting to Havasupai “scrubby worthless stallions” (interesting that this wf evaluation did not ever change). The suggestion was made that, since the land had little water and hence no homesteaders, the reservation should be extended from the river to the railroad, and west from Cataract Canyon to the Hualapai line. And then again, down came the army; this time, 1884, the famous General Crook. This led to another army recommendation, in 1888, for a strip of upland east of the Hualapai across Cataract, where there was too little water for anyone to make a home.
So in the first decade, a sort-of pattern was set for the next century: impacts on and complaints for and by the Havasupai, coupled with urging of the obvious remedy to expand the reservation over the (waterless, valueless, in whitefolk eyes) uplands. The recommended boundary would shift around; the justifications would evolve (cattle-raising by the Havasupai would replace hunting, for instance); the support and opposition would harden and soften in a choreography that never reached a climax.

In the 1890’s, the ubiquitous W. W. Bass joined in with his usual ambiguity, supposedly helping and urging relief for the Havasupai, while playing a central role in the whitefolk rivalries in the area. Even more disorienting is a report by a miner in 1891 that the Havasupai were in the canyon that winter because Navajo sheepherders had invaded and bullied them to “get back into your hole”. The army, too, stayed present, reporting and suggesting boundary changes, ineffectually. A government farmer was sent in to help, and did build them a school. His idea was that it was grazing country, so they ought to have cattle. Other local Indian Office reports make clear their winter needs for plateau lands were well-known. As always, the Havasuapai were praised for their behavior, words never leading to action. The waters were taken up by “the steady advance of civilization”, and the negative impacts on game were codified in the late 1890’s by state law, reinforced by the new Grand Canyon Forest Reserve. A scare over removal at this time led the government farmer to recommend giving them the land between the Reserve and the Hualapai, that narrow strip mentioned above.

The Indian Affairs D.C. Office made inconsistent noises. It backed up the game laws and the new Forest Reserve by a general hectoring about getting control over the Havasupai. In any case, the Reserve administrators started out not friendly, complaining about Havasupai slaughtering game, setting forest fires and just entering the Reserve (which, south of the river, was all on ground long-used by the Havasupai). Forest personnel counted thirty living near Grand Canyon Village. The I.A. agent did point out that the Havasupai Reservation was surrounded, but his superiors in the Washington office supported the forest officers. This new-century onslaught, in effect the “removal” that Navajo had reportedly feared, was reinforced in a loony fashion by would-be miners promoting a Williams & Cataract CaƱon Railroad Company and surveying for the export of creek water. It was also a sign of the biggest conflict to come, since the Forest Reserve had been proclaimed to protect and denominate the Grand Canyon, now famous and becoming a tourist destination.

All these elements tangled up in arguments between local personnel of the Forest Reserve and the Indian Office. Their relations seemed to be patched up in late 1901 under a new Reserve supervisor, but clarity was scarce. Out of one side of its mouth, DC was demanding compliance with the game law and with keeping the Havasupai inside reservation boundaries, while out of the other, responding positively to the enlargement recommendation, asking in 1900 for a survey of all pasture lands, mentioning especially the east-side Topacoba trail and spring. The local I.A. man was first, offering a not unusually schizoid reply: all agree it is Havasuapai land, but they only graze a few ponies on this “dry waterless waste”, so it would hardly pay the government to set aside 40 square miles (that's only a bit more than a township). Anyway, the Havasupai could file on their springs, hence avoiding conflict with cattlemen (!). Anyway, the mining is a fake. Anyway, the whitefolk are the ones killing the deer. Not only confused, this reply indicated the rise of the theme that land and water were needed by Havasupai for grazing, a satisfying practical justification. The problem with it was that it ignored and even undercut the more important consideration of how to set up a reservation so that the Havasupai could follow their traditional ways. At this time, clear title to a suitable tract of plateau and canyon land could still have allowed a seamless if contracted continuation.

At the same time,  but  more  generously, an on-the-ground inspection by an Indian Officer led to his firmly recommending in 1901 that the Havasupai obtain a 20-square-mile area south of the river and east of the Hualapai, with the springs to be held in common. The Havasupai were doing well in their own pursuits, though they wanted more school facilities. Moreover, whitefolk actions cause all the trouble. He had found that the game-killing and trespass complained of by the forest supervisor were actually done by the “choice spirits that make such places as Flagstaff their habitat”. His recommendation would meet the Havasupai request to be let alone and protected in what they have. However, this ally then concluded that they are on their way to dying out, and the best course would be to remove the children to school, since they would then not want to return to their little hole in the ground.—repeated whitefolk themes as the years go on in spite of evidence that the Havasupai were not dying out, while making very clear their desire to be able to live on their own land, south of the Grand Canyon. This toughness about survival on location looked like futile obstinacy to many whitefolk. Indeed, their determination did also attract whitefolk advocates over the years, but it was their own, not an imported, characteristic. In any case, the upshot of this new-century initiative was inaction.

Havasupai “obstinacy”  may have been admired; the willful craziness of the miners had no champions, as they sought rights over Havasu Creek, blasted away in the side canyons, complained about Havasupai trespassing, and boosted their plots for developing waterpower and a railroad. It would be years before these pests were cleared out, as they sought a return on their 1880 investment in convincing the army to bottle up the Havasupai. Meanwhile, the real railroad, the Santa Fe, proposed bringing tourists down into the reservation. Bass, where mutual hatred with the railroad was uppermost, tried to take over the idea. In any case, visitors did appear from time to time.

In 1908-12, in parallel with proliferating proposals for a National Park over Havasupai territory, the Fed also renewed recommendations for reservation enlargement, this time in order to provide for 400 cattle. There was secretarial interest in the idea.The Forest Service produced two recommendations. The first proposal makes no sense in its description; ignore it. Of all the post-1882 proposals, the second is the one that was the most pregnant with potential and backing. The Tusayan Forest Supervisor produced a well-defined recommendation to move 152,000 acres to the Havasupai for tribal pasture, including the Great Thumb, and the plateau above the rim over to r1w, south to t30n, Havasu Canyon south with Forest in r4w. The scenic falls north of the reservation would stay in the Monument. Grazing lands would come from the Coconino Forest or the Grand Canyon National Monument, which had been proclaimed on Forest Reserve lands. There was no timber value, some mining claims. The Havasuapai had many horses, some cattle, and grew alfalfa, corn, beans, melons, pumpkins, peaches, apricots and figs. They would need water development to get full capacity for grazing. They are “extremely anxious” to get range unmolested by whitefolk, and while we give them a permit, it is not permanent. So up into 1915, Forest officials saw the land between Cataract and the Colorado as being pastureland available to help the Havasupai to become “entirely self-supporting”. Their need was urgent, and the Park proposals were inactive. The Secretary of Agriculture approved in 1914.

But. But Arizona was now a state, adding even more momentum to getting rid of the Monument and replacing with a legislated Park more available for development. So just wait, the Havasupai and its allies were told. And the great chance to avoid decades & decades of anger, bitterness, and regret was lost.

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