Sunday, July 18, 2010

GCNP Boundary: B. Navajo 1, Reservation

In Berlin's dichotomy of strategies in literature, he contrasts the fox who knows many things and the hedgehog who knows one. Studying the Grand Canyon's political history suggests to me a similar contrast in the strategies of the Navajo and the Havasupai. The Havasupai, disadvantaged for so long, remained coherent; obdurate, stubborn, determined: a rock; weathered, battered and stormed at, yet enduring.The Navajo, moving into the region, and expansive, reaching out and out, competing with those settled here and others who were trying to migrate and use the land: a fire, set a few centuries ago, converting the land into fuel, sucking up the oxygen, growing and advancing, producing hearths, not scorched earth.

We will come to The Rock. Here, take a look at The Fire's accomplishments as of 1933:
Particularly, we are concerned with the western boundary, the segment running from Lee's Ferry (LF) down to the Little Colorado (LCR), with the 29 marking where a segment of the old Forest Reserve came to the river.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, this was an area of dynamic activity. The Hopi (Moqui) were long settled. The Mormons and other whitefolk were migrating in, looking to obtain land, farm, in some cases run what became vast herds of sheep. The Navajo ran their own herds, built and settled. Their reach went across the Colorado, both north and south of the Canyon. The patchwork of act and executive orders on this map shows how the United States government (after 1868, anyway) responded to the expansion and the conflicts.

The Executive Order of 8 Jan 1900 took the boundary of what was then called the Western Navajo Indian Reservation and extended it from 

the "southwest corner of the Moqui IR west to the Little Colorado River, down the LCR to the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve, north on the line of that reserve to the northeast corner thereof, then west to the Colorado River, thence up that stream to" the existing Navajo Reservation.

The first GCNM was declared in 1908, and then GCNP was enacted in 1919, going across the Colorado at its northeast corner, like this:

"thence northerly along said upper rim of Grand Canyon to the main hydrographic divide north of Nankoweap Creek; thence easterly along the said hydrographic divide to its intersection with the Colorado River, approximately at the mouth of Nankoweap Creek; thence easterly across the Colorado River and up the hydrographic divide nearest the junction of Nankoweap Creek and Colorado River to a point on the upper east rim of the Grand Canyon; thence by shortest route to an intersection with range line, townships 33 and 34 north, between ranges 5 and 6 east."

If this crossing of the river indicated an interest in the east side of the Colorado, it waned. In 1927, when a number of additions were made to the Park, the piece north of the LCR and east of the Colorado was deleted leaving the boundary as follows:

"thence easterly along the main hydrographic divide north of Nankoweap Creek and Little Nankoweap Canyon to its intersection with the Colorado River, approximately at the mouth of Little Nankoweap Canyon; thence due east across the Colorado River to the east bank of the Colorado River; thence southeasterly along said bank, to the north bank of Little Colorado River; thence easterly along said bank of Little Colorado River to its intersection with what probably will be when surveyed the east line of section 32, township 33 north, range 6 east, or the east line of section 5, township 32 north, range 6 east; thence southerly".

By using the word "bank", this language exemplifies a definitive inclusion in the Park of a river stretch. Except. What is the "bank" of a river? Clearly it is the land not under the river. Is it the land never under the river, i.e., the imputed historic flood line? Or a "mean high water" line? What about the stretches along a cliff? Do the fence-mad get to use the top to control access to jumpers and sightseers? And what now, with no natural floods, but daily or less frequent fluctuations due to dam operations? Without offering any absolute, universal principle, I look at the practical and educational/interpretive aspects of a boundary for GCNP, including the establishment of a unified river administration. This has led to the wet foot/dry foot doctrine for these mixed jurisdiction river stretches: you are on the river in a boat, You put a foot over. If it sinks in the water, you are on the river, and in the Park. If you step on land, muddy or fully dry, you are not in the Park. Yes, the river fluctuates, but the doctrine still works, even though the extent of the river and its bank at one moment differs from another moment. Such a workable, operational doctrine is far preferable to a fence and/or signs or any other evidences of human futility in this wilderness, or court fights. All that is needed is an educated set of visitors.

The land, however, did not go directly to the Navajo. That trans-river northeast corner was put back under the Forest Service. However, it still held no interest for them; it was remote, difficult of access, and of negligible Forest value. Its only use was intermittent by 7000 Navajo sheep when there was water. For the Navajo, it was therefore a logical add, and three years later, the Navajo scooped up the abandoned tract, along with other remnants of the Forest Reserve (then called Tusayan National Forest) in the Act of 23 May 1930, which ran the line east of the Colorado River and north of the Little Colorado River. 

This completed the western river(bank) boundary for the Navajo, and that strand of the story clearly makes providing land for the Navajo a, or the, major, purpose of federal action along the Colorado, from above LF, down the river, and up the LCR a bit. As of 1933, the land to the river was every bit as legitimate Navajo Reservation as, say, the Hualapai Reservation was Hualapai under its Presidential Order.

Except that between 1900 and 1934, an encumbrance had been laid down in the form of water-power withdrawals, a thoroughly messy subject I will take up in the next post.

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