1. Reservation Proposals
An implicit promise had been made on the way to legislating Grand Canyon National Park. Tusayan Forest Supervisior Greene had reported a recommendation for a more appropriate Havasupai reservation and his Regional Forester had accepted the idea; indeed, the nod went all the way to the Secretary of Agriculture in 1914 before park advocates convinced Forest Service officals that park claims should be settled first, which they were, and without more than a misdirected nod to the Havasupai. What gave even that nod a wink is that the boundary of the park split up federal jurisdiction over Havsupai lands in a thoroughly cuckoo way. What remained under the Forest Service was the canyon-cut, treeless southwest corner of Tusayan NF, and passing that to the Havasupai was no big deal. Insofar as it was grazable, the FS had already granted a permit to the Havasupai, although the more desirable grazing land in the vicinity was under permit to or owned by whitefolk. However, now GCNP surrounded the reservation itself, while also including Havasupai plateau lands, e.g., the Great Thumb, Pasture Wash. Tougher, NPS leaders looked at Havasu Creek and its falls as a jewel in the jewel. They fantasized about building a road over to Havasu canyon, and even down into it. So NPS had an active disinterest in any promise to deal with Havasupai concerns.
The Forest Service did make the gesture, after Park establishment, of a draft bill, approved by both Secretaries and sent to Congress in December 1920. Lands in 1-4w32, 4w33, 2-3w31 would be moved from the Tusayan National Forest to a Havasupai reservation; no National Park lands would have been involved. Here is an approximating map, the bars indicating the affected area.
This effort was confounded by the friendly relations between Bass and Hayden (who wrote to Bass as “old pioneer”), since Bass now cast doubt on Havasupai need as he pushed his own claims. He offered the usual canard about their dying out, and not really using the land anyway, just camping along the road. When asked for its advice, the GLO wrote to Hayden in 1921 that the Havasupai need the land for grazing, a proposal deferred since 1913 due to park legislation. Even reminded of this commitment, Hayden allowed the bill not to be acted upon, another notch in his opposition to enlarging the reservation. The Forest Service then just issued grazing permits, in accord with that strangulated notion of Havasupai use.
Park Service records also show issued permits of two kinds, yearly for grazing, and to individuals, perhaps in the spirit of the Park Act’s provision for agriculture. The quarter-century of the Tillotson-Bryant (1927-54) superintendencies were not ones of overt hostility by the Park Service; there were individual interventions on behalf of Havasupai in the period. But the NPS stance was that in a National Park, NPS rules and interests come first. The idea of going further than issuing permits was therefore never seriously considered by GCNP. At first, what was really uppermost, particularly in the late 1920’s, was a road over from GC Village and down into Havasu Canyon, “to give old people, the sick and the crippled an opportunity to see the Canyon from below, and second to make available the extraordinary scenery of Havasu Canyon”. The Park was also concerned about various promotions around the five valid mining claims, including the possibility of building a power plant using one of the falls. The Indian Affairs (IA) man showed his agreeability by saying a road would be the finest thing for the Havasupai, and they would protest any exploitation of the falls. All these schemes came to naught; the road because the DC office of the Park Service became more concerned about protecting roadless areas from development, while the miners became discouraged and were eventually bought off.
Perhaps misled by having been cooperative, in 1930 the IA man re-presented the idea of eliminating lands from the National Forest for the Havasupai (again, no GCNP land). To the earlier proposal (1-4w32 & 4w33, east of 3w31, most of 2w31) he added land further east, beyond “the drift fence” (a seemingly sacred line that marked the boundary between Havasupai and whitefolk grazing). This gave the hornets’ nest of bureaucratic amour propre a good swat. First, the FS championed the whitefolk on the ground that the Havasupai reasons were not compelling; they only had some temporary camps. Anyway, such a change would stir up conflict. The Regional Forester then cleverly said: We will agree, but let the IA initiate the proposal and check it with Hayden, (now in the Senate). The NPS Director said, well, we might agree, although we did want some of that land ourselves. After further meetings, however, in 1931 the GCNP Superintendent was more straight-forward: we and the Forest Service are in a “much better” position to administer the lands than the IA (not mentioning the Havasupai), and IA jurisdiction would duplicate his rangers, fire control, and range oversight. He claimed the Havasupai would get more from the road he was proposing, and as usual, attacked the overly large size of the Havasupai horse herd. Our permits do the job just fine, he concluded, and always will. And we do want some of that land.
Another influential voice was special commissioner Hagerman (an anti-tribe, pro-railroad figure ally of Hayden), who was offended by the “ridiculous” horse herd, wanting it cut from 1000 to 200 head. He backed the GCNP road, and the status of permanent permits. Hagerman’s clincher: “Hayden will oppose any change, definitely.” As indeed he did, opining that there is no conflict between cattle and antelope --the latter do not eat grass--, and that anyway, temporary use is good enough since the Havasupai are rapidly declining and have few wants. Against this formidable array of conventional wisdom, the idea of legislating a larger reservation deflated. Even when the IA Commissioner then asked only for a permanent grazing permit, Hagerman fussed, falsely using old data to claim Havasupai numbers were decreasing. Bemusingly, the Forest Service then worried that there was nothing in its manual about permits for Indians. Fortunately, their records showed letters for permits back to 1910 for both cattle and horses and so they did grant a ten-year permit. GCNP, after accepting the narrow view that the only Havasupai need was for grazing, agreed. True to bureaucratic form, they pouted about stock tanks being dams, a no-no in the Park. There was only a burp from the new pro-tribal CIA, John Collier, and this attempt at rectification faded.
Not, however, Havasupai interest, a factor apparently not taken into account in the 1929-32 face-down. In 1936, GCNP interviewed close to 40 Havasupai families –located at GC Village (GCV), Pasture Wash, and Supai-- about education, health, homes, activities, income, desires, and attitudes. Most had two residences, and wanted their canyon houses to be of stone. They wanted to hunt; as non-citizens, they were forbidden licenses. Many talked of losing their lands to the Park, cattlemen and other whitefolk, and wanted them back. They particularly mentioned Indian Gardens. They spoke of their needs for grazing and farming, pumping water to the rim and a road to GCV. When GCNP forwarded this information–astonishing only in being gathered – to the head office, the Superintendent was chastised for allowing an illegal situation to grow up where unemployed Havasupai were on Park land. So although the IA commended Tillotson for being very considerate of Havasupai welfare – there were 30 who were NPS employees – NPS attitudes about Havasupai living conditions were not hopeful: “This is a white man’s community and it has no place for a hottentot village.” The words changed over the years, but the lack of understanding did not.
2. Other Matters
Road proposals floated about in the mid-30’s. Tillotson, engineer that he was, still wanted one from GCV to Havasu. The IA, however, thought it was too far from the agency, and ended up deciding to come from the other direction. Reflecting changes in NPS priorities, when Tillotson did improve the existing dirt road toward Havasu in 1940-1, for “inescapable humanitarian” reasons, he was reprimanded by DC. There was a Secretarial order to leave it alone until after the boundary was adjusted. The road matter remained conflicted. DC did not want any upgrading of the truck trail from GCV or into Havasu canyon. The IA did, since it preferred tourists come from the GCV direction; it offered but did not pursue the idea tourism might be more profitable than grazing. The NPS Director again quashed road improvements by stressing wilderness and the great difficulty of building a road.
In 1937, the New Deal era, the Soil Conservation Service reported overgrazing and flood potential again stirring up the matter of land for grazing. It hoped prospects could brighten with development of stock water. This led to an inter-agency field trip, and even more negativity: stock tanks would never really be dependable; there was no money to fix them up, and anyway a cattle business was unlikely. Possibly the plateau to the west of Havasu Canyon could support a herd, but would require fences, good cattle, and horse reduction. In 1940, the IA asked again about that west side, and the Forest Service said it would only work if public domain and some of GCNM were obtained. The NPS replied with its permit defense. At this time, Tillotson was also letting DC know that the Havasupai would never willingly move, nor would he concur in any plan to forcibly remove them. Then he added, in a neat summation of the schizoid nature of whitefolk attitudes, that were they removed, he would be relieved.
Certainly, the matter of Havasupai living permanently on the west side of GCV pressured Tillotson two ways. Formally, they could live in the Park only if they were employed. However, their view was that they had rights that had been ignored and pre-empted. Tillotson made a continuing effort in the 1930’s to deal with the Havasupai camp at GCV. Records may be scanty, but it seems likely that the Havasupai, already in the area, settled in some more permanent way to take advantage of employment opportunities offered by the coming of tourists, the railroad, and federal agencies. They had, of course, also been displaced. In any case by the time of NPS build-up in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, the so-called camp was a permanent settlement and occasion for irritation, due to what NPS called health and sanitation problems. NPS policy was clear and repeated, even accusatory: The only basis for Havasupai living there is that they are employed. Tillotson decided on the engineer’s solution, to build new cabins that would result in a cleaned-up environment for those with jobs. He wanted to let the children into the local school if they were clean; camp was dirty, and there was no way to keep it clean either. The numbers on the payroll fluctuated; 30 were mentioned in 1936, when Tillotson’s new cabins were completed. However, he kept them unoccupied into 1938 to “put pressure on” for improvements in Havasupai health & cleanliness, and to get IA cooperation in obtaining Havasupai agreement on how many lived in the village. In 1939, Bryant ended the stalemate on the cabins, for the moment, by tearing down the old structures and transporting their materials to the area beyond Pasture Wash. People moved into the new ones.
The unsteadiness of the NPS-Havsupai relationship was indicated in administrative fluff over grazing: permits—ten-year, then five-year, and not kept up in any case—, fences, trespass, original authorization, as well as improvements for water. The same quality appeared in 1943 when Big Jim & other Havasupai talked to Bryant about Big Jim's place in Pasture Wash and Rowes Well, a long-established right. Bryant replied they had grazing rights based on sec. 3 of GCNP Act, although it uses the word agriculture. Bryant also worried, strangely, about over-commercialization on the reservation, perhaps not remembering the model of GCV.
Although under Bryant the cabins were occupied, the question of Havasupai right to be on and use uplands now in GCNP was obviously intractable, as indicated by the sour note sounded in 1940 by DC : We have helped the Havasupai, and any suggestion for setting up a “model Havasupai colony” would encounter many difficulties “because of the limited culture and unattractiveness” of the Havasupai. But model or not, the presence of the school, jobs, and other amenities always attracted Havasupai, though the numbers might vary during the year as conditions warranted. But NPS could never get past its narrow interpretations of the Havasupai agricultural right and the employment requirement for residence. With a Superintendent as narrow-minded as the interpretation, trouble would intensify.
3. Reservation Addition
The 1940’s continued in confusion. On the one hand, with an effective champion, the reservation quadrupled in size – but still down in the canyon, mostly dry, and more than 20 miles away from Supai. On the other, with an ineffective one, another attempt to regain plateau lands foundered on the now-ingrained bureaucratic complacencies.
The addition started as inauspiciously as usual. A whiteman rancher, one Kirby, pre-empted Havasuapai use of a spring, and the trail to it, that were on state land in upper Cataract Canyon which he leased in 1936. Here is a map of the area, using the boundaries as of 1970, which shows the contested parcel, far south of Supai, after it had been added to the Reservation.*
The arguments over this slick action in the next few years marked some changes. For one thing, New Deal policy had resulted in establishment of a Havasupai Tribal Council. This was also the time when the Santa Fe railroad lands controversy was at a height (see below), a time of heightened Hualapai and Havasupai awareness of how whitefolk land politics worked. The Council was now a focus of resistance to this latest of incursions, including the quintessential act of hiring a lawyer, no doubt spurred by the repeated IA advice not to cause trouble, as well as its failure to stop Kirby from keeping Havasupai cattle from the spring, leading to some dying. The IA did try, but was failing, in its attempt to get special legislation, when the state renewed Kirby’s lease in late 1940. That was appealed, and a new Land Commissioner, O. C. Williams, changed the political landscape.
The contested ground was bordered by the area’s two huge land-users, Babbitt ranches to the east of Cataract, and 3V-Boquillas to the west. Kirby was an annoyance to both, and they were thus Havasupai allies. Williams took the lead, with a field trip including everybody. His conclusion –that the Havasupai should have the canyon bottom and Kirby be compensated—and his “fairness, sound reasoning, and desire to work out an acceptable solution” indicated a man “mindful of Havasupai inherited rights”, and desirous of being a help. Though again, any larger-scale solution ran up against the no-doubt stronger political connections Babbitt and 3V would have had with Hayden, whose agreement was essential, since Congress had to act to add any land to the reservation. Williams surely was sincere in his sympathy for the Havasupai, but Kirby’s lack of clout and Babbitt toughness made his task easier. The Babbitts threatened Kirby in various ways, since he was using their land for his house and grazing, and they threatened to physically bar him if he tried to continue, fencing him off from the spring. The idea of legislating authority for a land trade gained county supervisors’ approval, and thus Hayden’s, and a bill was worked on in 1943, spurred because of the continuing tensions between Kirby and Babbitt, and a trip to Supai by Williams that he enjoyed. The swap authorization passed in March 1944, and negotiation got Kirby to accept half of what he asked. The details of the exact boundaries took several more months, and the addition was, finally, made to the reservation in summer 1946. Ten years to gain control over a spring that they had long used, control only grimly ceded by the usurper and with the aid of powerful whitefolk allies who enlisted Hayden. No wonder that another, much larger, reservation proposal made at this time gained no traction.
4. Another Futile Try
Apart from the long-standing, if oft-forgotten, understanding by many that the Havasupai needed a larger reservation to include plateau lands, the early 1940’s brought a final resolution to the insistence by the Santa Fe Railroad that it owned the lands conveyed to it in the XIXth century which the Hualapai and Havasupai had occupied since time immemorial (at least in whitefolk immemories). The battle was largely fought over the Hualapai reservation and by Hualapai ( see C. W. McMillen “Making Indian Law”), but also supported the idea that the Havasupai had prior use and claim to plateau lands. This boost was largely psychological – in the Hualapai case, they were arguing for lands they had already been granted in the reservation of 1880-2; the Havasupai had been denied the same advantage. However, at this time their local IA, John O. Crow, was enough of a pro-Havasupai activist to again contest the settled niceties.
The Supreme Court 1941 decision was followed by hearings before examiners who issued their report in May 1942. Only a portion of the much larger territory they had once roamed, the Havasupai claim to railroad sections ran from the Colorado River south between the Hualapai reservation and Cataract Canyon, lands in 3-6 w 32-4, at the time part of the GCNM and 3V-Boquillas ranch. The three vital questions posed by the examiners were answered as follows:
1. Accepting the reservation did not imply voluntary abandonment or surrender of their claims to any other of their lands. The Havasupai had been assured by the military of their access to and use of other lands; there was no intent to limit them to the reservation. According to Havasupai testimony, General Crook said the reservation was just farming land, and their traveling & grazing land was still out there. Navajo had told Crook he went out for hunting and Crook gave him a pass.
2. Their use of the railroad claim area had been continuous, if not for actual homes, at least for grazing, which is the only practicable use anyway.
3. No whitefolk legal action had extinguished the Havasupai rights, which they have exercised through grazing and winter use for fuel and water.
In a phrase illuminating bureaucratic attitudes, the examiners opined the matter should be resolved “in favor of a weak and defenseless people, who are wards of the nation, and dependent wholly upon its protection and good faith”.
Nevertheless, when Crow revived the proposal for reservation enlargement, it was the deep shadow of agency prerogatives that prevailed over the bright light of protecting these weak and defenseless wards.
In 1940, even before the Supreme Court decision, the CIA had brought up the transfer of federal land west of Cataract. The Forest and Park Service were, as always, willing to offer grazing permits and look at other options. After the examiners’ 1942 report, however, the Havasupai Tribal Council threw the ball, hard, asking for land from the Hualapai boundary all the way to GCV. Crow thought this unreasonable, and backed another proposal, for 256 Kac, stopping at the drift fence. Here it is:
The Havasupai did not back down; their claim, running another 15+ miles east to GCV, was justified, they said, even though NPS and the 3V-Boquillas will oppose. To them, the ongoing controversy over Kirby’s preemption of Sinyella Spring pointed up the history of how Havasupai would accommodate the new-comers, then a successor would not recognize this sharing. The drift fence at Pasture Wash likewise cut them off from lands they were using.
In 1943, all the feds were considering studies and proposals. The Forest Service was willing to transfer lands to a grazing reserve. The Park Service Director had requested a report. The Interior Department recognized Havasupai rights. Then in a two-week effort, NPS spiked the land transfer proposals. Crow had personally confronted the NPS Director, citing previous good cooperation by NPS, but the Havasupai needed more land. There could be several hundred head of cattle if water were developed, but that required water improvements, which the IA cannot do unless lands in the Park and Monument south of river and west of drift fence were in the reservation. NPS wanted to check these assertions, saying cattle land “must be weighed” against the national value of NPS lands.
An aside here; one that applies to the Hualapai. In this period, there were real ideas floating around about tourism as a business. It is to agency discredit, as well as some individuals, that these initiatives (see my 27 Sep 2009 entry) were shelved. Problem is, these faux westerners were all hypnotized by the great Grazing myth.
A field trip and meeting followed with Crow, plus range & soil people. Crow read a letter from the Havasupai indicating their dissatisfaction because of the restricted reservation, drift fence cutting off eastern area, and fencing of Sinyella spring by Kirby. They claimed that the FS was in favor of a transfer. Although they might prefer 3V lands, no sale was available. All of which the NPS interpreted to mean that Havasupai only wanted the satisfaction from being able to say “these are my own lands”. In the face of Bryant’s opinion that many here “cannot help but see some possible connection” to mainstem dam development, since backing water up in a reservoir would be easier if land were under IA -- which can allow “industrial developments”, Crow asserted there was definitely no connection with any dam. The next day, Crow repeated that there was no link with any dam. Reports on water possibilities were discussed. The bureaucrats reached agreement on three items: 1. Havasupai need for suitable grazing land; 2. Great Thumb was not very important grazing land; 3. the most desirable lands were south of the proposed transfer. NPS strongly argued against cutting out a fifth of the Park and 40 miles of canyon. GCNP was already ”too small to portray the beauties of the scientific features of the GC”. Crow had been sliced and diced.
The GCNP’s written report was both attack and defense. It stated that the physical condition of lands was very unfavorable to a cattle industry. The effect of the railroad land decision was only that all land is federal, with Havasupai use, not ownership (the ghost of the army’s error). NPS summarized Crow's proposal as only grazing plus an improvement in morale. NPS objections: Greatest is eliminating land now administered for NPS purposes in perpetuity and turning over for economic use; principle and precedent in general lead us to oppose. Specific objections: The amount of river in the park would be reduced by 40 miles, the land to be transferred is different scenically not just more of the same, the Great Thumb is a research area. Also it contains viewpoints of Havasu, “uniquely interesting & beautiful for centuries to come—perhaps long after the last of the Havasupai shall have passed away”. However, the report went on, we are “entirely sympathetic” to Havasupai objectives, but we are dubious as to the feasibility of water development on Great Thumb. It does seem reasonable to have FS work on NF with Havasupai, so we recommend an inter-bureau agreement on the NP. Other comments in the report were meant to provide impediments, e.g., as for NM & NF on west, the northern part is unsuitable, middle has better forage but still only snow, south could be used with access to existing tanks. No real study was done, though. The mesa lands aside from the north canyon-adjoining part are of little interest to us; even the side canyons, National and Little Coyote, are not notable. So if NF lands are given to the Havasupai, we will not object to part of the NM being transferred. We do want to keep both sides of the river. There are superb views from north, and panoramic views of great impressiveness unobtainable elsewhere. Little access now, but that will increase with IA roads. So we recommend that only the southern 5 tiers of sections in NM be considered. Also included in NPS comments was a copy of the July 21 1937 memo by NPS rangers on a field check with the IA of the earlier grazing report, which said that there was general agreement the project was not desirable; local IA, Hobgood, had said he was not favorable. NPS stretched even further, suggesting that if a Havasupai prior interest meant the NM lands were never the railroad’s, then they were public domain and so are ours! So much for the Supreme Court. Bryant went on the attack, and in response to the Crow initiative, he argued for the advantages of taking the NF wedge into Park: Hilltop is easiest gateway to GC, we need conrol over road & trail on west; Havasupai could deal with one agency, NPS, and we could take care of their communication and transportation problems. The final answer from NPS was to let the matter rest until Bridge Canyon dam comes up, and the NM is reevaluated (a song sung before). In any case, there could be no land from NP, although water improvements could happen.
Clearly, in the NPS mind, this should have been the death knell for any Havasupai claims. They would and should never be taken seriously. Given that there would never be more favorable NPS personnel for the Havasupai case, this 1943 report can only imply that NPS control of key Havasupai access and locations seemed fixed. This thrust-and-parry brought out some of the politicians’ attitudes, too, with Arizona Congressman Murdock saying , confusedly, the Havasupai don’t need any land and it could be put to better use such as grazing. Hayden argued whitefolk would be displaced, though the FS kept trying to set him straight, saying that all land being talked about for transfer has been under free permit to Havasupai since 1910, and indeed had for 30 years been promised to the Havasupai.
The rigid NPS conclusions were a surprise to Crow. He claimed he had had only minimal contact with NPS, though he had heard NPS accuse us of being in a pro-dam conspiracy. Surely, Crow asserted, it cannot be dangerous to restore land taken from a minority group without their consent or knowledge. After all, the GCNP Act recognizes Havasupai rights, though they have been ignored. For instance, the band at Indian Gardens was removed by subterfuge. The real precedent is not loss of park land, but in the fear of losing what Havasupai have. We can agree to expending funds for water improvements only if we have complete, perpetual control. Without these lands, the Havasupai cannot have control of their own life, which is our goal, and our long-time concern. Strong though it was, and unusual in that, Crow’s plea was ignored, and the BIA accepted Bryant’s stance that he would talk only of improvements for grazing. So another marker was laid down for what seemed the permanent ruts in the one-way road away from an appropriate Havasupai land base.
This was reinforced the next year when a local man, John Farson, started a campaign to help "these poor cheated Indians". The big Babbitt ranch, Arizona Livestock Co. had fenced them out from their previous right to run cattle on public domain south of the national forest. The Park Service let them use the Great Thumb, but with no developments allowed. So he suggested roughly a 14-township tract of public domain south of NF & NP. The reply from Hayden was very sharp: “I am not going to sponsor any legislation … for the transfer of any lands to the Havasupai.” The federal government already controls “entirely too much” land in state, and he will not remove any more land from tax rolls unless the state is in favor. Persevering, Farson in March 1945 sent Hayden a draft bill & map similar to the Crow proposal. (The irony being that these ideas were very close to the reservation enlargement they got 30 years later -- after Hayden had retired.) The IA pointed out the five years it took to get the little addition around Sinyella Spring, and argued there would be such opposition by livestock interests as to make such a proposal impractical. Hayden backed that angle up, too, saying he would not interfere with existing grazing privileges that were of considerable importance to cattlemen. When the Forest Service pointed out that the forest involved was under lease to the Havasupai and it is agreeable to giving up the land if the Havasupai also got agreement from the Park Service, Hayden fobbed Farson off onto Rep. Murdock.
4. Marking Time
The late ‘40’s were a time of little gestures, in part because the IA was once again trying to figure out its course, this time starting to veer toward its own disappearance. There were exchanges about fences, road access, use of a helicopter, horses, tourist fees in Havasu. Then in 1949 and for a few years after, the IA said it was working with the nearby 3V-Boquillas ranch on an exchange using railroad lands west of Cataract just outside NF. Again, the Forest Service thought it was time to release some of the unforested Forest. Fear of cattlegrower opposition stifled this weak effort. During this as usual fruitless talk, the IA agent commented that he had tried to find jobs for the eleven Havasupai veterans, but their ambition was only to live in Supai or nearby, improving land on top and living there with their families. The 1950’s saw the IA at the lowest point. The regional agency opined that their experience was that no tribe had made a success of livestock operations. We should work with the younger generation and aim for relocation and non-reservation life. The local man was “stymied” as to what to do on grazing or anything that would improve their lot in Supai.
*This map was prepared by John McComb, then Sierra Club Southwest Representative, and put to many uses during the 1972-5 enlargement campaign.
Sources: my digest of BIA and NPS archives