Sunday, June 26, 2011

Havasupai Reservation, 1880's - 1919: Rude Awakening

So when the Price-Palfrey canyon bottom lines were formally adopted on 31 Mar 1882 by Presidential order, the Havasupai “had”, “owned”, a reservation, land held-in-trust by the federal government just for them. Navajo’s little plot was safe from encroachment. However.  When the days shortened, the temperature dropping, and the Havsupai went up onto the plateau to hunt and otherwise occupy their usual haunts, leaving their very own Presidentially granted patch, did they have a clue that living under whitefolk law was a life changer? 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”?  

After 300 years of Spanish presence and Navajo/Diné co-existence in the east, the Havasupai would have had horses. Many or few? Did they wander or keep close? All 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 hundred or so miles the Havasupai covered. What, then, did they make of the arrival & passage across the uplands of huge stock herds, demanding food and, more fraught, 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 as Ko-hot' had said they had.

So how long was it before 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? In fact, this had started even earlier, with Mexican sheepherders, followed by cattle herds, and after the U.S. Civil War, 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 Ko-hot' himself, on the unfortunate results of the mini-res: The miners did impact them, of course. Worse, domestic stock crowded in on the cold-weather range. These complaints were carried to Washington, where action might have been taken, urged by the territorial delegate and the army. The words most strongly flew over water, like Black Tank, the cattlemen objecting to “scrubby worthless stallions”. The suggestion was made that, since the land had little water and hence no homesteaders, the reservation could 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 Canyon. Too mean, too little, too late.

So in this very 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: expand the reservation over the (waterless, valueless, in whitefolk eyes) uplands. The recommended boundaries shifted around; the justifications evolved (cattle-raising by the Havasupai would replace hunting, for instance); support and opposition would harden and soften in a choreography with no 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 again recommend giving them the land between the Reserve and the Hualapai, that narrowed strip mentioned above. 

The Indian Affairs DC 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 Indian Office 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 was in effect the “removal” that Navajo had reportedly feared. It was reinforced in a loony fashion by would-be miners promoting a Williams & Cataract Cañon Railroad Company and surveying for the export of creek water. And 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. These elements got 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, responded 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 man responded 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 (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 fine 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. 

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, he reported, 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 adopted, 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 were now appearing from time to time.  

In 1908-12, there were renewed federal government recommendations for reservation enlargement, in order to provide for 400 cattle, with secretarial interest in the idea. Of all the post-1882 proposals, this is the one that was the most pregnant with potential and backing. Grazing lands could come from the Coconino Forest or the Grand Canyon National Monument, which had been proclaimed on Forest Reserve lands. The Forest Service produced two recommendations. The first makes no sense to me in its description. For the second, 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 range 1W, south to township 30N, and Havasu Canyon south. The scenic falls north of the reservation would stay in the Monument. 

This 1913 recommendation is accompanied by a map, which has the recommendation stop at range 2W, instead of 1W. Instead, here is a more contemporaneous USGS large-scale topo, which does not quite show all of range 1W.

There was, the Forest Supervisor said, 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. Their need was urgent, and the Park proposals were inactive. The Secretary of Agriculture approved in 1914, and 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”.

Forest Service officials might be agreeable; the ranchers already using some of the lands were not. Moreover, bigger tigers were already in the woodpile; there was an office for the National Parks in the Interior Department. At first, Interior seemed to acquiesce, indicating a Grand Canyon National Park would need only rim lands for a road and protection. But after this negotiation, Agriculture backed off, finding “the interest of the proposed national park must be considered as dominant”. The Regional Forester averred a two-mile strip along the rim would be needed. He worried that the falls, not being in the reservation, could be developed for water power. Sounding sympathetic to Indian Office concerns, he saw advantages for Havasupai well-being if the plateau were permanently available to them. But since all the lands being looked at for the Havasupai would be within the new park, the conclusion was to wait; after the Park was created, it would all be an Interior matter.

That prediction was not the only idea to go awry. While land surrounding the reservation was all in the National Park established on Feb 26, 1919, the southwestern boundary nuttily left canyon and unforested plateau lands in the National Forest. This strange result must be traced to the key Arizona legislator -- on Havasupai matters as so much else, then and until he retired 50 years later--, Carl Hayden. Hayden’s reason for passing park legislation was to replace the closed-to-development GCNM by a National Park that was more friendly to mining, water power, the railroad, tourist facilities, etc. Reconciling the interests of the Havasupai and park advocates was not, apparently, a Hayden consideration. Reconciliation that might have lessened the distress of the next half-century never became a priority, and in any case, he, as was his wont, would depend on whitefolk, especially local, views.

So when, in 1917, Hayden heard from Bass and the local IA superintendent that the Havasupai were being ignored by the proposed legislation, he wrote for the opinion of the IA’s irrigation administrator, who gave the classic summation: a small tribe, confined to the small canyon tract, with only trail access to the top where they graze a few cattle and spend the winter where they can find fuelwood. They need lands on top for range and dry farming. The local IA official pushed the angle that the Havasupai want a home, and instead are pushed around and have their grazing lands taken away, talking about their landing in “this little hole” (True perhaps for the Havasupai in its story, but one quails at the thought of what the value of the little hole would be today were it for sale to the highest bidder.) And that from a sympathizer. These views, true for 40 years, and to be true for almost 60 more, can be seen as the last gasp for an appropriate reservation within the Havasupai original context and mode of life. That Forest and Indian Affairs staff recognized Havasupai year-round life routines only makes the failure to expand the reservation along with park establishment more galling. Once the Park was established, the big bargaining chip would be gone; the Havasupai would be petitioners or even less; the Park would have priority rights.  One has to wonder where advocacy organizations for such as the Havasupai had got to. What would have been the impact of a few Havasupai personally lobbying Congress in 1918? What if, what if; one hundred years of what-if. Blame, resting first with those who knew and were active contrary to Havasupai interest, continued to accumulate. 

Although he solicited them, the pro-Havasupai replies made little dent on Hayden’s concerns; who else he heard from, in informal ways, is not recorded. We do know that, like any good Arizonan, he favored those paragons of the Old West, the cattlemen, including perhaps those who had been pushing at the Havasupai for the past 40 years. He certainly heard from park advocates, now a government force with their own organic law and National Park Service. As lobbyists trying to obtain a park boundary that would be protective and inclusive, they would have been drooling over the scenic quality of Havasu Canyon and its environs.

In the end, Hayden gave only this nod to Havasupai need in Section 3 of the GCNP Act:
"Nothing contained in (this Act) shall affect the rights of the Havasupai Tribe of Indians to the use and occupancy of the bottom lands of the Canyon of Cataract Creek as described in the Executive order of March 31, 1882, and the Secretary of the Interior is authorized, in his discretion, to permit individual members of said tribe to use and occupy other tracts of land within said park for agricultural purposes."

Perhaps generous-spirited Secretaries might have made something of this mingy and miss-the-mark wording over the years.  However, whatever generosity was shown only tightened the narrowed vision of 1882, more firmly emplaced after 1919 by the administrators of the newest jewel of our National Park System.

Sources: Indian Office: DC and Truxton Canyon archives
Forest Service: DC and Regional office archives

No comments:

Post a Comment