Sunday, July 10, 2011

Havasupai Reservation, Building to the End Game, 1960's-72

Without offering any easy explanations, the records for the 1960’s and early 1970’s describe a heightening in tension, anger, and determination over Havasupai and Grand Canon matters. Although whitefolk allies are evident, even more than in the 1950’s, the evidence of the Havasupai themselves powering actions in these years is also strong. Perhaps it was one of those times in a society’s life when there is a spectrum of vital, determined leadership. Those who served in WWII were now 20 years older. The 1960’s were the time of a national fight over the Canyon’s future, bringing a focus that continued into the 1970’s. Opposing the dams transmuted into struggling to draw a park boundary appropriate to the Canyon’s extent. Concurrently, the idea of pro-Havasupai legislation was mentioned in the 1950’s, resulted in bills in the 1960’s, and hooked up with the broadened concern for park legislation for the Canyon into the 1970’s. Still, it is not possible to understand Havasupai political life in the 1960’s except as an independent, more vocal, drive to redress the wrong inflicted 80 years before. And insensitive in its core, NPS provided more flammable material by its decades-long coveting of National Forest lands that the Havasupai claimed. Without making what-if predictions of success, the record seems weighted toward showing and inevitable slide toward a congressional fight over an appropriate Havasupai reservation in the 1970’s. 

[One can only muse, in my case in horror, when considering a Grand Canyon alternative future that combined two dams and their (motorized) recreation areas with excision of NPS land for the ranchers and hunters, as well as the Havasupai. The Havasupai fight for an appropriate reservation was painful, but at least it was fought in a context far more congenial to the Canyon’s integrity than would have been the case had the 1970's boundary struggles only been a portioning out of the spoils of the Canyon’s electrification for the better life in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.]
Meantime, insults and injuries continued. Livestock matters festered as always. The Havasupai’s horses provoked something in the attitudes of the Park and Forest Services, as well as the IA and the owners and managers of the Boquillas/3V ranch. Maintenance of the fences was a particular irritation; the Forest Service always willing to provide materials if the Havasupai would do the work, but the continuing complaining makes one think nobody really took the situation of this low-grade grazing seriously. The Havasu Canyon campground north of Supai and the Havasupai cabins west of GCV were always available to stoke ill-feeling.  Even “agricultural permits” were not safe, with FS & NPS both trying to terminate them. In 1962, there was another, as usual fruitless, pondering of whether there could be a land transfer from the federal agencies & Boquillas. The Forest Service still seemed willing to give up the non-commercial parts of the Forest to the Havasupai, although noting that NPS wanted some of it. Desire for the ownership was ascribed to the “old people”. In the early sixties, the matter of a Supai school came up, and one was opened in 1964. Helicopter service and a tramway were first proposed by whitefolk. In 1965-6, the Havasupai offered support for the Grand Canyon dam that would benefit their neighbors, the Hualapai. They scoffed at claims of flooding and ruin; they had lived here for hundreds of years and they knew.

When congressional interest awakened, It was a Republican congressman, Rhodes of Phoenix, rather than the new Democratic representative whose district the Havasupai were in, who queried Interior about doing something about land for the Havasupai. Perhaps the connection was tribal attorney Marks. In any case, NPS objected, claiming that the Park was now its minimum size, and citing the vegetative conditions and the impracticability of water development. Of course, NPS also cited the horse problem, saying they tried to work with the Havasupai. Rhodes was apparently easily discouraged; he did pass the problem to Republican Sam Steiger when the latter became the Havasupai’s congressman in 1967. The Havasupai response to NPS was tart: When whitefolk set up the reservation, laws were not so tight and we had the illusion of being free. Then, when prospectors and cattlemen wanted to use land, we got put in jail. We have tasted NPS whims, and don’t like them. The IA supported this position, saying they were worried about GCNP expansion bills, pressure about horses, and fencing; FS does help a little, but not NPS. Marks suggested sending a resolution to advocacy groups, American Association on Indian Affairs and National Congress of American Indians (AAIA,NCAI). GCNP fussed about William Little Jim’s permit, and finally stopped renewing it, claiming he wasn’t interested.

Hoping to arouse their new congressman, the Havasupai Tribal Council (HTC) wrote Steiger, praising Marks, and saying we want land, not a lease; NPS policy makes development impossible. We need land for our younger generation, to make a living and build homes on. Steiger, wanting to “needle” the agencies, asked the Supai storekeeper for info about the situation in October 1967. The Secretary of the Interior then had IA report on a jeep road, tramway, tourism, and the “mixed-up land situation”. IA responded that neither removal nor a XXth-century livelihood was feasible. They want a clinic, tourism, Headstart, and a school. Land tenure is a source of intra-Havasupai, intra-family tension. We backed land transfers in 1943 and 1962. We should let them proceed at their own pace. 

For orientation, here is a 1970 map of the area of immediate concern, showing the two parts of the then-reservation, Grand Canyon National Park & Monument, and Kaibab National Forest, with the Boquillas land going south from the federal land.

Steiger’s needling may have worked, at least on the word level, since NPS said it was working on plans for Havasupai use of Park lands. Unfooled, even by ostensible FS cooperation, Steiger concluded that the agencies were totally uninterested in relinquishing control; he concluded the legislation outlook was unpromising. Again in 1967, the HTC resolved in favor of Hualapai dam; it would provide tourist income. Headstart was set up, with Steve and Lois Hirst coming to the reservation, adding another strong voice to the whitefolk contingent of Shaffer, storekeeper, and attorney Marks, who was urging the dam and warning about Park legislation.

At a 1968 joint meeting on grazing, the agencies offered the usual help; the Havasupai talked about more land. In its fact sheet, the FS was doubtful about income from haphazard Havasuapai cattle-raising, and urged making the reservation canyon land more productive. FS abandoned its 70-year view that the unforested, canyon-cut corner of KNF could go to an enlarged reservation, and now stated that only a land exchange was possible. It suggested an NPS-FS exchange of plateau for canyons. NPS wanted grazing barred from the Great Thumb, but its suggestions for land use and development were, like the FS’s, word-spinning; no one intended to spend money or take any actions to change the status quo. 

Certainly, NPS knew the Havasupai would not give up their access onto the Great Thumb. That year, NCAI heard about FS and PS opposition to any land transfer, as Steiger introduced a bill, over agency opposition, to give the Havasupai NPS & FS lands south of the Grand Canyon's rim, east to the fence in eastern 2W31-2. With Steiger pro-active in Congress (and Hayden no longer a force), IA approved of the Havasupai getting congressional help for land. The larger situation was now changed:-- authorization of dams in the Grand Canyon was not going to be approved. Instead there was activity on legislation to include more of the river in the Park. HTC and Marks opposed this; the former because their lands were involved, the latter as the pro-dam Hualapai attorney.

Meanwhile, there were other schemes aimed at Supai, such as a chapel at the falls, perhaps with a tram and even a narrow gauge railroad; these could bring a million visitors. This activity may have triggered a bleak Time article talking about the Havasupai’s canyon prison, impoverishment, poor health, unemployment, loss of hunting & grazing land. But IA saw rosiness; with federal programs increased by the War on Poverty, this year would be a breakthrough for new Havasupai life. Steiger backed a whitefolk idea for pumping water out of Supai to the plateau, and FS said it would survey this very intriguing proposal in 1969. This usual early enthusiasm was followed by the usual second thoughts. On the other hand, NPS was working on a GCNP master plan, including wilderness classification for the Great Thumb. While the Havasupai opposed anything that would curtail their use, the IA was doubting the tram plan but also praising it, suggesting Havsupai rodeos and traditional dances. Another aggravation came up in the IA plan to orient development from the west, asking for land for grazing and a powerline to Supai in 1970. GCNP was opposed, as it was to the idea of housing up on plateau at Pasture Wash. The IA, in turn, opposed GCNP enlargement. The GCNP master plan of 1971 was unyielding, looking toward Park enlargement, and providing nothing for the Havasupai. GCNP ignored the Havasupai on its map, in the plan, and on consultation and agenda. The GCV camp also came up for criticism again. 

Stiffed, the HTC attacked, opposing the idea of turning forest land claimed by the Havasupai and now on permit to them, over to GCNP. They wrote to their Washington representatives, asking for land to be given to them. They noted they were on record standing with the Hualapai on dam, and thus opposed wilderness status. The HTC now called on fresh legal talent, turning to a major northern Arizona family by hiring Joe Babbitt. (Perhaps, after 25 years, Marks was backing off.) As spokesman, Babbitt reflected the new ethos, stating that the Havasupai, once evictees, were now a different breed, independent and self-respecting. He did, however, talk the usual economic talk about tourism and grazing. In a meeting with GCNP Superintendent Lovegren in March 1971, the latter was defensive on the GCNP land plans. Babbitt talked about the need for land acquisition. The FS continued its recent unhelpful line, being only open to a land exchange, and perhaps obtaining wilderness status for its canyons.

The Havasupai stance --the only thing we live for is our land –was unaltered. HTC talked of going to DC, working on a Steiger land bill and opposing GCNP enlargement. There were complaints about NPS treatment & trickery; there would only be more trouble if GCNP got more land.  GCNP Superintendent Lovegren did his usual feeble number trying to placate, but still only promised to study. In a May interview with the HTC chairman, he described the GCV camp as uninhabitable. The Havasupai reply was that they wanted 160 acres of their own. They also wanted GCNM lands west of Havasu Canyon, stopping the NPS land grab called for in the Park's draft master plan. In August 1971 the Havasupai formalized a land transfer proposal, leaving NPS a rim setback on the Great Thumb. Lovegren countered with an offer of land if the Havasupai would accept certain conditions, which they turned down, since they would lose the GCV camp, possibility of a tram (although packers were worried about competition), and other possible benefits. 

Everybody met in December 1971: KNF, NPS with its re-drafted master plan, BIA, HTC, Babbitt, Boquillas Ranch. FS now talked only about an exchange which needed Congressional action. FS also claimed there was nothing in its records about Havasupai rights, claiming their permit was lost in 1917 for non-use. This was a complete reversal and abandonment of its historic position in favor of transferring western KNF to Havasupai. The Havasupai made a deeply pessimistic plea –which must have been uncomfortable for the whitefolk present to hear-- to be given land. Babbitt called the history one of  genocide, saying the young would have to leave. Lovegren said he was afraid of conservationist criticism if the land were developed, listing a horror show of what might be done [as if the NPS were pure] --subdivision, tram, bighorn wasting, bad fencing, degradation of Thumb, no campground control, and mess at GCV—and so trying to justify attaching its conditions to any land transfer. He even suggested that the Havasupai use its money to buy some other land to trade with FS. The ICC settlement came up, but Babbitt answered that the Havasupai were forced to take it. FS repeated its no-land no-rights position. What the discussion did make clear was that nobody wanted to play; the suggestion was even made, in ignorance one supposes, that the coming HTC election might change attitudes.  Babbitt did say the Havasupai should consider compromise. Hirst countered that it was ok to oppose the agencies if their proposals were unacceptable. Boquillas chimed in, saying it was going to stop Havasupai horses from using its land. NPS said it would impose a campground limit. At the end it appeared that NPS and FS were agreed on a “permanent” free use area.

At a smaller meeting with FS absent, it was made out the villain. Lovegren continued to insist on conditions if there were to be a land exchange. He had talked to Goldwater staffer, Terry Emerson, who, he claimed, was pleased with NPS approach. During this period, no interest was shown by Senator Goldwater; perhaps he and his principal legislative assistant were not in accord, Emerson being more anti. 

In March 1972, there was another meeting with Lovegren offering land in exchange for no GCV camp, no tram, and no water pumping. FS insisted it would not turn over any land unless the Havasupai could find some other to exchange. Havasupai replied that they would go to Congress. IA counseled being realistic. Babbitt suggested changes, trying to make the NPS offer acceptable. NPS & FS both then threatened, and HTC voted in favor of accepting. However, it warned that people will not be satisfied with conditions; tired of NPS bossing us around. There was a public meeting on the Park wilderness proposal in April, which the Havasupai opposed. 

The Havasupai tried to enlist Senator Kennedy’s help, as well as the President’s and that of advocacy groups. However, the FS & NPS were no longer interested, citing arguments over helicopters, packers, and the tram. In May, the Havasupai wrote the Secretary of Agriculture that they wanted the Thumb; there will be no tribal herd or tramway, and we will not surrender to the NPS. IA told FS & NPS that Hirst wrote letter. The Havasupai also made their position clear to the IA: We need land. We were pushed off acre by acre, spring by spring; now we have to let thousands of tourists in. 

Somehow, this time a button was pushed. More publicity followed, and a White House aide called, since there had been lots of letters. Though the IA was saying the Havasupai were doing more harm than good, in November 1972, it claimed Havasupai & Babbitt had made a valid case. In August, compounding its new aggression, the FS decided it wanted all of the Great Thumb; the Havasupai don’t really want to act on grazing. [This FS change of position from its long-time stand (since 1913) is not fully explained in the records I have looked at, so I do not know if it was a DC-down policy or a more intransigeant local Kaibab NF supervisior. The FS had recently been stingingly defeated over the return of Taos Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo, and perhaps that made them mean.] FS claimed all the recent upset came from the Park drawing up a master plan that included taking KNF lands. That had stirred up the Havasupai, leading to meetings with us now proposing exchange with conditions. Anyway the lands do not have any great utility, though nevertheless nothing can be given away. A new Goldwater GCNP bill was reported not to include Havasupai concerns.

At a November 1972 meeting, after a discussion of needs, PS restated its position of trading land for conditions. FS, however, dropped the trade idea; there was too much controversy. The Havasupai repeated their need for land, but were undercut by the IA saying that Havasupai were offered almost everything they wanted, and it would be easier for them to go to Congress if agencies were on their side. Hirst pointed out that times have changed-- the Havasupai were strong on their demands. Goldwater hosted a meeting at his house on 4 December to discuss what should be in the Grand Canyon legislation he wanted to introduce. On December 9, Babbitt met with aide Emerson who, never having heard of the history of FS land offers and the long-standing Havasupai plateau claims, thought the Havasupai were just greedy. Since he knew nothing about the negotiations, he was going to stick with a 60 Kac transfer from NPS. Babbitt concluded that the Havasupai should go direct to Goldwater and invite him to the reservation where the Havasupai could make an urgent appeal. The invitation was sent, and 1973 opened with a helicopter visit from Goldwater and entourage. 

The Havasupai position was put before the Senator: Legislate a transfer of all the FS and NPS lands under permit to us. In addition, they wanted the campground north of Supai, as well as 160 acres near GCV and use of Indian Gardens. They also wanted to protect and to have access to sacred places on GCNP. Everybody was overjoyed at Goldwater’s appearance, down from the sky. He showed familiarity with the issues, He spoke of their complexity, but thought it could be worked out with the agencies. Emerson was not helpful, suggesting only a permit. Babbitt blamed former congressman Murdock for the long-standing situation, not mentioning Hayden, and scoffed at Emerson's idea of any more permits. Goldwater was very optimistic; this is the best time for this to happen. He thought the tip of the Thumb and the rim will be hard, but he was ok on repatriating the falls and campground. A number of Havasupai then spoke, presenting their case on the GCV 160, NPS and grazing land, Wilaha road, and against Park-advocating conservationists. Hirst summed up that it was gratifying to talk with this decent man; chances for the Havasupai were now very bright. It would be embarrassing to oppose the Havasupai’s claim, but they will need to participate in the legislative process. The report later from the follow-up Park bill meeting at Goldwater’s home on 29 Jan 1973 was that he had held his position on the Havasupai land, the subject that dominated the discussion. However, the Hualapai, FS, and Sierra Club all opposed parts of the bill. The NPS –Lovegren had been transferred-- was silent.

With that meeting, this harum-scarum preparatory stage was over, having served to make everybody really, really angry and self-righteous; all ready to duke it out in full Congressional limelight. Not that the old issues held their breath; in May 1974 for instance, NPS again brushed off Havasuapai desires to go to the GCV school, saying the parents had to be employees; they owned nothing in GCNP and perhaps should go to towns to south. 

Sources: Archives of the BIA, NPS, FS. 
Hirst's books on the Havasupai present this story from the Havasupai point of view in much more detail. 

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