Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hualapai, a summary history, to the dam

Dobyns & Euler open their 1975 book on the Hualapai (Walapai) by marking and lamenting the centenary of the Hualapai’s forced entry into the U.S. economy as laborers. This fits my own impression gathered from archives, that the Hualapai see their reservation, only a piece of their original territory, as a place on which to establish a viable economy. If the story of the Havasupai asks, in part, what would their lives & society have been like had the government established an appropriate reservation in 1882, the Hualapai story asks, in part, what happened to a people when they tried to use a reservation that was set aside for them to be able to abide in their ancestral lands. The answers have emphasized different geographic zones of the reservation, not all oriented toward the Grand Canyon. 
The transportation corridor, first dominated by the railroad, then by the highway US 66, was defined by its location away from the Canyon’s difficulties. Grazing, the source of much conflict with whitefolk to start, was again more defined and limited by the Canyon. Logging took place on the high lands of the plateaus the Canyon cut into. Mineral lures resulted in no success, unlike in some other Canyon edge locations. And then came the proposals for a dam & reservoir, with associated electric power and recreational activities. For nearly 40 years, this scheme seemed THE answer. But even as its promise faded into fantasy, the Canyon provided what today may well be the long-sought solution. Successful exploitation of the Canyon’s scenic and recreational qualities by the Hualapai and their business associates may center on the Canyon, but it is powered by the economic energy of the Las Vegas tourist industry, surely a safe bet if any enterprise is. Industrial tourism, dependent on energy-intensive transport and constructed facilities, is a hardy adjunct of the National Park, but it is having its more exuberant flowering in the Hualapai reservation. Future evaluations of the way humans choose to relate to the Grand Canyon will demand comparison and contrast between these two administrations with their very different incentives and constraints.


Even as Hualapai took up residence along the railroad, and tried to find employment, the struggle over the primary matter of land possession had begun. Insofar as Hulapai families and groups would have wanted to return to the land north of the railroad, they were balked by the presence of whitefolk who had occupied their country, especially water sources, during their enforced absence. 
Indeed, the reservation almost appeared to be another trap. The Hualapai were destitute, and expected to be fed. The whitefolk’s cattlegrazing was taking the grass and driving off game. Fire-driven hunts were discouraged. Though some Hualapai found jobs as unskilled labor in mining camps and ranches, others were left confused and restless. The army re-entered, ordered to hand out rations. One example, Charles Spencer, had established a ranch at Mata Widita as a base for running cattle, forming an equivocal relationship by encouraging the Hualapai and learning the language, even as he joined others in occupying and using, stealing, reservation land.. Other whitefolk were less charitable, accusing the Hualapai of rustling cattle and slandering Hualapai supporters. Treating them in the smallpox epidemic of 1883-4 got Dr Warren Day labeled a drunkard. He worried about the Chinese railroad workers selling opium and buying young girls. 

Day thought the Hualapai should run stock. Instead they were starving and freezing. In 1883, there were no army funds, and no IA agent. The Indian Rights Association spoke up about the destitution. Pre-emption of the reservation meant they had to be fed. A Captain Pierce thought the reservation was useless and the Hualapai didn’t want it.  In 1886, Spencer was murdered, and another army officer scorned the reservation and urged removal, even in the face of an order to get rid of the whitefolk and their cattle, an order attacked by the local newspapers, claiming the Hualapai benefitted from cattlemen, who had been there longer than the reservation (all of 15 years). A Colonel Mason said in the winter of 1887 that the Hualapai were in good shape, healthy and well-clothed. There were none on the reservation, nor ever had been; they would be upset if moved there.. Not even worth surveying, since ranchers have taken it up, and located all the waters. Hualapai should be moved west, or south, or somewhere. In 1888, the Mohave County powers called for abolition. Even an IA agent said he saw no Hualapai on the reservation; they stayed along the railroad. The chiefs were all dissatisfied, so best thing is to get rid of reservation and move the Hualapai away. The army offered another view in 1889, calling the whitefolk over-excited and inordinately avaricious. The stockmen and miners have grabbed all the land, and the Hualapai need to be protected. Restriction of land has led to loss of plants, water and game. Disease provided an even scarier tipping point, taking a toll in the 1880’s from measles, smallpox, gonorrhea. With all this stress, there could hardly be a surprise when the Ghost Dance was brought over from the Southern Paiute in 1889. It was seen as a way to get the land back. 

This chaos was not particularly eased in the 1890’s even by having an IA agent, Ewing. He was in favor of keeping the reservation, but leaving the thousands of cattle since the whitefolk’s improvements disproved the land’s worthlessness. Indeed, the Fairleys’ toll road and tourist hotel in the Canyon (Diamond Creek) from 1881 until 1899 was also good for the Hualapai. Still, he recommended that the most valuable part of the reservation be restored to the public domain. Then a school and sawmill could be provided for the Hualapai who can practice farming and ranching. However, Ewing urged, if they are to stay, there should be a survey to back up Hualapai in disputes; it is now the haven of lawlessness. In 1897-8, money for the survey was provided. The local cattlemen tried to discredit it, displeased at the notion of having to lease what they already had free. 

The 1899 and 1901 survey notes tip the hat to the Grand Canyon. The scenery “baffles exaggeration”. The river was inaccessible. Going north from Tinnaka spring, the surveyor spent two days getting as near the river as practicable, and had to use trigonometry to find the distance from the bluff to a sharp rock point near the water’s edge. The examiner checking the work concluded most points were spurious, and the country so rough the surveyor should not even have tried. Nevertheless, the surveyor’s map was deemed approximately correct, so whitefolk had no excuse for thinking they could locate there, though the examiner found no Hualapai on the reservation. This ought to have settled possessory rights. However, the reservation establishment was simultaneous with the Atlantic & Pacific RR laying its tracks, and setting up Peach Springs as a railroad town. The water there was used by the railroad and the local band lost another water source. Escalating its threat, the renamed Santa Fe claimed title to all the odd sections granted it by the act of July 27 1866, i.e., it owned half the Hualapai Reservation.

Ewing both argued over the survey’s accuracy and maintained the effort to regulate whitefolk use. He estimated in 1900 there were over 3000 cattle and 7000 sheep run by about 20 whitefolk,. With the survey done, in 1902 a permit system was approved by the Secretary, and a number of the ranchers did pay up.  

Boostering continued: in 1900, Hualapai wage benefits were available from the supposedly rich Grand Canyon Copper Company mine at Pine Springs, since its 1880 claim was validated. Fifteen tons of bat fertilizer were removed from area caves. Another schemer talked up a railway down to the river, though it may have been only a way to cheat the government over control of Diamond Creek. A 1907 report gave a favorable report on 140 million bd ft of commercial timber, and praised stockraising as the only industry, claiming there could be even more than the five ranches with 3500 head. The government started talking of setting up a tribal herd.

The idea that the herd would be run by an outsider only emphasizes the disjunction between the Hualapai and their reservation, obviously seen in this era as federal land to be exploited by whitefolk. Reports still found no Hualapai use or residence, and although around and surely trying to make their way, they do not figure in any large way as either the main actors or central concern. The railroad, the cattlemen, a few miners and other schemers; the whitefolk, are the concern. The Hualapai are called degraded and not living on the reservation, a view expressed on into the 1920’s. 

With cattle leasing in place, the Santa Fe asked for a survey in 1917 to back up its claim for the fees on half the reservation. In 1919, the IA disputed the railroad’s title, but the Secretary backed the  Santa Fe, arguing that the Hualapai reservation was just an executive order, while the railroad had full, complete, and incontestable title to odd sections. The stage is set for a two-decade epic battle fought, of course, on whitefolk legal and legislative turfs. Stated this way, it would seem a matter of we propose and we dispose. But in truth, the battle was powered and fought to the Supreme Court and after by the determination of the Hualapai themselves, as recounted in McMillan. 

However, the Grand Canyon is of no weight in this story; its qualities contributed nothing to determining this fundamental question of land rights in the American system. That of course is exactly opposite the case for the fight that opened after the reservation rights were settled, whether on part of this land now indisputably the Hualapai’s, a dam would be built. It was fortuitous that as the American political system affirmed uncontestable Hualapai rights, the issue of compensation for the land taken should take shape. The Indian Claims Commission, authorized in 194?, was to end the hither-thither dealing with claims by Indians who had been dispossessed of their lands. Evidence was to be taken to show pre-whitefolk occupancy and use, to determine how many acres had been taken, and to set a dollar figure for compensation to be approved by Congress through an appropriation. Since this 25-year process excluded the reservation, once again the Grand Canyon was irrelevant. With one exception: their claim to half the Colorado River. And this question of the Hualapai Reservation’s northern boundary continues to be important enough that I recount its history in Chapter __


This starts talk of exchange of sections and consolidation of the reservation. Legislation to rectify the situation would take too long, and anyway, in 1923 Representative Hayden speaks against an exchange, wanting a split in half. Britton & Gray, the railroad’s lawyers, complain that the reservation messes them up, leading to removal of timber and grazing use that deprives them of revenue. Peach Spring is also theirs. A re-survey being done, there is talk of legislation to consolidate the railroad’s lands. In 1925-6 Hayden launches a consolidation bill, S. 877, and it passes. In spite of Hayden’s continuing pressure, the SFRR moves slowly.
In 1928, Snyje on record talking of Hualapai at various springs, back in 1870’s, as part of Light report, with affidavits, supporting Hualapai use and ownership, ironic given Light’s earlier hostility to Hualapai claims. Report supports story that miners influenced their removal to inappropriate reservation, and that they came right back. Nevertheless, the conclusion favors a “reasonable” settlement over a court fight. There was talk of compromise over the water at Peach Springs in 1929. However, 1930, brought Hagerman as a special representative to work for resolution. He knows the Hualapai will object to a consolidations, but after the agreement favoring the SFRR by it and Interior, Hagerman tried to convince the Hualapai by hectoring and lecturing, mistakenly chiding them for not doing more for themselves. Brosius of IRA attacks government for bartering away most valuable portion of the reservation.  But government view is still that SFRR has title. Debate continued over this division into 1931. Hualapai object to getting worse half, and that they were forced to move away. Hagerman scoffs, says they wont use reservation anyway. IA officials are in favor of the exchange, but subordinates don’t agree, saying Hualapai are doing well on grazing. 
A Solicitor’s opinion that twists and turns to support SFRR does admit that in 1919 IA backed prior occupancy, and that Hualapai were forced off land.
The 1932 hearing presented Hualapai evidence on occupancy; many spoke of personal experiences on land. CIA Rhoads toes railroad line, discounting Hualapai testimony as weak, and urging exchange. May 1932, Collier attack argues for going to court, since SFRR seized land. Denounces Hagerman and IA management, and Hagerman sneers at his “befogging literary style”. Monahan report another effort to trash Hualapai claims, suggesting they had left land. 
Collier, of AIDA, in May position paper poses this as a major American Indian issue, so there should be no deal, but adjudication; calls for Senate action to direct government to start suit. Reprises history, saying railroad grant required a voluntary cession, and there was war instead, not Hualapai leaving land. When SFRR filed in 1872, Hualapai still in possession, and even the 1874-5 round-up by army was half-hearted, not comprehensive, and only temporary. The reservation proclamations did not mention the railroad claim. Point is, go to court for final adjudication. There should be no deal based on error-ridden reports contrary to 1928 Light report based on Hualapai statements. Also, Solicitor’s report misconstrues 1925 act; it did not recognize SFRR rights. The whole business of appointing Hagerman was pro-railroad, and he should be brushed off as he brushed off Hualapai desires. And so, when Collier takes over BIA in 1933, policy becomes that land is and will be Hualapai’s. He summarizes hopes that stock and timber can support reservation life; now largely wage labor along railroad. For instance, there is now a fine herd of 4000 head.

In 1934, Fred Mahone developed a far-sighted plan to move away from cattle raising. The plan includes a toll road down Peach Springs canyon to reach Lake Mead. Incidentally, the Bureau of Reclamation had found that no usable land would be reach by the reservoir, so no damage was being done by the rising waters. Mahone called it a “Desert Playground in the Ancient Old Indian Country”. Power boats could provide access to the reservoir. There could be gas stations, cabins, horse trips for tourists, and perhaps villages near the Peach Springs and Diamond Creek. Roads could run out to Diamond Creek rim, to Mudwhitica, the Hualapai ancestral home, and to “our cousins” the Havasupai. Tourists could hear from the old scouts, buy baskets and beadwork, and watch tribal ceremonies. Mahone’s conclusion about such development to attract tourists (over a half century before it finally is happening): “We can become self-supporting.” The BIA comment called Mahone ambitious and overzealous, but a failure as a leader. The roads would cost $100,000, and would only be used by sightseers, not helping the grazing business.

After this visionary proposal, the BIA talked of having big plans. However, nothing happened, and  in 1936, there was only a fuss over the Havasupai gathering pinon nuts and hunting at Pine Springs. The BIA continued to complain about how the cattle were managed. And when there was an NPS-BIA plan for reservoir development, the Hualapai were treated as passive observers to agency activities. So in 1936-7, when there was a suggestion for a rest at Quartermaster Canyon, the BIA discouraged it; the Hualapai do not have the management skills. A 1938 evaluation was more positive, though saying Hualapai only wanted to lease the land; in the event, there was silting-in. That year also continued talk of possible logging. The land case evidence was being compiled, showing bands at Peach, Pine, Milkweed and Muttawittaka, with gardens and ditches. In Spencer’s time, there were 215 around his place, but they moved off to railroad. 
The Bridge Canyon damsite was brought up in 1939, the Hualapai wanting to know how a dam would benefit them. The forming of a tribal council brought a more continued recording of economic concerns from now on. Prospecting was suggested and discounted. Non-Hualapai hunting was barred, as were peddlers and archeological requests. 

In 1941 the Supreme Court finally ruled that a tribal claim can exist even without formal government action. There had been no voluntary cession here inside reservation. Following the decision, in 1942 the CIA interpreted it as saying that the Hualapai existed as a tribe  even without formal recognition. Forcible removal didn’t forfeit their original rights. The SFRR had quitclaimed, so it should account for acts on land. The disputes over lands outside res, and in strip on west side continue; the trouble is with military description & early survey. Hualapai were said not to understand technicalities of surveying, but they never abandoned the land. Thus even though the Hualapai had driven the fight to keep their land and won, the whitefolk were trying to present the scenario only in their political and legal terms. It was in this spirit that in spite of the Supreme Court decision, the SFRR continued to try to confuse the issues for several years, even after it had been bought off by legislation that exchanged a quitclaim for relief from rate control.

The years of World War II brought the Bureau of Reclamation surveying crews, pestering by prospectors, a timber sale, and drought. War’s end introduced a new actor, as the tribal council, overcoming many doubts due to previous experiences, decided in September 1946 to hire Phoenix law firm Marks & Marks, to represent the tribe and also to prepare their case before the recently activated Indian Claims Commission. And as the year turned, the final issues with the SFRR were brought to settlement through the work of Felix Cohen, called by the BIA the Hualapai’s proven friend, who had made the difficult  and complex legal questions clear.


With a reservation base secure, the Hualapai search for economic prosperity became the continuing and paramount concern. Coincidentally –the SFRR out of the way, the war followed by renewed development in the West – the first great push by the federal government and Arizona for a dam actually in the Grand Canyon began, an effort that consumed Hualapai attention, and that of attorney Royal Marks for three decades. [page 9 of notes] The story of the Hualapai and the dam – originally identified as the Bridge Canyon site, for a nearby side canyon, then later renamed for the Hualapai – has three episodes: Arizona’s first effort in early 1950’s, the big push in 1963-8, and a sideshow during the legislative effort for an appropriate Grand Canyon National Park in the 1970’s. 

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