Friday, November 25, 2011


Part 1

In WE ARE AN INDIAN NATION  A History of the Hualapai People (U. of Arizona Press, 2010), J.P. Shepherd dedicates his work to "the people of the Hualapai nation", and then spends several pages introducing the ambiguity and ambivalence that attend his book and the Hualapai -- just like the history & politics of the rest of us. 

"The point of this book, then, is that colonization and persistence can exist in the same geographical and interpretive space."(page 8) Of course it can, for under other names, these are the qualities that characterize the actors, players, protagonists, who engage with each other in the American political-legal system; the system, Shepherd would remind us, put into place by whitefolk conquest. And in this system, colonizers and persisters, dominant groups and challengers, rulers and petitioners, stand-patters and protesters, the status quo and the counter-culture; all come and go, form, shape up, exercise power in some way, fade or get a place at the trough.  

Shepherd offers this: " 'Indian nation,' in particular, indicates Hualapais' sense of themselves as a politically, legally, culturally, and geographically distinct people." (p.11); "an organic sense of peoplehood articulated in lived experiences and ongoing struggles to hold onto land, history, and cultural homelands."(p.12)   I would add a "distinct people" who operate within (and Euler & Dobyns would argue have been in part defined by) the American political-legal system. Shepherd then seeks to keep both his allegiance and his analytical framework by quoting this (p.12): "The ideal of the nation, transplanted across the globe from its Western heartlands, has brought with it confusion, instability, strife and terror (offering) a narrow, conflict-laden legitimation for political community, which inevitably pits culture-communities against each other." Well, as I have pointed out in other posts, I believe this kind of "legitimation" arises from the political organization that grew out of the Neolithic Revolution, with its invention of agriculture, property, settlement, and eventually the state. If he thinks the "ideal of the nation" has brought "strife and terror", he should take a look at the 1000 years of the Byzantine Empire.

To return to the subject, and trading on Shepherd's terms, what characterizes the Hualapai, and the neighboring Havasupai, is how formidably they have persisted until the time arrived when they could become, if not colonizers, then the dominant group in their arena. The tools, arguments, and rhetoric they use are, of course, "distinct", particular to them and their situation. Their successes are directly attributable to their skill and activism in deploying their particular tools to push for their goals. That is the way the American political-legal system works. Shepherd prefers to recast the system into the more pejorative terms that "American Indian historiography owes … to decolonization scholarship and decolonial narratives."(9) Nothing wrong with that; it places his book squarely in the category of another element usable by the Hualapai in pushing their agenda. 

What the book does not do is concern itself overly about accuracy or comprehensiveness so far as the narrative it purports to relate. Whether this is a contempt for "colonialist" history or sloppy writing is not clear to me, but while it serves its purpose as a political tool, I did not find it reliable as a source or in recounting the Hualapai's story. I would contrast it in this regard with the detailed and inspiring MAKING INDIAN LAW: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory by Christian W. McMillen (Yale Press, 2007). (Shepherd and McMillen, equally pro-Hualapai, are friends and colleagues, as each makes clear in his acknowledgements.) This suggests to me that perhaps Shepherd's much larger canvas led to his making unfortunate compressions.

My conclusion, then, is that it seeks to "help undo the long trajectory of colonialism" by "providing a forum for listening to the voices of Hualapais as they adapted to and resisted change around them"(10). Yet it eschews satisfaction at Hualapai triumphs. The Skywalk "was an unpredictable alliance created from economic desperation and bold decision by a tribe that has surmounted incredible obstacles." Thus he limits the opportunity to celebrate (to use the word) how the Hualapai have overcome, by persistence and skill, and with important alliances, in their long and continuing effort to make the Reservation an economic foundation for their prosperity. That is how I understand the story of the Hualapai and their Reservation. Without denigrating any other aspects of Hualapai life, I believe they have for 130 years concentrated on this goal, which is, after all, a very common, very human, activity. They have sought this goal through wage labor, grazing, logging, mineral leasing, dam-building, gambling, recreation, and tourism. Often, that goal over a century+ has been inextricably intertwined with the Grand Canyon as a physical place, a locus of economic activity, and as for all of us, an iconic indicator of how humans in their varieties deal with their home planet. 
Part 2

The rhetoric of Shepherd's analytic framework is enough different from mine that I have puzzled over a method to deal with his book. What I have done is go through the index and pull out clusters of entries that I believe cover how Shepherd has dealt with the Hualapai and their connections with the Canyon. In presenting them, I will try to be less concerned with his accuracy and tilt than with trying to gather and present the threads of a Hualapai/Grand Canyon tapestry. 

In the index, there is no entry for the Grand Canyon as such, nor for Hoover dam, Lake Mead or the LM National Recration Area. The most relevant entries seem to be the Colorado River, origin stories, NPS/GCNP, river running and recreation, dams and related items, Sierra Club, GC West, Skywalk, and water rights. Other entries that need to be checked include the Havasupai, Indian Claims Commission, Dobyns & Euler, Royal Marks, Sec. Int. Babbitt, mining, farming & ranching. The numbers in parentheses are pages in the book. 

I start with something that puzzles me; not, I hope, because in my skipping around, I missed Shepherd's explanation. He uses 'Hualapais' as plural, implying a grouping of individuals, instead of Hualapai as a collective noun. Also he uses the terms Pai and Pais, perhaps in part to include the Havasupai, though this is not always clear. Such usages can be tempting, and sometimes contentious.

In his Introduction's summary, Shepherd writes of the Hualapai waging "a three-decade-long campaign to build Bridge Canyon dam across the Colorado River in an effort to bring water and electricity to the reservation." The campaign may have been even longer; he does not indicate whether the Council ever formally withdrew its support for the proposed Hualapai Dam in the Grand Canyon. Please note the differences: Given the effort the Hualapai put in getting the name change, why go back to the old Bureau of Reclamation label? And to say a dam across the river, instead of in the Grand Canyon, smacks to me of old-time Reclamation misdirection. It is similarly misleading to speak of bringing water and electricity to the reservation, neither of which the dam would have done; indeed, it would have evaporated tens of thousands of acre-feet of water a year. And, it was a dam to be operated to generate high-priced peaking power as a way to maximize revenue for water-transport development, most importantly for urban areas, Phoenix and Los Angeles being prime recipients. Do such cavils matter? To me, his wording tries to personalize the dam and its purposes, while placing the Hualapai in the forefront of "the campaign". I would argue that this attempt by the boomers and boosters at massive industrialization of the Grand Canyon used --or gave into-- the Hualapai as prettying-up of what would have been an ugly, counter-productive destruction of the region. While the Hualapai would have gained revenue, at least partial control of recreation resources and some additional power -- thus boosting the reservation's economy -- it would have been in the service of the national, regional, and state entities that were only too happy to buy off the Hualapai in exchange for the good publicity they brought. That is to say, the colonialism of the Hualapai that Shepherd decries would have intensified.

In his next sentence, he writes of "their exclusion from regional water compacts that allocated the water, which Hualapais could not use despite their reservation running along one hundred miles of the river." Well, rights to water in the West depend little on riparian ownership. The Colorado is a federalized river, or in Shepherd's terms, the whitefolk conquest of the West included domination of the Colorado and its colonialization through multiple levels of government. What interests me about this statement is that as far as I can tell, the book totally ignores the fact that the Hualapai have never made a peep about the repeated drowning, silting-in, plant invasion of, and re-excavation of a strip of their reservation along almost 40 of that 100 miles. In the Hualapai story as it unfolded in the 1920's and 30's, it is not hard to see how they  could have been paying attention to matters other than the promotion and construction of Hoover Dam, completed in 1936. Neither then nor later did they demand compensation, water, electricity, or even recreation rights. Yet that 40 miles has been irrevocably taken over by the vagaries of regional water supply and management, apparently with no remuneration of any kind to the Hualapai. Why not? 

Also in the Introduction, he notes the bright spot of "the creation of the Hualapai River Runners, the only Native-owned and -operated rafting business on the Colorado." 
However, the Hualapai (and here I will scan in the text on 16)
Great rhetoric: "perceived power", "ongoing colonialism", "much like the Santa Fe", "despite origin stories and tribal memories", "Devaluing", "legitimate owners of the land", "deploying the powers of the state", "alienate them from the river", "and their cultural identity", "the hegemonic powers", "contemporary American governance". Powerful stuff, this. 

The above is, of course, all about the northern boundary of the Reservation, about which I have written a number of entries. It is relevant to note here & now that the Park Service is preparing a long-overdue rigorous review of the boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park. When that is made public (public input was not wanted during the last two years as the intra-agency discussions have tried to deal with the ambiguities), there will no doubt be more to say about the quoted land mines above. I would like to note here that it was Congress and the President, not the Park Service, who extended the Park's boundary on the south bank of the river along the Reservation. The Park Service over-reached in its interpretation of "bank", but it was Congress passing a law defining the Park boundary that deployed the powers of the state to alienate the Hualapai from the river and confine them to the riverbank, locking them onto their million acres. The Park Service has since issued them a permit to use the river, like all the other down-trodden colonials NPS allows to float downstream for fun and profit.

Speaking of "origin stories and tribal memories", Shepherd offers this one on 18-9:  Canes were cut from river and piled on the riverbank, becoming people. These moved around, always near Madwida, their birthplace "on the CR". But they argued, and so were told to leave Madwida. Under a variety of spellings (whitefolk maps use Meriwhitica), Madwida is a canyon with a broad floor, leading to an "Indian Gardens", which has a spring and ruins from the time when it was regularly used by one or more of the bands that came to constitute the Hualapai. It is actually a side canyon two miles from the river up Spencer (named, but not ironically, for one of the XVIII-century whitefolk ranchers who deployed their powers to alienate the Hualapai from the springs), which itself cuts on down through the schists to the mainstem of the Grand Canyon at river mile 246. Lake Mead has been here, depositing silt, and the canes are now replaced by other exotic vegetation. Shepherd's recounting emphasizes people originating in the region--but downstream of where Hoover dam is-- a version of the story that has a flood, with a Being striking his spear to create a grand gash, so the waters ebb away, allowing the peoples to settle at Madwida.

In passing, Shepherd notes on 20 that the Hualapai did trade "extensively" with the Southern Paiute living north of the Colorado. The extent of activity across and along the river is, again, a matter stimulated by boundary claims, with testimony given during the Indian Claims Commission attempt to determine exclusive use and occupancy from time immemorial, as the formula goes. Just as the Hualpaai were pressed (including a war) from the south, the Southern Paiute were pressed by the Latter-Day Saints coming from the north. Testimony spoke of Southern Paiute coming across the river, and even marrying. When and how intensely is probably not recoverable now, though, as Shepherd points out (20) about the origin stories, "they deemphasize linear time", creating "cultural landscapes that explain behavior, import morals, and often mark the boundaries of the community itself".

This deemphasis really shows up on 20 with "The eastern stretches of Hualapai territory cross the Little Colorado River and overlap land of their allies, the Hopis and Navajos, with whom Hualapais share a common reverence for the San Francisco Peaks." This benign summary of a highly complex narrative is maybe just more conflation of the Havasupai and the Hualapai, although it rings a bit of cultural imperialism. It is in the class with "Evidence of Pai habitation in northwestern Arizona stems from excavations along the Colorado River…", leaving hanging the questions of "which Pai" and "what part of the river". Certainly not in the Canyon, where intensive archeological work has yet to be done.

How the reservation boundaries came to be (54-60) is an object of consuming interest, and I would have been delighted to have learned of more than the events of July 1881, when Hualapai and USArmy officers met and settled on lines that were first the military reservation, then the Presidential one. On 54-5, Shepherd points to an 1875 discussion several times, finally identifying it as the subject of a 1928 letter which posited a staking out of the Hualapai "claim" by Hualapai, army, and rancher Spencer. Unfortunately, no detail is provided as to the justification for any part of what came to be the boundary description. Also puzzlingly, Shepherd says, referring to the Big Sandy Band, the reservation "ran along the Colorado River and placed the band near their point of origin, Spirit Mountain". Its territory is some distance south of the main reservation, so they had a right to be concerned about a reservation which runs "along the Colorado River", but in the Grand Canyon. Spirit Mountain is in Nevada, by the way. More relevant is Shepherd's report (57) that the army had found 200 Hualapai around Spencer's ranch in Matawidita(sic) Canyon in the years around 1881. 
Part 3

Chapter 7, "Local Realities in an Era of Self-Determination",  subsection "A Hundred Miles on the River and Not an Ounce of Water", (168-82), takes up the issues most directly concerning the Grand Canyon: water, dams, the National Park Service, Park enlargement and related matters. Shepherd sets his stage with a disingenuous fantasy that with 100 miles of the reservation's boundary along the Colorado, "the tribe should not have had difficulty finding water, and yet it did".(169) 

He takes up the boundary first, stating that the 1883 Executive Order did not make clear where that boundary lay, allowing disagreement "over whether or not the boundary went to the center of the river or to the low- or high-water mark". While this ambiguity might have favored the Hualapai, he says, regional water use & compacts, and "the power of the Grand Canyon National Park" outweighed Hualapai interests. "(GCNP) expansion … created a powerful political counterbalance to Hualapais' claims that their boundary went to the center of the river. Indeed, the park had always opposed Hualapais' claims to the river, as it had direct lines of communication with the Department of the Interior and the office of the president. The park made repeated claims that the interests of the states and the general public, which relied on the river, vastly outweighed the needs of the Hualapai." Shepherd has no citations to support these goofy statements (totally untrue so far as I know), footnoting only a 1975 book on water and the West by N. Hundley about the Colorado River Compact. Of course, since the park is administered by NPS, a bureau of Interior, there is communication in the chain of the superintendent/region/DC offices/NPS Director/Ass't Secretary & minions/Secretarial subordinates/Secretary. But with the president's office? What fantasy of American government does Shepherd subscribe to? Now, if he had pointed out something parallel to the time that a Havasupai lobbyist had a contact in the Nixon White House and so was able to bring about a presidential endorsement of taking land from GCNP and adding it to the Havasupai Reservation, that would be something. 

Shepherd continues that the Compact excluded the Hualapai (as it did everybody but the fed and the seven basin states). He then goes on to say that "few Hualapais even lived on the reservation", a curious admission in this context. Then he asserts that events after World War II further led to "structur(ing) the history of bureaucratic colonialism, technocratic exclusion, regional politics, and western demographic growth, which merged to alienate Hualapais from the river of their origins." In fact, right after WWII, the Hualapai were empowered by their successful effort to be included in legislation authorizing Bridge Canyon dam, a position they maintained in the 1950's and 60's, first through their partnership with the Arizona Power Authority and then during the (fortunately) failed attempt by Reclamation and the basin states to gain authorization for the Grand Canyon dams. And what does he mean by "river of their origins"--the part of the Colorado dealt with in their origin stories is, as I pointed out, way downstream and in Nevada. Shepherd's problem here is that he is jumbling together the question of the right to use the river's water, their effort to participate in the benefits of a dam in the Grand Canyon, and the question raised later of who was to regulate river traffic through the Canyon.

After an excursion into the sad story of the Peach Springs, Shepherd goes back to the early XXth-century and Girand's thwarted run at a Diamond Creek damsite (see my 2 May 2010 post for a full story). Whether as Shepherd asserts, Girand did not "consult" the Hualapai, he did worry about them. Moreover, Shepherd then goes on to confuse Girand with La Rue and the 1923 USGS river survey. He continues this confusion by squashing events, agencies and persons active in dam history in the 1930's and 40's. On 171 though, he does point out that the Hualapai were more concerned about their exclusion from discussions than about the "proposed flooding of the reservation". (As I pointed out earlier, they have never objected to the actual flooding by Hoover dam's reservoir.) Perhaps triggered by the then-current Arizona state effort,  the Council passed a resolution of May 1939 asking the Federal Government for a portion of the water and a share of the power; 

Shepherd ignores the successful effort to get Hualapai interests considered in the first CAP legislation, as he ignores the work of (non-Hualapai) tribal attorneys and other allies. He does introduce lawyer R. Marks in 1957 as part of talks with the Arizona Power Authority, which "began what seemed to be a fruitful relationship"(it was actually 1956).(172) Fruitful monetarily, too, since the APA paid the Hualapai a retainer, which continued into the late 1970's as an element of their partnership in pursuit of a Grand Canyon dam. For some reason, on 173, Shepherd is in a knot about Hualapai dam support. He stresses their right to determine what they could do with their land "even if that included flooding a portion of their reservation" and "even if their support for the dam was a surprising expression of self-determination". He talks of their leaders trying to balance damage to the reservation with potential benefits, but presents nothing about "damage" along with the quotes on benefits. I would be happy to find evidence of Hualapai discussions about damage to the Canyon; especially about the real and continuing effects of Hoover's reservoir. 

Shepherd continues his summary of the events of the mid-1960's, still tangling the various threads of that already-complex story, and emphasizing that Hualapai property rights were not being protected.(176) However, he says nothing about the exciting events of 1966-8 in which the Hualapai were able make their case for participation, including having the proposed Bridge Canyon dam re-designated as "Hualapai dam", still its moniker. Even though it suits his overall presentation of the Hualapai as victims, his audience, and I think the Hualapai, would have been better served had he found the space to celebrate Hualapai successes in the dam politics of 1948-68. I have written about some of this in my 2010 entries on the dam fight.

Shepherd, interestingly, wrapped up the entire Park enlargement issue (177) with some vague sentences about promoting the project and traveling to Washington to advocate the dam. He completely omits the two-year effort Hualapai leaders, attorneys, & allies made to get pro-dam language in the GCNP enlargement bill. This would not matter if it were not for what he does write about. Still, I cannot resist offering this tidbit of Shepherdian analysis: "it was this odd combination of environmental sentiment against dams, a renewed and reactionary interest in fossil fuels, and an international political economy shaped by the cold war that worked against the Hualapai Dam." My.

However, Shepherd has smaller fish to fry, for (178-81) he is in full cry after "The Grand Canyon National Park, a seemingly benign bureaucracy with a relatively positive image". It "emerged during the dam controversy as an increasingly influential foe of Indian tribes in the Southwest". Support for this comes from three books that, I agree, weigh in on the side of our First Americans. So, for Shepherd, "The park and the tribe disagreed over economic development and natural resource management, … resurrect(ing) a near-century-old series of questions about the boundaries of the reservation and the tribe's ability to control its future economy and cultural history." This all, he writes, has its roots in conflicts between Indian nations and resources bureaucrats. 

Shepherd summarizes the fight over the Canyon's designation, when "(NPS Director Mather) pushed in 1919 for President Woodrow Wilson to bring the Grand Canyon into the national park system. He did".(179) It is difficult, he writes, to know if the Hualapai knew about the park, but later events introduced them to NPS and "one of its frequent defenders, the Sierra Club. And it must have been a surprise when the Sierra Club, led by David Brower, questioned the motives of the tribe for supporting the Bridge Canyon Dam in the 1950s and 1960s." So much for that 50 years of history. "After several rounds of debate via national newspapers and periodicals, the Hualapais eventually invited Brower to the reservation for a trip down the river to see the artifacts and paintings on the canyon walls. They hoped such an excursion would demonstrate their history along the river and convince the club that their prior occupancy gave them the moral right to use the canyon for their survival." Stop a second. Shepherd says he is getting this from L.Morehouse, A Place Called Grand Canyon (a book I hope to deal with sometime soon). Too bad with all his access to Hualapai and their archives, he could not have illuminated this important debate, which had significant Hualapai successes (he does not even mention Henry Dobyns here, for instance). Oh, and Brower did go down the river at the peak of the dam fight in 1966. No artifacts; no paintings. But he did end up convinced that the prior occupancy of the area by the Grand Canyon gave it the moral right to survive without the unnecessary catastrophe of Hualapai dam.

Continuing: "The Sierra Club remained convinced of its mission to stop all economic activity within the Grand Canyon…Indeed, the Hualapais could convince neither the Sierra Club nor the National Park Service of their claims to the region." I wrote in my 27 Sep 2009 entry of the far-sighted Hualapai activist Fred Mahone, who in 1934, laid out a detailed plan for recreational use on the reservation arising from Hoover's reservoir. He got no Hualapai or BIA support for that very sensible economic activity within the Canyon. The second part of the statement is simply a lie. Whatever the dispute over the northern boundary, no one that I know of, Sierra Club or NPS or whatever, disputes the Hualapai ownership of the Reservation, and their right to do to it as they (and the money-bags from Las Vegas) wish.

Shepherd starts his summary of the 1972-5 GCNP enlargement fight with a howler: "the Hualapais defended their boundaries and access to the Colorado River when the park gained support for a new round of expansion to the west along the northern reservation border".(179) Defend their boundaries is the one thing the Hualapais did not do. During the 1972-5 period, they were obsessed with distorting the park enlargement legislation with some nasty language supposedly recognizing their right to build a dam, although they had been told by principal bill sponsor Senator Goldwater that the dam was dead and they should leave it alone. Their tribal officials, lobbyists, and allies kept right on pushing dead dam language, AND TOTALLY IGNORED THE BOUNDARY MATTER. Never once in over two years did they raise any objection as the legislation progressed, with the House  resolving ambiguity by placing the southern park boundary (miles 164.8-273.1) on the south bank of the Colorado, a decision to which the Senate & the President then agreed. The Hualapai statements that Shepherd quotes all have to do with the park enlargement making the dam even deader, not with the boundary matter. 

Watching as the Hualapai lobby went about Capitol Hill on its dam errand, I kept wondering why they did not raise the boundary question. Shepherd does not deal with this important historical question, preferring to segue quickly to 1975, and the post-congressional action by the Park Service claiming to the high-water mark--a puzzle I have tangled with in several October 2011 entries. Here he is on firm ground, though he adds no new information. He seems to prefer rhetoric (180-1). He complains that the Havasupai won an increase to their reservation, but the Hualapai efforts "to gain control over its land and resources" were ignored by the "hostile Grand Canyon National Park". He adds that "even in the twenty-first century, the Hualapai and the national park remain deadlocked in disagreement over boundaries and jurisdiction on the river". Contrary to his statement, those two parties, under a 2000 Memorandum of Understanding, met regularly through 2004 to discuss and deal with river issues in a forum of cooperation. Why the meetings stopped (there was a brief re-start in 2007-8) and how all this fits in with the park's river management plan of 2006, are questions Shepherd does not deal with, though he takes up river issues with the usual pejorative rhetoric on 202-3.  

The sketchiness of his material does not stop Shepherd from sweeping to the claim that the Colorado River "constituted a central place in Hualapai identity: it was their place of origin, it watered their gardens, and it constituted a geographic boundary and marker for their identity."(182) I would answer to these three: 1. yes, but the origin was downstream, not along the current reservation; 2. no, "it" did not, although some of their gardens were in the Canyon's side canyons and up on its plateau; 3. the Hualapai bands and peoples used and occupied a much larger and more southerly area than the Canyon, and the river constituted a porous "boundary" and mutual place of crossing by both Hualapai and Southern Paiute individuals. 
Part 4
Final considerations

There are entries in his index that indicate that Shepherd takes up other economic areas the Hualapai worked on as bases for their prosperity: grazing, logging, and mineral leasing, especially for uranium. His chapter 8 takes a look at the on-going tourist development on the northwestern rim, including the Skywalk. There are the usual swipes at the National Park Service, and Hualapais are quoted on both sides of the tourism development issue. 

In chapter 6, Shepherd takes up the Indian Claims Commission(148-50). In his telling, for some reason, he disses long-term tribal attorney, Royal Marks, saying that in the 1950's the Hualapai "also had the commitment of Royal Marks", although he had been hired by the tribe almost ten years before. Given Marks' 30+-year involvement in the tribe's political life (especially on the dam issue) from 1946, I would guess Shepherd's treatment of Marks' role was part of the former's desire to feature Hualapai leadership in all things. Shepherd does claim that tribal members "stressed the importance of the midstream and center of their boundary on the Colorado River, since there had been debate about whether or not the reservation ended at the high-water mark or the 'spine' of the river. If the tribe could prove that its aboriginal lands extended into the center, it could strengthen its legal claim to the river." Which may be true, but it was not in the first two drafts of their ICC brief, and they had to be reminded of it by the tribal business manager. Shepherd also fails to mention that the ICC decided that the aboriginal lands did not go to the center of the river (my entry of 6 Oct 2011).

In conclusion, the book seems to succeed in its goal of placing the Hualapai front & center. Personally, I find the Hualapai saga of trying to make their reservation into a supportive economic base inspiring. I can hardly cheer for all their choices, but they have been pretty consistent and very persistent; their successes deserve to be better celebrated. Their vision as one of the principal landowners in the Grand Canyon is their own, not imposed and not without worth. I certainly wish that the administration of Grand Canyon National Park were now and had been a cooperative force, as the 1975 Enlargement Act encouraged it to be. Issues and disagreements ought to be resolved.

No comments:

Post a Comment