Sunday, February 17, 2013

PL93-620 R: The Havasupai Reservation Enlargement Act of 1975: Setting The Scene

Telling the story of Public Law 93-620 so far, through 1973 to the start of 1974, has been seemingly spinning out a single more-or-less coherent narrative thread. And truly, it would be possible to maintain this thread all the way through the final act of Presidential approval in January 1975. The legislation was conceived of and pushed as creating a Park more descriptive of the extent of the Canyon itself, although the range of opinion on the most accurate description was not just wide, but had been evolving over several years; well, over the decades, in truth. 
  This Park-centered narrative did continue through 1974, brought to a mangled conclusion in the final events. That narrative, responding throughout to our determination to "complete" the Park --and the push back by those who disagreed with us--, does have, as I say, its own coherence; it is a stand-alone story.

But that story is not the story of Public Law 93-620.

It is an ironic, to-be-remarked-upon, coincidence, though coincidence it is, that the history of the Canyon's Park began in the early 1880's, at the same historical moment that that other whitefolk creation, an Indian Reservation for the Havasupai, was brought into being and American history. Others, and I, have related the history of the increasing entanglement  of that Reservation and that Park, a history that makes clear why, on the one hand, legislation to enlarge a Park was necessarily also legislation to enlarge an Indian Reservation, and on the other, why the fight over the latter was so full of anger and seemingly irreconcilable positions. 
Which, I have to remark, is only to be expected in our advocacy-organized, invective-inviting, political system. 

So here is the story-teller's problem: To carry the two stories along on their own paths, coordinated though they were at key points, or to weave them into a single chronology. 
In my posts of 16, 20, & 27 Jul 2011, I followed the latter course, using Havasupai-friendly sources. However, contemporaneous with the events, there exists another set of papers that I gathered or received at the time; also, of course, there were my journal entries. These materials provide the base for a second telling of the Havasupai story line, and in this post,  I will continue to keep that line separate, summarizing my contemporaneous view of the Havasupai effort.

It is important to keep two caveats in mind: 1) I was not part of the effort to repatriate some Havasupai lands by enlarging the Reservation, and do not bring to this summary the kind of personal knowledge that Hirst, for instance, does in his history. 2. I was heavily involved in the anti-repatriation effort, convinced that it was wrong to, as we phrased it then, remove some of the Canyon from the Park to a private-property-like status for economic purposes. Indeed, as I sort through the papers I have from that time, I find it all too easy to re-inhabit the emotional roller coaster the Havasupai cause generated. 
Which is not to say that I regret the outcome, much as it is fun to contemplate more Park-friendly what-ifs.The matter of an appropriate land base for the Havasupai had been festering for nearly a century, blocked from any resolution by people and pressures I have suggested in my posts that review the history of those years. So, painful as the process was, the repatriation was a necessary and correct legislative achievement of 1974. More to the point, from what I can tell, since 1975, the Havasupai have kept faith with how P.L. 93-620 turned out. What we feared as far as precedent and inappropriate development has not happened. I would be glad to read more positive assessments of their success by Havasupai and others.
In the rest of this entry, then, I will present a schematic guide to the Havasupai-oriented events of 1973-4 drawn from the materials in my files. I see them in four stages.
1. Senate consideration was, in brief, a disaster. Senator Goldwater did keep his promise and put forward an enlarged reservation in his bill. However, the events leading up to and away from the Senate hearing deflated this initiative, when Goldwater was confronted by opposition from the Park & Forest Services and non-governmental groups. Superficially, the Havasupai had obtained much support, but it was not deployed to any effect either publicly in the hearing or quietly through lobbying. From my perspective, the Havasupai Washington effort was a no-show throughout 1973, Senate consideration and the beginning of House action. I emphasize this because it so contrasts with what happened when competent, well-connected, lobbying leadership was deployed on behalf of the Havasupai cause from March 1974. 

2. Concurrently, Havasupai carried out a year-long effort from March 1973 to change the position of the Sierra Club and other pro-Park advocates, a hurtful diversion that wasted their time, fortified Club resistance, and put off the time when they were able to focus whole-heartedly and positively on the job that really mattered -- enlisting key congressional allies. This side-show, with all its heat, is still worth exploring for what it says about how Americans go about participating in politics of various kinds and at various levels. The effort peaked in early 1974, and dwindled as the Havasupai campaign was re-oriented by shrewd new leadership toward achieving the necessary legislative goals. 

3. February 10 was an important marker; the tv program "Sixty Minutes" featured the Havasupai case prominently, making it a national agenda item. I remember a knowledgeable senatorial aide assessing its positive weight for the Havasupai cause. For the moment, the congressional wheels remained on the same path until March 4th when the Parks subcommittee approved a Grand Canyon bill still with only a Havasupai study. This was the galvanizing event, leading a national organization, American Association for Indian Affairs, to enlist lobbyists. Most important was Phoenix attorney Joe Sparks, who organized the push to convince Udall of the rightness of the Havasupai gola, and thus to change his position and endorse immediate Havasupai land repatriation in April. This success was followed up as Sparks moved on to connections in the President's office, turning the Administration landscape upside-down by getting a statement May 5 from still-President Nixon that took the Havasupai side. Ironically, it was almost on the same day that the national Sierra Club reaffirmed its position against the Havasupai getting Park land. These two events signaled that the diversion was over; now the battle would be a straight-forward pro and con confrontation in the full Interior Committee to grant Havasupai sovereignty over some of their aboriginal lands. What gives this narrative some piquancy is that for the first time, we were defending the legislation as it then stood, instead of trying to get it changed. Shoes were on several feet, and vigorous kicks would be exchanged.

4. Both sides worked  over the summer to line up committee votes.  The bill was taken up on July 31, with the Havasupai transfer resoundingly approved. The battle was perhaps even more fierce over the next two months, as the bill moved to the floor of the House, which voted for the legislation without change in early October. A period of public calm and private negotiation followed, leading up to the House-Senate conference, a meeting of great dismay for those of us who had been working for an appropriately complete Grand Canyon National Park, but one of even greater joy for the Havasupai and their allies. There was a final scramble to have the bill vetoed, which failed as President Ford signed it, without any ceremony, on 3 Jan 1975. 

I have little to add for what I have already written about item 1. My next entry will take up 2: the Havasupai flank attack aimed at knocking pro-Canyon advocates out of their position of opposition to Reservation enlargement. Item 3 blends into item 4, though the two streams of Park and Reservation still mostly maintained separate identities.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the post. Poignant material. It's good to be reminded about all the other narratives.