To ease into the turbulence of this dispute, here is some background.
First, photos taken at the time that I found in my files. Martin Litton flew over and provided two views of the village of Supai, here showing its setting along the bottom of Havasu Canyon, cut into the Esplanade, itself one of the sweeping features of this part of the Grand Canyon; the upper rim is off toward the clouds.
Next, a view directly down over houses and fields:
One of the canyon's wonders the Havasupai wanted back:
This is a view across Great Thumb Mesa's east side, representative of the plateau lands that were central in the case made by the Havasupai for land return:
The Esplanade, as viewed west of Great Thumb, over which the discussion of Havasupai use would become quite intense for a period of years:
Next I have some material from 1972, before Senator Goldwater committed himself to including an expansion of the reservation in his Grand Canyon Park legislation.
Two contrasting accounts of Havasupai life:
1. In N.R.Peirce's The Mountain States of America, the Havasupai lived in "grim privation"; "women in the throes of childbirth, struggling on foot up the miles-long canyon trail and eventually collapsing in an agonizing attempt to reach a doctor or hospital 129 miles away. Housing is of mud and cardboard--six people to a room--with dirt floors". No running water or sanitary facilties or privacy other than the dark of night. They are "not happy, just stunned".
2. A 25 Nov 1972 New York Times article declared "Indians in Canyon Start to Prosper". With a "better time in agriculture and crafts", they "foresee a steady rise in its economy". A half-million-dollar foundation grant, run by Brigham Young University, had led to a sharp increase in corn production and alfalfa cuttings and a re-establishment of rug weaving and beadwork. "The 300 Havasupai live a quiet and happy life". They rely heavily on horses as pack animals and tourist transport. Since the fields of grass did not provide enough forage, "the visiting agriculturists" convinced the farmers "to pen up their horses and to plant alfalfa and more corn". One of the largest horse owners was won over, feeding his horses with hand-cut alfalfa.
In January of that year, Senator Edward Kennedy published material from hearings on the "Havasupai Dispute with Forest Service", a dispute connected with the Park's new Master Plan which recommended adding to the Park more of the Havasu Canyon landscape. Discussions about this are also covered in my July 2011 posts. The hearing produced indicative documents, starting with a letter from Lee Marshall, Tribal Council Chairman, which I paraphrase:
We try to eke a living for 200 people on 518 acres, but cannot. We sit astride a trail carrying 10,000 tourists a year streaming through our lands, whether we like it or not. We traditionally lived on the Coconino Plateau and farmed elsewhere in the Grand Canyon. The coming of the National Park drove us back to this canyon. We have use rights on the plateau from the Forest and Park Services, but the Park land may not be improved, and is therefore useless when there is no water. Now the Park Service --with whom we achieved at best uneasy co-existence-- wants to take over the Forest land surrounding us, dooming us to serve as Park attractions like bears in Yellowstone.
"We cannot ask for all our former area, but we desperately need plateau land to restore some measure of our former lives, to hunt, and to start a modest cattle business. We must break out of our confinement to life in this tiny canyon dependent on tourist and government hand-outs." We ask you to oppose the Park Service attempt to expand into our use areas, and to help us add vitally-needed plateau land to our reservation, "specifically Hualapai Hilltop, Long Mesa, upper Havasu Canyon, our grazing permit lands, and the Park Service's Havasu Campground (We must not be subject to the demands of the Park any longer.)"
The hearings background document (committee staff authored?) made the uncomplicated assertion about the 1882 Reservation that the "demands of eager prospectors pushed the Army Corps of Engineers into resurveying the Havasupai reservation", reducing the area to "only the barren talus slopes in addition to the canyon floor". "Driven from their farms"; dependent on "menial wage labor"; "with the park and ranchers elsewhere the traditional life on top was gone". The Havasupai now have reached an accommodation with the Forest Service. Their biggest hope is the Steiger bill to return some important lands. They did receive $1.24 million, awarded for the unjust expropriation of all their land. The money sits untouched; they want their permit lands. In opposition, the Park Service has proposed to expand by taking those lands, and the Havasupai tourist business would then be controlled by the Park. The Park Superintendent has disregarded them and their pleas. The Park Service would preserve the Canyon "as a sort of vast outdoor museum". The Havasupai "are not interested in serving as museum pieces." Their "ancient dream of returning to the plateau will be hurt badly." "Havasupai feel, with justice, that this is the last chance for their people and their way of life, that they must win this battle."
To this, NPS Director Hartzog only replied that the NPS plan "does not affect the (Havasupai) boundaries", and "we will continue to honor existing permits or rights they possess".
Here is a map I drew at the time to depict the cross-cutting histories (some dates in pencil):
The purple dashed rectangle is the first, 1880, Havasupai reservation.
In blue are 1. the 1882 reservation (north) and 2. a 1944 southern addition for water rights.
The relevant Kaibab National Forest lands are outlined in pink.
The yellow shows the west line of the first Powell-Harrison GCNP proposal.
The green line runs along the Park boundary as of 1972.
Outlined in red is one Havasupai proposal for a new reservation.
The orange indicates facilities on the huge private Boquillas (VVV) ranch to the south.
The dashed blue lines and the brown indicate Forest Service grazing allotments (Pasture Wash, Rain Tank) argued over among the Havasupai, the private Globe ranchers, and the Forest Service.
Scene 1: Flame-throwing Starts
When we now pick up the story in early 1973, the Havasupai have convinced Senator Goldwater to include an enlargement of their reservation in his GCNP bill. McComb & I had left the January meeting at Goldwater's home depressed by the focus on Havasupai and Hualapai issues. We had no doubts but that we would oppose the efforts of both to weaken the Park and protections for the Canyon.
In early March, McComb and Juel Rodack of AWWW (perhaps others) received identical letters from Tribal Chairman Oscar Paya. He appealed to them as "fellow human beings" who "share our reverence for the earth that nurtures us all". The Park completely surrounds our tiny reservation. (Not true, but then…) They had pleaded, personally, with Goldwater to include return of areas "set aside on the plateau as our tribal permit lands". (But not just those lands; a contentious point.) You have misguidedly opposed this. The letter then reviewed their history, in a loose, but eloquent, fashion, including a slanted recounting of the Indian Claims Commission action. They would use the lands to graze their horses, as they had since 1920. "Some" lands "we could agree to protect from commercial use", since we share your concern about further damage to the land. "Consider, after all, when the damage began and who brought it."
"You have heard us…now stand with us." "Understand": failure to return any of our lands will reduce land available to us. "Understand": we want to control our lives on our own lands. Come talk with us. "We have always welcomed you in our homeland as brothers…Let us work together."
Well, I do not claim, nor I suspect, would McComb and Rodack have, to grasp the subtleties of Havasupai thought. Certainly, they came nowhere near understanding our history and why we had arrived at our positions. This letter, oleaginous and as trustworthy as an English-mystery bog, offered nothing enticing to open discussion.
Two days later, a Tucson newspaper headlined "Havasupais rap environmentalists". We Park supporters were "distorting the tribe's purpose" by claiming the tribe would ruin the canyon's beauty by developing it to accommodate tourist trade. Instead they will be threatened with extinction. They had been trying since 1910 to get "our old plateau lands back"; our old people are buried there; we keep homes there; we know of sacred places, and lived there 1200 years. It is the only place we can pasture our horses. The other Tucson paper carried a Paya letter to the same effect about environmental groups' "gross misunderstanding" of Goldwater's bill.
Yes, it is true that we feared what the Havasupai would do if they got back some of that prime Canyon along the rim, in the main Canyon, and in Havasu Canyon itself. We had fought a hard battle against, among others, the Hualapai and the dam they were still pushing. The Havasupai had passed a resolution supporting that dam. We feared they might authorize others to build a tramway (one of Canyon advocates' betes les plus noires--pardon my French, but please refer to the 2012-3 escapade by some childish but still wealthy whitefolk to besmirch the Canyon over at the Confluence). The Havasupai Council had passed a resolution authorizing a tram study. We feared they might try to encourage large-scale developments on the rim (emulating the Park Service, Fred Harvey, and a bit later, the Hualapai, again). We feared a hotel built down over the edge on the north end of the Great Thumb, for instance, as a mining company had proposed near Grand Canyon Village. And they had talked about their ideas for pumping water from Havasu creek up to the plateau; water, that most necessary of commodities for mass tourism. The Havasupai had a record, and yet here was the tribal chairman trying to snow us with a few sweet promises, ignoring past Council actions, and then the next day blackguarding us for our gross misunderstanding.
And I need to point out that it was not only their record, but also that they had not in fact made any substantive proposals to ease our concerns. They put forward nothing to be discussed. They were the irresistible force, and as an object in their way, they argued, we had better move. Re-reading these papers, I do not wonder at all that we felt our position of protecting the Canyon's and the Park's integrity was justified and correct.
Rodack replied: Manhattan will remain a borough of NYC, and National Parks must be retained as national preserves for all future generations. Not all acts of the white man are on the debit side. Establishing the Park Service was wise and inherently good. It protects against the special interests similar to those who deprived you of your heritage. You are being used to drive a wedge. If you got the plateau, then the Hualapai might get their dam. You have great eloquence, and I am deeply moved. You have been ill-used, but you say you could only protect "some" lands from commercial use. But no such use must be permitted. "Not a single acre!" There must be adequate grazing, but beyond that, nothing. We can meet, but our position can "in no possible way be subject to compromise". Juel also wrote Goldwater, asking him to drop the Havasupai provision so we might throw our complete support behind his bill. Intolerable to convert Park lands to economic development, so look outside the Park boundaries.
This hot reply smoked out Steve Hirst, variously tribal secretary, tribal newsletter editor, lobbyist, spokesperson, and historian-author, for the Havasupai. He wrote: your reply disappoints me, and spoke of "your comfortable position" from which you say nothing must be given but adequate grazing. They are only asking for what is theirs to use now, a small part of what they once held. They are not inmates of a zoo for your enjoyment. They have to eat, and need an income. Of course, they can protect only "some" of the land; they have been using it for tourist business for decades. No one ever suggested Disneyland or fast-food places. Your demand would close the Canyon to any further visitors. There are no special interests; there will be no dams. What gives you the right to deny these people a livelihood on their own land?
McComb responded, in his more quiet mode, to Paya that Parks have been reserved from economic and private uses forever. Ways are available to promote your social and economic well-being without changing parklands to private status. Could you not purchase, with federal assistance, private ranch lands in your historic territory?
Rodack ended this round with replies in the newspaper and to Hirst, claiming he concurred with virtually all Hirst said, and did not find the demands unreasonable. His words may have been clumsy; he only wished to prevent the conversion of Park land to economic development. He supported purchasing private lands. If the Havasupai get land from outside the Park, they would be able to develop it as they wish. He was sure the Havasupai planned no dams. However, he was not impressed by Goldwater's disclaimer; Goldwater still wishes to leave the dam option open.
Sources: Copies of letters, articles, etc. are in the files that I collected at the time. There must exist a much vaster archive, some scattered, some in the files of Havasupai and their allies, some in NARA and other government agencies, and so on. But as I said, my goal here is to present the materials that we were dealing with in 1973-4 to show the temper of the participants and the tenor of the battle. I would certainly hope that those with other materials and views would, as Hirst has, come forward in time.