Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Hualapai and the River — Then And Now: In two parts; Part 1

 First of a two-part review of aspects of Hualapai activities focussed on the part of the Colorado River that flows past their lands in the Grand Canyon.

“THEN” is 50 years ago, at the peak of the congressional decision-making as to whether dams should be built in the Grand Canyon.

“THEN” could extend back 30 years further, when Hualapai interests were first engaged by the possibilities for their economy that arose from Hoover Dam’s reservoir, Lake Mead. In 1934, Hualapai activist Fred Mahone wrote up a plan for access and recreation projects utilizing Mead. (My summary is at The Tribal Council and the BIA did not approve.

In 1949, Arizona, led by Senator Carl Hayden, made the first major effort to get Congressional approval of a Bridge Canyon project, including a dam in the Grand Canyon and a water diversion from the Colorado River to Phoenix. The Hualapai, stating they had been following news about dam proposals since 1933, made their case for compensation and benefits since one side of the dam would rest on their land. The bill was changed to provide that the Secretary of the Interior would determine what any compensation should be. Passing the Senate, the bill failed in the House, because that body ordered that Arizona and California first settle their dispute in (the Supreme) Court over allocation of Colorado River Water.

Revived in 1965-6, the dam was included as a major element in plans to solve water problems for Arizona and the Southwest in general. At first the Hualapai were ignored in the Udall kitchen-sink bill, HR 4671, to authorize a bundle of water projects.. In mid-1966, however, the Hualapai  successfully demanded that provision be made to include them in the dam’s benefits, including a name change from Bridge Canyon to Hualapai dam.

June 1966, articles appeared in the Arizona Republic and Denver Post on the effect of Hualapai support. “Now it appears that the Indians are coming to the rescue of the white men in promotion of a bogged-down project.” wrote the Post’s B.Hanna. With Indian support, the dam proponents feel they can blunt preservationist arguments. The name change “honors the Hualapai”, and “Sierra Club followers … were taken aback”. Taken them even further aback was a letter from the archeologist (H.Dobyns) who had researched the area for the Hualapai land claim in the 1950’s. Dobyns could testify the dam would aid in the social and economic progress of the Hualapai. He condemned the dam opponents’ “traditional white discrimination…attempting to hold (the Hualapai) in economic, social and political subordination”. He noted that with dam construction, “funds would be provided … to carry out salvage survey and excavation”.  A march on Washington by the Hualapai under guidance of Udall was planned.

The Republic celebrated the possible release from poverty of the Hualapai, a happy and friendly people, with their story of “peaceful work and cooperation” and achievements in soil conservation and range management, that still left them in hardship and poverty. The Hualapai cannot understand why the Sierra Club wants to “mislead the American people”. Only a few people now go down Peach Springs Canyon to fish the river, and going up from Lake Mead, a difficult and dangerous trip, is impossible much of the time.

The “Hualapai strategy” became irrelevant as the Udall effort collapsed. The renewed initiative by the other Udall, the Secretary of the Interior, did succeed and Congress passed a waterworks bill in 1968, without any big river dams.

An alliance of the Arizona Power Authority and the Hualapai, linked by the latter’s lawyer (R.Marks), tried to raise the dam from the dead in 1973-4, when Congress considered and passed legislation to enlarge Grand Canyon National Park and the Havasupai Reservation. I remember seeing their delegation of tribal leaders and attorneys lobbying in offices of Congress for the ghost of their dam nightmare.

The ghost they might well have benefitted more from reviving was that of Fred Mahone with his forward-looking recreation plan of 1934. Their dam effort instead apparently distracted them, for they did not make a peep about the Enlargement Act’s placement of the Park’s southern boundary on the south bank, where it abutted the Hualapai Reservation as it ran, according to the Reservation’s 1883 establishing order, from the south up “to and along” the Colorado River.

For the next several years, the Hualapai made ultimately futile efforts to undermine the no-dam congressional decision, even against the advice of their attorney. The residue of that argument is that the Hualapai and the Grand Canyon National Park administration came to agree that they disagree, as they stated in a 2000 Memorandum of Agreement that 1. recognized the longstanding dispute over the GCNP-Reservation boundary, 2. accepted that the dispute interfered with effective river management, and 3. committed the parties to mutual management of an Area of Cooperation, namely from r.m. 164.5 (eastern Reservation boundary) down to Pearce Ferry, and across the river from high water mark to high water mark.

For the next five years, there was fruitful cooperation, disrupted by a political change in Hualapai leadership and not since re-established. It should be.

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