Friday, January 11, 2019

The River, the Park Service. The Left Bank, the Hualapai

History and Policy for the Left Bank of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon (cont.)

The recent stir over Hualapai rights on the Colorado's left bank led me to review the two Interior Department's Solicitor's office reports (1976 and 1997) on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and Grand Canyon National Park boundaries. It is good to see our agreement that the Reservation line was established to go TO and ALONG the River. And not to go to the River's middle, the Hualapai's haitat, and not to include the riverbed. Nevertheless the Solicitor officials were incorrect when they inserted the "high water mark" (HWM) language in their opinions, whatever legal theories may have led them to assert this. The HWM was never under consideration or of importance in the 1883 Reservation establishment nor in the 1975 Park Enlargement Act. As we shall see, other considerations were of greater import in the early 1880's and were explicitly expressed in the Act.
The Solicitor was correct to bring up the often-neglected question of navigability of the River under the Commerce Power. It is of overriding importance in the question of Park jurisdiction, since the sponsor's intent was to unify administration over river traffic, on all of the river in the new Park, on all of the water surface. There was no intent to disturb existing ideas about the Hualapai boundary, or to stage a raid on Hualapai land. Unifying a fragmented responsibility for river travel was a desired and desirable object, which the 1975 Act met.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Common Sense On The River -- And Off It

History and Policy for the Left Bank of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon's lands east and south of the Colorado River have four major landlords. From the Canyon's beginning at the Paria junction to the Grand Wash Cliffs 277 Miles downstream, they are the Navajo Nation, the National Park Service (NPS), the Havasupai Tribe, and the Hulapai Tribe, ending again with NPS, an agency in the federal Department of the Interior.

Since the matters I will be discussing involve the prickly matter of sovereignty, it is necessary to recognize that in an important sense, the Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai have sovereignty over their lands, though it is of course a jurisdiction and ownership granted by and resting on the foundation of the overall national sovereign, the United States of America.

For those involved in the protection and presentation of the Grand Canyon as a natural and environmental icon of world-wide recognition and concern, as well as for those interested in exploiting the Canyon for their own short-term financial gain, recent years have seen intense debate over actions that are inextricable from questions about sovereignty, and thus inevitably, the boundaries that separate one landlord’s jurisdiction from another’s.

I have written at length about boundary matters in my on-line history blog, “Celebrating the Grand Canyon”, at, under the headings for Boundaries, Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, & The Park. A century-and-a-half (and of course many centuries further in the past) of political history have proven the Canyon to be a center of charged affairs; charged with emotion, yes, but more significantly, charged with importance for the question of how humanity conducts itself in and for the world.

A major example of such an affair – recently, and I hope finally, happily concluded – was the question centered on Navajo land at the junction of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers: Should the Navajo Nation approve a tacky, greedy proposition for building a mass-industrial tourist site that would irreparably damage this extraordinary part of the Grand Canyon and be contrary to the benefit of the Navajo people, solely for the enrichment of a few non-Navajo speculators? While the question was presented in the arena of Navajo Nation government, clearly it struck home in the hearts and minds of people, not just in the rest of the United States, but across the world. And threaded throughout this struggle were the intricacies of how this vital tract of Grand Canyon heartland came under Navajo jurisdiction, decision-making, sovereignty.

A minor example is the quiet acquisition by the Havasupai of National Park land that includes Beaver Falls on Havasu Creek. At present, paralyzed by a lack of agency leadership and coherence, the National Park Service at the Park has taken no action to protect public access to these Falls, allowing the Havasupai to either exclude the visiting public or charge them a not-insignificant fee.