Saturday, January 28, 2023

Navajo and GCNP. The River Left Bank is their Boundary

  Boundary Rectification I. 

Between Grand Canyon National Park and Navajo Reservation,

from the Paria junction to the Little Colorado River.

It is long past time to re-assert officially the too often erroneously stated and misunderstood western boundary of the Navajo Reservation that was located by congressional action (P.L. 73-352 of 14 June 1934) as coming ”west along the boundary line between the States of Arizona and Utah to a point where said boundary line intersects the Colorado River; thence down the south bank of that stream to its confluence with the Little Colorado River; thence following the north bank of the Little Colorado River to a point opposite the east boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park; thence south along said east boundary”.

I emphasize that the boundary goes “DOWN THE SOUTH BANK” of the Colorado. As befits a law written in 1934, there is much additional verbiage, relevant 90 years ago, that is now all a dead letter, yet lingers on to confuse official and unofficial cognizance of the line set along the south, or left, bank of the Colorado. 




This project makes proposals that gather up a number of issues, some near-trivial, others of great moment at this time of Deb Haaland’s Interior Secretaryship, the resolution of which could bring greater public recognition and understanding of the universal values embodied in the United States’ designation of a Grand Canyon National Park — a project started with John Wesley Powell and Benjamin Harrison’s legislative launch in 1884 of the first Grand Canyon National Park bill, which in its short history also started to gather in its relationship with the Canyon's long-standing peoples, in this case the Havasupai.*

Future work on the boundary must include correcting, updating, and otherwise recognizing the historic and current use and occupancy of Grand Canyon lands by the Southern Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai, and Navajo peoples, and others long-resident who live within the Canyon's spiritual reach.

Main changes:

Much of the boundary distinguishing administration and jurisdiction of that part of the Grand Canyon north and northwest of the Colorado River (i.e., in the area generally known as the Arizona Strip) is a source of concern for the  Club of Grand Canyon Friends &  Advocates. Boundary misalignments matter since 

  1. maps in general use ought to delineate and present to the public as closely as possible the lands, canyon and plateau, that comprise the Grand Canyon; 
  2. Users need to have as accurate a legal representation as possible of who has jurisdiction over the Grand Canyon lands they visit.



Let us start from this point: 

There has been no adjudication on the Navajo Reservation western boundary, nor on the eastern Park boundary as set by the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act of 1975. 

Therefore there are only opinions, based on events, governmental acts, documents, and arguments drawn therefrom. So…

In a very long blog post and several shorter ones, I laid out what I found to be the history of the western Navajo Reservation  boundary. (To see these essays, click on the blog tab for “Navajo”.) I concluded the Navajo Reservation western boundary lies, in the words of its 1934 boundary Act, “west along the boundary line between the States of Arizona and Utah to a point where said boundary line intersects the Colorado River; thence down the south bank of that stream to the confluence with the Little Colorado River; thence following the north bank of the Little Colorado River to a point opposite the east boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park; thence south along said east boundary” …

This Act contains several more clauses, more or less pertinent. The Act itself was followed in the 40-some years after 1934 by actions and events, more or less pertinent. I conclude that the end result of all this later activity is that the words of the 1934 Act hold firm: the Reservation boundary is along the banks of the two rivers. I am strengthened in my view that this is the correct position by the November 25, 1997 statement of Interior Solicitor J D Leshy (dealing with the Hualapai boundary) that “the canon of construction that doubtful or ambiguous expressions in treaties, statutes or documents involving Indians should be resolved in favor of the Indians.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Tin Ear for the Grand Canyon's Tunes


Some Comments on John D. Leshy’s Our Common Ground

A History of America’s Public Lands*

Yale U. Press, 2021

John Leshy’s new book is a condensed way to get a feel and general sense of how Americans since the 18th century have interpreted, changed their views, and fought over what “public” in our public lands means. His long career, including 8 years as Solicitor in Bruce Babbitt’s Interior Department, must have staggered even him (the narrative is 600 pages) in tracking the ins and outs of Americans’ views, from precious possessions of the entire nation to choice bits to grab and exploit for all the cash one can squeeze.

He has his favorite subjects; I think grazing use is one; another must be reservation and conservation as embodied by our National Parks. I don’t intend here to come close to a review or reading guide. Rather, I want to select out the few, very few, references to the Grand Canyon, and take a detailed look at his accuracy in dealing with this very special environmental icon of ours. What weight does the Canyon have in the two-centuries+ of the formulation and alteration and evolution of the law/legal structures governing American national inheritance of our great tract of public land?

I read Leshy’s account as showing the major thrust of American land law change: from moving public land into private control (19th-century national goal) to the reverse: the multi-faceted national decision to keep, cherish, and provide the public lands for public use rather than private ownership. Using the years 1880-1920 as the pivot, we can fit the Grand Canyon in this narrative as going from being a blank spot to being a world-renowned signifier of respect for scenery, non-destructive recreation, and the Environment as our life support.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

004. Trimming the Turkey's Wattle


The GCNP segment on the river left, south, should be colored red for embarrassment—mine.

On the November trip, that segment certainly was a canyon too far, although it certainly is the bona fide western end of the Canyon on river left. indeed, I have not talked to anyone who has checked out the entire length of the north-south ridgeline that divides the Grand Canyon drainages on the east from the washes running west into Lake Mead country. Looks like an uplifting hike.

003. Finding a Boundary Out West



The protective boundary between Grand Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument ought not exist. The Grand Canyon lands in the entity Lake Mead National Recreation Area east of, above, the Grand Wash Clilffs ought to have been reconciled with the National Park long ago. The north side hinterland of the Grand Canyon drainage is comprised of the north, upstream sub-drainages of Parashant, Whitmore, and Toroweap Canyons, all important in the approach to, and the explanation of, what goes on in this middle section, heavily volcanics-inflected, of the Grand Canyon. This area has remained under BLM administration as part of the Grand Canyon - Parashant National Monument. Were this stew of four jurisdictions (see BLM Arizona Strip map below) administered and treated together, the easy, thorough, public presentation, comprehension, and perception of the Canyon would be the natural over-riding goal. Separated, the four are problematic cooperators in protection and presentation policies.

Elsewhere in this blog, I tell the stories of how these complicating boundaries came to be. In November, I experienced their impact directly by spending a few days with colleagues on the area’s roads and tracks, mostly in a vehicle, with some time on foot. In this and  accompanying posts, I am trying to come to grips with what we saw added to what I can interpret from on-line documentation in the important matter of these hindering boundaries; how they affect what we see and know.