Bodaway/Gap families directly impacted by the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade development on the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon on the Navajo Nation continue to lead efforts to protect the area. On October 3, the Bodaway/Gap Chapter leadership called an emergency chapter meeting related to the proposed development. The purpose of the meeting was to pass a resolution to rescind all previously passed resolutions opposing the development and approve a land withdrawal of 420 acres of land in the community to be used for the development.
Because the community overwhelmingly voted down the proposed development project twice earlier in the year, the meeting was contentious. Both families in support and in opposition of the development were present, and there was a clear division between the groups. Because of the divisiveness the proposed development has caused in the community, Navajo Nation Police and Arizona Highway Patrol police had a strong presence at the meeting. There was disagreement among the leadership and community members about how the meeting procedures were being applied, but in the end, the resolution was passed with 59 in favor and 52 against.
With the new standing resolution, the families opposing the developed mobilized and re-strategized their campaign. All agreed they needed to strengthen their efforts at the local level and do more outreach at the central government level. To reach a broader audience, the family members participated in a radio forum on KTNN radio, a popular radio station on the Navajo Nation whose primary audience is Navajo speaking families living in the most remote areas of the Nation. The forum was facilitated by radio staff and several Bodaway/Gap family members explained the cultural significance of the confluence and stories of the two rivers that flow together, as well as the canyon. Each family member shared different reasons why they opposed the development, and also clarified their support for development which more closely aligned with their core values and Navajo philosophies. The radio station opened their telephone lines to get feedback from listeners, and they received calls from Navajo and Hopi tribal members who also opposed the development and shared concerns similar to the families.
The families also participated in the Western Navajo Nation Fair on October 13. They had a float in the parade to show their strong opposition to the development, and set up an educational booth for the public at the Sustainability Expo. The families were also able to collect petition signatures from Navajo citizens to formally oppose the development.
The Grand Canyon Trust (GCT) will continue to support the efforts of the families as a participating member of the Protect the Confluence Coalition, which was organized by the families. GCT shares concerns with the families about how the proposed development will negatively impact cultural resources and relationships with other tribes. GCT will continue to support the community in their vision to create a local economy and employment opportunities that respect the cultural integrity of the area.
Confluence photo courtesy of Ted Grussing