RRFW Riverwire – Contentious Grand Canyon Tramway Meeting Held Today
November 10, 2016
On November 10, 2016, the Navajo Nation NAABIK’ÍYÁTI’Committee (pronounced Nay-Bit-Chay) held a work session at the Twin Arrows Casino to review legislation authorizing the construction of a massive new tourist development on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Called the Naabi committee for short, Naabi is the Navajo Nation leadership committee and is comprised of the entire Navajo Nation Tribal Council.
Today’s standing room only meeting was intended to review the pros and cons of legislation proposed to build a huge development on traditional grazing lands of the Navajo Nation. The project includes construction of a highly controversial tramway to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to be developed by a small Phoenix developer called Confluence Partners LLC. The Partners LLC has never constructed anything of this scope before.
During the informational meeting, two Native American’s were escorted out of the room by Navajo Nation Tribal Police for interrupting the meeting. One person was in support of the project, and a second person supports a tramway-free Grand Canyon.
The tramway legislation was introduced by Council member Ben Bennett on August 29, 2016, and must be reviewed by four Navajo Nation Committees before coming to a vote by the full Tribal Council. The first committee to review the bill, the Law and Order Committee, voted unanimously to oppose the legislation.
The Naabi meeting started with a lengthy review of the development given by Albert Hale, who is one of the Confluence Partners. Hale was elected Navajo Nation President in 1994, serving until 1998, when he resigned after being charged with over 50 felonies and misdemeanors for theft and bribery.
As part of the presentation, it was stated by the developer that river runners camp at the Confluence and that newlyweds spend their honeymoon night at there.
After the developer’s presentation, a number of Council delegates spoke about the project and asked questions of Hale. While some of the delegates spoke in favor of the project, almost all of the delegates who spoke had some serious questions concerning flaws in the legislation.
These concerns ranged from the small amount of royalties awarded to the Tribe to missing information and misinformation provided by the Partners. Other concerns raised included the need to override existing Navajo law and that the Navajo Nation would be saddled with a number of financial obligations not clearly stated in the legislation. Delegates pointed out that the legislation requires disputes between the Partner group and the Nation to be held in Phoenix Arizona’s Maricopa County.
One delegate noted the Chapter where the Tram would be built had barely passed a resolution in favor of the project. “The community is split 50-50” noted Delegate Otto Tso as he addressed the Phoenix Developers. “Why don’t you build this in your own backyard” he told them. Delegate Tso also asked for a third party review of the entire project, including the LLC’s financial projections.
A number of people who came to the meeting live where the development would be located. They had been told they would be able to address the delegates, but were not allowed to speak. At least two Council delegates brought this issue up, decrying the fact that the Partners group was allowed to speak at length, but that local Navajo who were against the development were not allowed to voice their concerns to the delegates.
No vote was taken on this matter at today’s meeting as it was for informational purposes only. The legislation is now scheduled to return to the Resources and Development Committee for its November 15 meeting. The time and location for that meeting has yet to be announced.
River Runners for Wilderness still encourages its members to write to the Navajo Nation and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell. Tell the Nation and Secretary Jewell with all due respect:
-You are opposed to Navajo Nation Legislation 0293-16
- You support a tramway-free Grand Canyon.
- Ask that Navajo tribal funds be spent on vital needs such as housing, sanitation, telecommunication and water supply projects across the entire Western Navajo lands.
- Remind the Navajo Nation and Secretary Jewell of her duty to work with the Navajo to protect and preserve the Grand Canyon as the 1975 Grand Canyon Enlargement Act required.
You can send your comments to the Navajo Nation here:
Or in writing, mailed to:
Office of Legislative Services
P.O. Box 3390
Window Rock, AZ 86515
Navajo Nation law requires that all comments, either in the form of letters and or e-mails must include your name, position title, address for written comments and a valid e-mail address. Anonymous comments will not be included in the Legislation packet.
Please cc Secretary Jewell here:
By e-mail: Secretary_jewell@ios.doi.gov
Secretary of the Interior
The Honorable Sally Jewell
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
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