The Confluence Partners, LLC, has strived to inform the public on all aspects of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade (Escalade) project in order for the people and tribal leaders to make informed decisions. Escalade will be an international tourist destination featuring a gondola tramway to the floor of the Grand Canyon, a Navajo-land Cultural Discovery Center and a Native American Artist-in-Residency program.
With so much false talk about Escalade, there are three major misconceptions.
Project Ownership: The greatest misconception is that non-Navajos will own the project.
Not so. The Navajo Nation will own 100 percent of the Grand Canyon Escalade development. When built-out, Escalade will create more than 2,000 jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs; $70 million in annual local payroll; an estimated $90 million plus in annual revenue for the Navajo Nation; and real tax revenue for the Bodaway/Gap Chapter.
Sacred sites: Another big misconception is that the project will desecrate sacred sites.
Not so. The Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department visited the site and provided input and consultation to ensure sacred sites were respected. In addition, local area Navajo medicine men were consulted and they have stated support, in writing, for Escalade which they believe will: 1) create jobs for young people and bring them closer to home; 2) monitor and protect sacred sites that will alleviate desecration of sites currently made by river rafters and hikers in the Canyon; and 3) create revenues for the rehabilitation of the former Bennett Freeze Area.
Not so. On October 3, 2012, the majority of the people from Bodaway/Gap Chapter voted to support the project. They understand Escalade will bring much needed employment opportunities that will afford their families a better way of life; the grandma’s say Escalade will bring their grandchildren home. They understand the project will bring other benefits, such as a paved roadway, and electric and water infrastructure to an area that has been banned from development for over 40 years. Former Bodaway/Gap CLUP President Brian Kensley reminded the people that they supported this type of project years ago when: “The Chapter approved the land use plan identifying the confluence area as a future economic development zone.”
Unfortunately, the opponents seem more interested in stopping people from learning about Escalade, than allowing decisions to be made on the merits. Groups like the Grand Canyon Trust also are promoting conflicting messages. Generally speaking they oppose enterprises that threaten the environment and in the past they have encouraged tribes toward sustainable industries like tourism; yet when it comes to a tribally owned project in the Grand Canyon, it is suddenly not a sustainable project. If their issue is about exposing sacred sites, shouldn’t they publicly oppose the Sierra Club’s October 14 commercial backpacking trip (#12174A) down the Salt Trail that offers “views of Native American sites,” including Hopi’s Sípàapuni?
Navajo Nation Attorney General Tsosie recently said: "So the one thing that every Navajo needs to understand is that the Navajo Nation is primarily a coal economy…” Should Navajos continue their dependency on declining nonrenewable coal revenues? Escalade is a renewable and sustainable way to enhance and diversify the Navajo economy. Isn’t time that the Navajo People have their fair share of the Grand Canyon tourism?
Navajo Nation Council’s Resources and Development Committee Chairwoman Katherine Benally offered to mediate between the opposition and us, if we would reach out to them. We emailed them on September 24 and since have had a few phone conversations with them. We await their decision. Hopefully, they will take Chairwoman Benally up on her gracious offer to peace-make.
To that end, Confluence Partners remain committed to meet with individuals or groups about Grand Canyon Escalade and to discuss their interest and concerns, as long as it is in a calm and respectful manner.
Michele J. Crank is an independent consultant on a tourism development projects/public relations and public affairs/marketing economic development/tribal and government relations management. She is also a partner with Confluence Partners LLC, which will be the managing partners for the Grand Canyon Escalade.