The Navajo Nation Council has soundly rejected a proposal for a massive development at the east end of the Grand Canyon.
During a special session Tuesday, the council voted 16 to 2 against a bill that would have given the go-ahead to the Grand Canyon Escalade Project, which would have included an aerial tram, hotel, shops and more on reservation land bordering the national park at the confluence of two rivers. Under the agreement, the Navajo Nation would have provided $65 million to build the infrastructure. During debate, council delegate Dwight Witherspoon called the agreement “absolutely totally one-sided.” He offered an amendment that changed the $65 million investment to a loan, made the developer’s license revocable, and deleted a non-competition clause for surrounding businesses. The amendment passed, but ultimately the council rejected the entire bill. Former Navajo President Albert Hale was a partner with the developer, Confluence Partners, LLC. Hale argued that the project was vital to the Navajos’ economic future, as the tribe faces the possible shutdown of a power plant and coal mine near Page, Arizona. But many people said the land was sacred and should not be developed. Both Zuni Head Councilman Wilfred Eriacho, Sr. and Hopi Tribal Chairman Herman Honanie praised the council’s decision. Navajo President Russell Begaye also supported the decision and said his administration would “continue to stand with our people in opposing the development.”