A handful of demonstrators opposed to the Grand Canyon Escalade gather outside the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock, Arizona, on Oct. 31, 2017, as delegates begin deliberations on whether to approve the controversial tourist project. Photo: Save the Confluence
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Navajo Nation Council votes against controversial Grand Canyon development





Plans for the Navajo Nation to develop land near Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona appear to be dead.

The Navajo Nation Council on Wednesday voted down legislation that would have authorized the controversial Grand Canyon Escalade project. Lawmakers questioned the feasibility and cost of the $1 billion initiative.

“I would support this if it was more constructive and knowing the Navajo Nation is not being ripped off,” Delegate Seth Damon said during debate on Legislation No. 0293-16, according to a press release. The bill failed by a vote of 2 to 16.

Tribal citizens who live on and use the land near Grand Canyon have been fighting the project because many consider the site, located near the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers, to be sacred. The activist group Save the Confluence called the development a "monster."

"They heard us," activist Renae Yellowhorse, who was among those who showed up council chambers in Window Rock, Arizona, to lobby against the deal, told The Associated Press. "We needed to be a presence there to let them know we're not going to go away. We're going to always be here to defend our Mother, to defend our sacred sites."

Save the Confluence: Breaking Sacred Ground: The Confluence

The deal surfaced during the administration of a prior president but it was never officially approved. Supporters had cited the economic benefits of drawing more tourists to the reservation.

After President Russell Begaye took office in May 2015, he repeatedly said that he opposed the project.

“The developer was asking the Navajo Nation to pay out millions to help develop the project,” Begaye said in a press release on Wednesday. “Our administration has opposed the development since we came into office. We have been very clear that we will not sign off any agreement for this project"

The Hopi Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni, whose leaders and citizens consider the Grand Canyon land to be sacred, and environmental groups were against the project as well.

Read More on the Story:
Tribe rejects plan to build tram, hotel in Grand Canyon (The Associated Press November 1, 2017)

Related Stories:
Cronkite News: Navajo Nation development plan stirs controversy (September 30, 2016)
President of Navajo Nation opposes Grand Canyon Escalade project (September 1, 2016)