Grand Canyon Development Plan Sparks Dispute Among Navajo

As morning light painted the far-reaching buttes of the Grand Canyon gold, Renae Yellowhorse stood at the edge of the canyon’s rim, looked out toward where the rivers met below her, and smiled.

“It is my church, it is where I say my prayers. It is where I give my offerings. It’s where I commune with the holy ones, the gods that walk along the canyon,” said Yellowhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation.

This place, called “the confluence,” is where the Colorado River meets the Little Colorado River on the canyon’s east side. According to the Navajo creation story, the confluence is where their people first emerged. And now this Navajo-owned land is at the center of an ugly land-use dispute.

Developers Confluence Partners want to provide the more than 5 million annual visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park with a new 420-acre attraction. Their plans for the canyon’s rim include a multimedia complex with an IMAX theater, retail shops, hotels, an RV park and a gondola tram that would take visitors 1.6 miles to the canyon floor in ten minutes. Confluence Partners has also drawn up plans for a “Riverwalk” on the canyon floor that would include elevated connected walkways, a food pavilion, a tramway station, a terraced seating area and a wastewater package plant.

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