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For western tribes, Grand Canyon monument designation is a “historic moment”

Local tribal leaders Carletta Tilousi (left), Dianna Sue White Dove Uqualla (middle), and Stuart Chavez (right) at Red Butte, the Havasupai Tribe’s sacred mountain, in the South section of the monument.
Courtesy of Raymond Chee
The Grand Canyon Tribal Coalition
Local tribal leaders Carletta Tilousi (left), Dianna Sue White Dove Uqualla (middle), and Stuart Chavez (right) at Red Butte, the Havasupai Tribe’s sacred mountain, in the South Section of the monument.

News brief: 

President Joe Biden has designated another national monument in the Mountain West. Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument covers nearly one million acres in Northern Arizona and contains thousands of culturally and historically significant sites for tribes in the Southwest.

Biden’s announcement follows years of advocacy from Native Americans in the region. “Baaj Nwaavjo” means “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai language, and “I’tah Kukveni” means “our ancestral footprints” in the Hopi language.

Thomas Siyuja Sr., Chairman of the Havasupai Tribe, celebrated what he called a “historic moment in time.”

“Many Havasupai tribal leaders have carried this battle on their shoulders over the decades and we are the fortunate ones to experience this unprecedented time in which our historic lands, water, sacred objects, and sites now hold the power and protection, which they rightfully deserve, under the supreme law of the land by the stroke of President Biden’s pen,” he said in a statement.

Hunting, fishing and grazing can continue within the boundaries of the monument, which is split into three parts. However, Biden’s designation bans new uranium claims in the area. The move was opposed by several groups in the region concerned about farming and mining interests.

Meanwhile, Arizona voters strongly supported protecting public lands near the Grand Canyon, according to a poll in June. The new monument will be managed jointly by the federal government and tribal communities.

“Future generations may never know our collective efforts to accomplish this important designation, but they will benefit from a healthy landscape within one of the most important regions on Earth – and that is something worth celebrating,” said Matthew Nelson, executive director of the Arizona Trail Association.

This is Biden’s fifth monument designation. He has also protected more than half a million acres in Colorado and Nevada, and has barred oil and gas development around Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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