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Tribal, congressional leaders call on Biden to create 1.1-million-acre monument near Grand Canyon

The view of the Grand Canyon from the top floor of Desert View Watchtower on the southeastern rim. Eleven tribes have traditional ties to the Grand Canyon.
Laurel Morales
/
KJZZ
Mules have carried people and supplies in Grand Canyon National Park for more than a century.

A coalition of tribal nations and federal lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to create a massive national monument around the Grand Canyon.

The proposed 1.1-million-acre monument would be composed of three vast swaths of land adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park. Its name would include the Havasupai phrase "Baaj Nwaavjo," which means "where tribes roam," and the Hopi phrase "I’tah Kukveni," meaning "our footprints."

“We are proud to have never left the Grand Canyon. Our home is still in the Grand Canyon, and we are the only tribe that has remained here,” Havasupai Tribe Vice Chair Edmond Tilousi said during a recent press conference outlining the proposal. “We know this place intimately. The canyon is a part of each and every Havasupai person. It is our home, it is our land, and our water source, and our very being.”

A 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard rock mining in the area is still in effect. But many groups – including the National Parks Conservation Association – have advocated for stronger measures.

“This is an opportunity to make that protection permanent,” said Ernie Atencio, the group’s southwest regional director. “And in addition to a moratorium or a prohibition on any new mining in the area, it will add other protections to that landscape as well.”

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Independent, joined tribal leaders in calling on Biden to use powers granted by the 1906 Antiquities Act to create the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni Grand Canyon National Monument.

“The national splendor and sustenance of the Grand Canyon deserves protection,” Grijalva said. “The meaning and spirit of the Grand Canyon deserves protection. Our sacred heritage deserves protection.”

Atencio says the tribal and congressional coalition has him optimistic that the Biden administration will take action.

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, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM 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.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Murphy Woodhouse