Save the Confluence was organized as a response by Navajos who had been exiled from their land for nearly 50 years under The Bennett Freeze, and who now are threatened by a proposal called the “Grand Canyon Escalade.” Many residents believe this proposal is the wrong kind of economic development near The Confluence.
(The Bennett Freeze prohibited development in this arid stretch. It was lifted in 2009 by U.S. President Barack Obama. People who grew up under the freeze have been working hard to move back home. But, now, Navajo Nation officials — including President Ben Shelly– want to wrestle the land back away from the people.)
Reasons why The Escalade is being opposed are numerous. But, some of the main reasons are the following:
- The fragile ecosystem of the so-called East Rim is at stake. The tribe is proposing multimillion-dollar tourism development that would bring tens of thousands of visitors to the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon. Both the National Parks Service and the Federal Aviation Administration recognize the unique cultural characteristics and unique environment of this region. Both agencies have imposed restrictions on aircraft and travel. Many of the protections would be undone by the type of tourism promoted by The Escalade.
- Strong-arm tactics of both the developers and the Navajo Nation government have threatened the lifestyle of current residents and of those seeking to repatriate the land on which they were born and raised. The Navajo Nation has stated that if the people oppose their plans for major tourism development, then the tribe might seek to evict opponents from their homes. These are people who have lived under Third World conditions here due to the Bennett Freeze. When the freeze was lifted, no one from the tribe came out to offer to help the people rebuild.
- The backgrounds of the businessmen involved in The Escalade have raised concern of many area residents: One of the developers narrowly escaped charges involved with efforts to develop a professional sports stadium in Phoenix; another is a former Superior Court judge who resigned before he could be charged criminally, and another is a former Navajo Nation President who left office amid an extramarital scandal and questions about financial improprieties. These developers have used bullying tactics, which have included harassing phone calls and emails, as well as convincing local tribal leaders to forcibly overturn two resolutions opposing the project.
- None of the money expected to be gained from the tribe’s massive venture is earmarked to help residents rebuild their homeland or to preserve the land.