Joe Giddens, Navajo-Hopi Observer
Originally published: May 24, 2022 10:11 a.m.
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — After more than five years of hard work, Grand Canyon National Park celebrated the near completion of the initial phase of transforming Desert View into an intertribal cultural heritage site on May 17.
The park celebrated the opening with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new amphitheater and a groundbreaking ceremony.
More than 150 people attended, including representatives from the 11 tribes traditionally associated with the Grand Canyon. James Uqualla of the Havasupai Tribe opened the event with a traditional blessing and prayer.
“I’m humbled today,” Uqualla said. “Just because I’m in a position where normally I would do this entirely in my mother tongue. Although it’s during this time that indigenous languages aren’t being embraced as they should be…it’s a shining moment in the history of this Grand Canyon, of it the wandering grounds, the ceremonial grounds of all the tribes that inhabit both the South Rim and the North Rim.
Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Ed Keable welcomed attendees to the new amphitheater after the grand opening and touted other park service Indigenous initiatives, such as the upcoming Indian Gardens renaming to
Havasupai Gardens and Ancestral Lands Corps efforts to increase Indigenous representation in park service jobs.
“I look forward to the day when the superintendent of the Grand Canyon is a native of one of the local tribes,” Keable said.
Grand Canyon Conservancy, the park’s official nonprofit partner, has raised more than $4 million for the Desert View project. That funding was later supplemented by federal funding for the intertribal cultural heritage site, according to GCC CEO Theresa McMullan.
“It’s really an example of how a public-private partnership can come together and it’s a good model for the entire park service across the country,” McMullan said.
During the event, Hopi Corn Dancers took the crowd through a celebration of their heritage.
The Inter Tribal working group will continue its efforts to develop the exhibition plan for the Desert View Welcome Center and has begun work on the next strategic plan.