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Pres. Begaye: Agreement with Shelly Was About Continuity, But Opposes Escalade Project

Alexa Rogals/The Daily Times

Navajo President Russell Begaye has altered his position on the development of a tram at the Grand Canyon. Earlier this week at his inauguration, the new president signed an agreement supporting the Escalade Project. But as Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, now President Begaye seems to have changed his mind.

President Begaye says his approval of the agreement was more about continuity of Navajo leadership than pursuing specific projects. Rick Abasta is a spokesperson for the president.

“The agreement that he signed with the previous administration was more or less a gesture of good will. The official position from President Begaye is that he does not support the development of the Grand Canyon Escalade. And that certainly cannot be underscored enough,” Begaye says.

The document presented to Begaye by outgoing President Ben Shelly included several projects he wants to see continued under the new administration. One of those is the Grand Canyon Escalade, a controversial project that would build a tram between the rim and bottom of the Grand Canyon.

“From President Begaye’s perspective, he understands that there are several concerns from the Navajo people regarding that particular project, and he wants to ensure that he’s not creating a divide between the people,” Begaye says.

For the project to move forward it must first be passed by the Navajo Nation Council. But legislation has yet to be introduced.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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