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Hopi Chairman Says Escalade Project Could Restart Legal Battle With Navajo Nation

Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie says a proposal by Navajo Nation lawmakers to build a gondola to the Colorado River could reignite litigation between the tribes. In a recent letter to the Navajo Council, he wrote the Grand Canyon Escalade would violate a sweeping 2006 land-use agreement. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports. 

Honanie says the construction of the Escalade would violate the tribes’ Intergovernmental Compact. That agreement settled long-running disputes over where each tribe can hold religious ceremonies. The project is slated for the area surrounding the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, which the Hopi say is a sacred site.

Confluence Partners, the project’s developer, however, denies a sacred site exists there. The company also says the Escalade will bring jobs to one of the poorest areas of the Navajo Nation. The project would include a gondola from the canyon’s rim to the river along with hotels, restaurants, retail space and a cultural center.

Navajo President Russell Begaye has repeatedly come out against the Escalade. But tribal lawmakers will soon consider a bill that would pave the way for it.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers 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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