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Navajo Nation President and Council Delegates Applaud Escalade Vote

Nathaniel Brown

The Navajo Nation Council has voted down a controversial development project that would have included a gondola into the Grand Canyon. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, lawmakers rejected the Grand Canyon Escalade in a special session last night.

Council delegates voted 16 to 2 against the proposed tourist resort. The plan would have required a $65 million investment by the tribe.

It was the first time the full council had taken up the legislation since it was introduced last year. Lawmakers debated the proposal for two hours. Delegate Nathaniel Brown cast a no vote.

"It’s a very sacred place for a lot of tribes. That’s where we think creation comes from. We look at Mother Earth , we look at the mountains, the water, the air differently. We want to protect that," Brown says.

The failed plan included a gondola to take visitors more than 3,000 feet from the canyon’s east rim down to the Confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, a place sacred to many Southwestern tribes.

Activists and critics of the Escalade gathered outside council chambers to protest, and Navajo President Russell Begaye later applauded the delegates’ decision.

Representatives with the developer, Confluence Partners, and the bill’s sponsor Benjamin Bennett, said the project would create thousands of jobs as the Navajo Generating Station faces closure in 2019.

The company didn’t respond to request for comment. 

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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