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Hualapai Tribe celebrates solar array, water rights victory

A line of people in colorful outfits dance beneath a blue sky
Melissa Sevigny
Hualapai tribal members open the celebration with music and dancing.

The Hualapai Tribe held a celebration on Wednesday in honor of the completion of a new solar array, and a recent water rights victory. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, the celebration took place on the Hualapai reservation at Grand Canyon West, home of the famous Skywalk.

Tribal members opened the celebration with music and dancing at the site of the new 900-kilowatt solar array. It’s expected to produce about half of the annual energy requirements of Grand Canyon West.

Wahleah Johns of the U.S. Department of Energy says Indigenous peoples like the Hualapai are leading climate change solutions. "They’re just becoming more of the...example of how we should all be, incorporating clean energy technology into our home, into our community, and our nation," she says.

The Tribe also celebrated legislation passed earlier this year that secures 3,400 acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River, which borders the reservation, as well as money for a water pipeline.

Shelton Scott Crozier is vice chairman of the Hualapai Tribe. "We’ve been negotiating for this water rights settlement for 20 plus years. Today’s a special day for the community and the tribe, knowing that we can have our own water for our community."

Crozier says he envisions economic growth in the area, such as hotels and restaurants. 1600 people live on the Hualapai reservation, and Grand Canyon West receives nearly 1 million tourists annually.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.