Target: Mr. R. Lamar Whitmer
Goal: Prevent development of tourist attractions on sacred Navajo land in the Grand Canyon
Recently developer R. Lamar Whitmer looked over a precipice where the Colorado River and Little Colorado River meet on the floor of the Grand Canyon. This amazing and remote view is only found at the end of a long dirt road on the eastern edge of the Grand Canyon, secluded from the tourist-crowded South Rim. The confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado River is considered sacred by local Native Americans who live on reservations in the beautiful and historic Grand Canyon. When Whitmer viewed this remarkable natural spot, he envisioned a gondola ride, two hotels, a restaurant, a cultural center, an amphitheater, and an elevated walkway along the river’s edge.
Whitmer has now begun to try to broker a deal with the Navajo Nation to build on this eastern edge of the Grand Canyon. Former Navajo president Albert Hale and Brian Kensley, the manager of the Navajo Nation’s Bodaway Gap Chapter, are in favor of the project. Kensley says this portion of the Navajo Nation has been neglected for too long. For five decades the federal government prohibited development on this land, but now that freeze has been lifted. Whitmer states that the project will keep Native Americans on their reservations by providing them with jobs, which have been very scarce.
This positive view held by Whitmer and some of the tribal community leaders does not reflect the opinions of the Native American tribe members who live on these reservations. The confluence of these rivers is a very sacred place for the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi people. One woman, Renae Yellowhorse, has been active in her resistance against the project. Although Whitmer denies that there are any Native American sacred sites within the area, Yellowhorse thinks otherwise. She states, “For […] outside people to tell me where I pray, and where my grandparents have prayed, and where my great-grandparents have prayed, to tell me that is not sacred – they can’t tell me that.”
Tell Whitmer that the destruction of this beautiful natural spot and the desecration of the Native American’s sacred space for profit and garish tourism is not acceptable.
Dear R. Lamar Whitmer,
Your business in the Grand Canyon is doing more harm than good. You said that, “when you look at God or the creator’s handiwork, you can’t help but feel special or that you are part of something.” While you may believe this to be true, this is not an opinion shared by everyone. In fact, using the desire to share this feeling with others as justification for you to develop on one of the more beautiful natural wonders is wrong. By using your religious beliefs to justify the desecration of a land other people believe to be sacred is hypocritical and bigoted.
Many Navajo, Zumi, and Hopi people believe the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers is where life comes from and where life returns after death. This belief is truth in their culture. You do not have the right to violate thousands of years of tradition for these people, even if it has not been marked as sacred on a government map. If you have any respect for people and their religious views, you will leave these Native Americans in peace. This place should be shared with others, but not by marring it with buildings, lights, and noise. Stop pressuring for the destruction of the pristine beauty of the Grand Canyon. Leave this place and its occupants alone.
[You Name Here]
Photo credit: DMY via Wikimedia Commons