The recent proposal to further develop Grand Canyon for tourist use is not at all unique in the recent 100 year history of the area as a National Park. When the first Anglo-European miners in the area realized that there was more $$$ to be made by mining tourists instead of mining for non-existent gold, the race has been on to build and cater to tourists. The current structures along both Rims (El Tovar Hotel, North Rim Lodge, Bright Angel Lodge, Desert View Watchtower, etc) were built to handle the growing tourist trade that now averages 4.5 million visitors per year (4 million to the South Rim, 500,000 to the North Rim). Trams into the Canyon have been done before---the most famous being the tram down to Hermit Camp from the South Rim to supply the Inner Canyon tent city built to accomodate wealthy tourists. A tram was built from the South Rim to Indian Gardens during the construction of the water pipeline.These trams (and other conmmerical developments) were dismantled as the National Park Service has attempted to follow President Teddy Roosevelt's advice:
This speech which President Roosevelt made at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, on May 6, 1903* shows how he thought people should treat the Grand Canyon (http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/kidsco ... Canyon.htm
). "In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which, so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to do one thing in connection with it in your own interest and in the interest of the country - to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is.
I was delighted to learn of the wisdom of the Santa Fe railroad people in deciding not to build their hotel on the brink of the canyon. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel, or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.
Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.
We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned for two or three years for the use of the present generation, whether it is the forest, the water, the scenery. Whatever it is, handle it so that your children's children will get the benefit of it."
Note that Roosevelt is asserting that the responsibility for maintaining the primitive nature of the Canyon is our responsibility---the burden to keep the place 'sacred' is ours and not something that falls strictly on Native Americans. The proposal by the Navajo Nation to construct into the Canyon is criticized by some that they are forsaking their own guardianship of the sacred in pursuit of the dollar. At the same time the Navajo people are criticized for being mired in overwhelming poverty (and by extension, not doing anything about it---just look at all the derelict cars on Navajo Nation), they are shamed for looking at ways to bring jobs and opportunity to the Tribe. Native Americans are held accountable to the 'Sacred Earth' philosophy even as they struggle to survive in the 'Not So Sacred Earth' modern world. The real tragedy is Native peoples will indeed lose their identity in the financial exchange as more and more of Native culture and traditions are bartered away for a 'piece of the American pie.'
Meanwhile the dominant Anglo-European culture proceeds to lay waste to the environment. After all, the Christian Bible in Genesis 1:28 has given Adam/Eve and the rest of the human race this duty: And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”"
It must be some sort of cultural shock to discover that the Navajo Nation is looking to assert their own dominion and to follow the same Biblical mandate. While the confluence of the Colorado/Little Colorado is considered 'sacred' by some Navajo tribal members, is it indeed SACRED to the Hopi people. The Hopi belief is that they (and the rest of the human race) emerged into this current world via a Sipapu (a natural salt dome that is approximately 8 meters high containing a spring) near the confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado Rivers. Reaching it requires a day-long hike along Salt Trail Canyon (or a 4 day round- trip from the South Rim via the Tanner Trail). The Navajo are thus not intruding on a primary sacred area within their Creation story with the proposed tram and hotel, they are simply ignoring the Hopi Creation and like their Anglo-European counterparts feel free to subdue and assert dominion---even if it is at the expense of another culture. Afterall, the Navajo were 'assigned' this border along the Grand Canyon by the US government even as the Hopi and Havasupai were placed on reservations that separated them from their traditional Grand Canyon roots. The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff are part of the Navajo story---and one of the Four Sacred Mountains that define the Navajo place in the World---so it is no contradiction for Navajo Nation to be opposed to the ski slopes and recycled snow on the Peaks while at the same instant looking to build a billion dollar tourist trap on the edge of Grand Canyon.
Anyone opposed to the current Navajo Nation proposal should also look at the current way the Canyon has been exploited. We have a dam on either end of the Colorado River that has strangled the wilderness from the River----river rafting trips are now not much different than taking an extended log plume ride at Disneyland. While the Disneyland trip is for 15 minutes, they Canyon plume ride is for a few days. In both situations, you enjoy steak dinners and ice cream at the end of the day's ride. Planes and helicopters intrude overhead, their noise the clatter of amusement park rides. Mule trains move tourists into the Canyon with the pack animals leaving piles of manure along the trail. Fast food wrappers and soda cans tumble from the Rim and are found down into the Inner Canyon. Near extinct California Condors gather along the South Rim, comfortable with the close contact with humans---any notion of seeing a wild and rare creature gone since they are all equipped with radio tracking devices. Ditto the radio-collared mountain lions. Reintroduced Elk (from Yellowstone Park) create photo opportunities but also opportunity to have your vehicle smashed. The small town of Tusayan on the South Rim is looking at a major construction project of hotels/shopping malls. Uranium mining in and around Grand Canyon will continue should the economics play out for the mining industry---some 10,000 mining claims await development if the mining industry has their way. The Forest Service is preparing to cut old growth timber on the North Rim while the Park Service continues to play with fire and 'controlled burns.' Even the primitive wilderness trails deep into the Canyon no longer deserve the designation---enough hikers have taken these routes over the years that their boot prints have defined paths and destroyed the illusion of a backcountry experience. Stub your toe while on a hike and simply set off your rescue beacon and be helicoptered to safety. So many plastic water bottles were discarded in the Park, their sale within the Park had to be stopped. Enough human waste was being 'buried' within the Canyon by backpackers and river runners, the Park Service had to develop requirements to carry out fecal waste. The list goes on . . . .
Perhaps the only salvation would be to go 'Monkey Wrench' on all commercial development. Bulldoze all the structures and gift shops and hotels, rip up all the pavement and parking lots. To see the Rim would require a hike through natural forest, not a stop at the Imax movie theatre. Allow the constructed trails to crumble. Should you wish to hike into the Inner Canyon, come prepared to discover your route. Decommission the Glen Canyon Dam and allow the Colorado River to run free. Only until these things are accomplished is it 'fair' to stand against the Navajo Nation for their proposal for hotels/restaurants/tram. Afterall, they are only proposing to continue doing to the Canyon what the dominant culture has already done.