A Letter From Confluence Partners Regarding the Grand Canyon Escalade

Michele J. Crank

The Confluence Partners, LLC, has strived to inform the public on all aspects of the proposed Grand Canyon Escalade (Escalade) project in order for the people and tribal leaders to make informed decisions. Escalade will be an international tourist destination featuring a gondola tramway to the floor of the Grand Canyon, a Navajo-land Cultural Discovery Center and a Native American Artist-in-Residency program.

With so much false talk about Escalade, there are three major misconceptions.

Project Ownership: The greatest misconception is that non-Navajos will own the project.

Not so. The Navajo Nation will own 100 percent of the Grand Canyon Escalade development. When built-out, Escalade will create more than 2,000 jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs; $70 million in annual local payroll; an estimated $90 million plus in annual revenue for the Navajo Nation; and real tax revenue for the Bodaway/Gap Chapter.

Sacred sites: Another big misconception is that the project will desecrate sacred sites.

Not so. The Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department visited the site and provided input and consultation to ensure sacred sites were respected. In addition, local area Navajo medicine men were consulted and they have stated support, in writing, for Escalade which they believe will: 1) create jobs for young people and bring them closer to home; 2) monitor and protect sacred sites that will alleviate desecration of sites currently made by river rafters and hikers in the Canyon; and 3) create revenues for the rehabilitation of the former Bennett Freeze Area.

Grand CanyonLocal Support: Another misconception is that Bodaway/Gap residents don’t support the project and somehow the project will disenfranchise local residents.

Not so. On October 3, 2012, the majority of the people from Bodaway/Gap Chapter voted to support the project. They understand Escalade will bring much needed employment opportunities that will afford their families a better way of life; the grandma’s say Escalade will bring their grandchildren home. They understand the project will bring other benefits, such as a paved roadway, and electric and water infrastructure to an area that has been banned from development for over 40 years. Former Bodaway/Gap CLUP President Brian Kensley reminded the people that they supported this type of project years ago when: “The Chapter approved the land use plan identifying the confluence area as a future economic development zone.”

Unfortunately, the opponents seem more interested in stopping people from learning about Escalade, than allowing decisions to be made on the merits. Groups like the Grand Canyon Trust also are promoting conflicting messages. Generally speaking they oppose enterprises that threaten the environment and in the past they have encouraged tribes toward sustainable industries like tourism; yet when it comes to a tribally owned project in the Grand Canyon, it is suddenly not a sustainable project. If their issue is about exposing sacred sites, shouldn’t they publicly oppose the Sierra Club’s October 14 commercial backpacking trip (#12174A) down the Salt Trail that offers “views of Native American sites,” including Hopi’s Sípàapuni?

Navajo Nation Attorney General Tsosie recently said: "So the one thing that every Navajo needs to understand is that the Navajo Nation is primarily a coal economy…” Should Navajos continue their dependency on declining nonrenewable coal revenues? Escalade is a renewable and sustainable way to enhance and diversify the Navajo economy. Isn’t time that the Navajo People have their fair share of the Grand Canyon tourism?

Navajo Nation Council’s Resources and Development Committee Chairwoman Katherine Benally offered to mediate between the opposition and us, if we would reach out to them. We emailed them on September 24and since have had a few phone conversations with them. We await their decision. Hopefully, they will take Chairwoman Benally up on her gracious offer to peace-make.

To that end, Confluence Partners remain committed to meet with individuals or groups about Grand Canyon Escalade and to discuss their interest and concerns, as long as it is in a calm and respectful manner.

Michele J. Crank is an independent consultant on a tourism development projects/public relations and public affairs/marketing economic development/tribal and government relations management. She is also a partner with Confluence Partners LLC, which will be the managing partners for the Grand Canyon Escalade.

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nightrain's picture
What a joke. Time and time again, we Navajos see this scam played on the Navajo Tribal Government; off-reservation confidence men (and women) come to the reservation with grandiose, to good to be true projects, promising jobs, tax revenue, and on and on. And like poor Charlie Brown trying once again to kick Lucy's football, they fall flat on their butts time and time again as the football gets jerked away at the last second. It'd be funny, if it weren't for the fact these scammers generally walk away from the reservation and beyond the jurisdiction of tribal courts with millions of dollars that could have been better spent on home grown Navajo owned businesses. And the "developments" left behind are bordered up warehouses, unused facilities, unpaid employees, etc. Does OnSat, BCDC, Desert Rock, ring any bells? Once again these scammers from Phoenix, using the proven method of finding some dunce Navajo(s), some with very dubious records, to help get in with the Window Rock crowd, are gearing up to once again to fleece the dopes in Window Rock. "..the Navajo Nation will own 100% of the GCE development..." Ding-ding-ding, alarm bells should being going off about here: These are codes words for, "we (Confluence Partners LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP!)", will collect a sizable fee to facilitate the start of construction but in no way will we be responsible for its success or failure nor will we be involved in actually bringing into operation or maintaining it. We will collect our fee and be gone." What a shame. What a waste.
pfkisa's picture
Geez, I accidentally recommended this thinking it was from "Save the Confluence". That's a lesson for me. Can't undo it, sigh.
gentledove's picture
I will would like to respectfully disagree with Ms. Crank's letter. First, though the Navajo Nation appears to be the owner, it is the investors who will be the partners who will need to be to repaid for their investments in order for the Navajo Nation to have full ownership to this proposed development....just like a mortgage company or car dealership. The Hualapai Tribe with it's legal struggle with their developer Davie Jin has cause us great concerns as well. We have no desire to be in a similar position. What will happen if this proposed 15 yrs. old seasonal isolated large development plan does not make the proposed revenues in this slow economy? Definitely the beautiful pristine land will be the collateral damage, along with invalidated promises of temporary jobs. There will be no homes, no running water and no electricity for our people who have lived under the Bennett Freeze for 44yrs. at the behest of the federal and the Navajo Nation governments. Second, the sacred sites of 15 to 16 tribes within and on top of the Grand Canyon will not be protected from the mayhem of tourist and will only limit and bar the Native spiritual leaders from the nature journey to do their sacred ceremonies in quiet, serene, solitude surroundings. They have no desire to expose nor make public that which is their sacred ceremonies and prayers. Third, if the truth be told, the majority of the Bodaway/Gap Chapter members have opposed this development. The only way for the Confluence Partners to gain the majority of votes of support was to make promises, buy the support, then force a Chapter meeting on a weekday when the majority of the Chapter members were at work, in school, and had long distance to travel. The right to vote for the majority was deny by political tactics of the seasoned political consultants who are partners of the Confluence Partners. The Confluence Partners have not gain the trust of the majority of the Bodaway/Gap Chapter members due to their lack of real transparency. The Chapter members have not see the full document of the MOU, the pro forma nor any spreadsheets of the flow of revenue before, during, and after the full build out, nor the marketing plan for this monstrosity of a proposed development in this downturn of the economy-yet they held a Job Fair for jobs that might never come. As one Navajo elderly women said, "I don't want this development. I am happy with what I have right now" meaning her sheep and the beauty and quietness of the land that she has always known. Finally, we have offered different options to the Confluence Partners but they refuse to work with the Chapter members. It is their way or it is their way! We desire other entities to bids for development along the Highway 89 where the Navajo Nation has been losing $billion of revenue. We desire that a good portion of the revenue remains in the Bodaway/Gap Chapter boundaries to build homes, bring running water and electricity to our people, senior citizen center, educational opportunities for our adults, young adults, children, etc. We want good sustainable development in our area. Thank you for allowing me to share our concerns.