March 21, 2007

One small step for the Hualapai

FIRST STEPS:  Skywalk opening grandA group of Hualapai children in traditional dress escorted Aldrin up the steps of the Skywalk.

Moments later, he waved to the crowd and stomped his boots on the glass as he marched out onto the U-shaped deck. A group of tribal leaders walked toward him from the other side of the structure, led by space shuttle mission specialist John Harrington, a member of the Chickasaw tribe and the first American Indian to fly in space.

When the two astronauts met in the middle, they smiled and shook hands.
Tribe pins economic future on Grand Canyon attractionThere were ice sculptures, buffet lines, women in platform shoes and rumors Oprah might show. There also was tribal regalia, ceremonial dancing, Indian fry bread and jeans.

After a morning of festivities, the crowd swarmed the rim to see former astronauts Buzz Aldrin and John Bennett Herrington, the first Native American in space, take the ceremonial "first walk."

The crowd cheered as the men slipped protective covers over their feet and stepped onto 3-inch-thick glass panes. Hualapai Chairman Charlie Vaughn, developer David Jin and other VIPs joined them.

A smiling Aldrin called it a "magnificent first walk," then clutched the glass rail and leaned over for a look at the crevice below.

At a news conference afterward, he said, "You're walking on transparent glass. You can look left, right, up, down and see a truly magnificent view."

Aldrin, who was paid a speaker's fee, said the experience was wonderful but no moonwalk. "It really doesn't compare that much to walking in space," he said. "Not exactly like floating on air, but a wonderful vision. A vision of hope for the future."
Skywalk at Grand Canyon making its debutAldrin was not the first person to walk across the Skywalk. Tribe members held a private ceremony Monday to ask their ancestors for permission to use the land in this way. Tribe members and workers then trod onto the cantilevered bridge a day before the media descended on their community.

Many on Tuesday expressed that they had mixed emotions about building a commercial structure onto the canyon.

"We do need something here," said Travis Majenty, a cultural specialist for the tribe. "I was opposed, but now I'm going to give it a chance."

6 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
That means that 'Buzz' Aldrin and John Herrington now are qualified to join the Hualapai Skywalkers Guild, and can join in on that famous song:
"We represent the Skywalkers Guild,
"The Skywalkers Guild,
"The Skywalkers Guild,
"And on behalf of the Skywalkers Guild,
"We wish to welcome you to Hualapai land..."
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

voyageur said...

This is one of the few reservations I've actually been to.

Rob said...

Have you? Just to be clear, the Havasupai are the tribe at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, not the Hualapai. The Hualapai have only a small footprint on the Canyon itself, at its western end. They don't own the whole Canyon or anything like that.

The reports haven't said whether the Skywalk is visible from any of the popular vantage points. That's a key issue, in my opinion. If it's tucked away in a side canyon that no one ever sees or visits, it's not much of a problem.

In fact, the Skywalk is unlikely to be swarming with tourists anytime soon. It appears to be far off the beaten path--literally. As one website put it:

http://www.the-grand-canyon-info.com/grand-canyon-skywalk.html

I have a word of caution for you. If you plan on driving yourself to Grand Canyon West, I HIGHLY recommend that you take a high clearance vehicle. The reason I mention this is because once you're on Diamond Bar Rd., 14 of the 21 miles are unpaved. It's very bumpy with many large stones sticking out of the road and many holes.

I drove between 15-20 miles per hour for the 14 miles and it took forever to reach Grand Canyon West. The paved portion of the road began once we hit the reservation.

voyageur said...

"Have you? Just to be clear, the Havasupai are the tribe at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, not the Hualapai. The Hualapai have only a small footprint on the Canyon itself, at its western end. They don't own the whole Canyon or anything like that."

That's them all right. Several years ago, we did one of those fly into the Grand Canyon things. It was the same company with the deadly helicopter crash not long after. Maybe the same helicopter! I know those names are similar, but I know that the reservation with the tours did not have a V in it, and seemed to be pronounced like "hwa-loppy". But I was never sure on the pronunciation.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
But what about the Paiutes and the Zuni, which all of these bursts of publicity have ignored? Will we be hearing from those people anytime soon? Or is it the case like the Code Talkers, that one or more tribes wish that the other be so ignored?
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Sounds like you were there, Voyageur, even if you don't remember it perfectly.

I don't think any tribes except the Hualapai and the Havasupai have legal claims on the Grand Canyon. Spiritual claims are another story.