By Anne Minard
The Discovery Channel will air the stunt live on June 23, as Wallenda tightrope walks higher than he’s ever attempted before—1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River near its confluence with the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. His walk over Niagara Falls was only 200 feet off the ground. There’s another difference: he wore a safety harness over Niagara Falls, but will not do so over the Grand Canyon. That’s allowing publicists at the Discovery Channel to advertise the stunt as a “nail-biting” event, and “one of the most daring and captivating live events in history.”
Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation officials say they welcome the event as a chance to showcase their portion of the Grand Canyon. The tribe operates two viewpoints along Highway 64, which runs west from Cameron, Arizona to the Grand Canyon’s oft-visited South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park.
“Our visitation in this part of the Canyon is very low,” said Geri Hongeva, Navajo Parks and Recreation spokeswoman. “We would like families to come visit this area someday. There’s a lot of history; there’s a lot of culture there. We don’t have the budget to reach out to 13 million viewers. This is a great opportunity for us.”
“The Gorge and the Canyon are not about taking lives,” he said. “They’re about life, especially the spiritual lives of our ancestral people.”
Kuwanwisiwma said when a base jumper died in the area last year due to a parachute failure, it presented a cultural burden to the Hopi people—and, he suspects, to the Navajos living nearby.
“We were told that this guy is not wanting to wear a safety harness,” Kuwanwisiwma said. “What if he does fall? It’s another cultural dilemma for the Hopi people.”
For more on Indians and the Grand Canyon, see Top Chefs Cook for Hualapai and Navajos Split on Grand Canyon Flights.
Below: "Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda plans to walk across a section of the Grand Canyon held sacred by the Hopi and other tribes on June 23."