For over 800 years, the Havasupai people have guarded the Grand Canyon. They are the canyon keepers who live in the Grand Canyon and take very good care of the land. Their main source of income comes from tourism. More than 20,000 tourists visit the Grand Canyon every year. Visitors pay the Havasupai people a fee to enter their land, and they are delighted to meet them. Like all Native Americans, the Havasupai people respect nature. They live a secluded life that is now being threatened.
There is a project that can pollute the pristine drinking water of the Havasupai people. Energy Fuels, a mining company, plans to drill down the Grand Canyon to search for uranium. After they drill, they will send the uranium to a mill in Utah. Since they will drill very close to the Havasupai’s only source of water, there is a strong possibility that their water could become contaminated with uranium. If their water gets tainted, they may have to leave the place that they have called home for over 800 years. This is their only home where their culture and way of life thrives away from the industrial world.
Whether they are Native American or not, many people sympathize with the canyon keepers. There is a petition circulating online to stop the mining project at the Grand Canyon. Already it has garnered thousands of signatures. Many people want the Havasupai people to stay in their homes with clean water. Since they are the first Americans, they should be respected. They very work hard to preserve the Grand Canyon, which is major tourist attraction as well as their home.
Their unique name, Havasupai, has two meanings. Havasupai means “blue green water” and “pai” is defined as people. Called “the People of the Blue-Green Waters,” the Havasu Creek has aquamarine blue water. Their language, Havasupai, is spoken by 450 people on the Havasupai Indian Reservation as well as in areas surrounding the Grand Canyon. It has the distinction of being the only Native American language that 100 percent of its indigenous community speaks.
Just like in the present, the Havasupai’s way of life was endangered in the past. In 1882, the federal government forced the Havasupai people to leave all but 518 acres of their land. For many years, the Havasupai people fought hard to get their land back. In 1968, they won their Indian Claim Commission case against the US. and had the rights to recover the land that was taken from them illicitly in 1882. They still faced obstacles after their historic victory. Even after they won the case, their land was never rightfully returned.