Far be it from us to tell an impoverished Indian tribe how to spend its money.

We're sitting in relatively prosperous Flagstaff while the Hualapai are struggling to survive on the western end of the Grand Canyon.

If they want to stake their economic future on a glass skywalk that costs $75 for a 10-minute hit of induced vertigo, more power to them. The fact that they found an outside investor to put up $40 million for the structure instead of using tribal money at least shows some financial savvy that other tribes have lacked.

As for the criticism that such a structure is more appropriate for a theme park and degrades the majesty of the 4,000-foot-deep Canyon it is meant to celebrate, we have to ask which Canyon they're referring to?

β€” Is it the one that has a string of hotels sitting right on its edge in Grand Canyon Village, not to mention the Kolb Studios hanging over the lip and Desert View tower looming high above the east rim?

β€”Or maybe it's the Canyon that has all those air tours from Las Vegas buzzing above the horizon from dawn until dusk.

Wait β€” it must be the Canyon that has dozens of motorized rafts zooming through the rapids of the Colorado River on any given day between April and September.

In other words, a glass-bottomed skywalk may be different in form from the other manmade attractions that help lure 5 million visitors a year to Grand Canyon National Park. But the message it sends is much the same: The Grand Canyon has become primarily a mass tourism experience that honors America's commercial spirit much more than its wilderness heritage.

As for how much visual impact a U-shaped catwalk will have on a canyon rim that stretches for hundreds of miles, the answer is not much. Nor is all that new traffic streaming into the Hualapai entertainment compound much different than the thousands of cars that queue up for parking spots at Grand Canyon Village each summer day.

We'll admit that the future marketability of the technology behind fastening a 40,000-pound, steel-and-glass skywalk to the rim with 46-foot-long steel bolts may be limited. But as we said above, it's not our money. The Hualapai have learned by example that when it comes to the Grand Canyon, you just can't get tourists close enough to the edge. Suspending them over it won't be the last commercial attraction at the rim. Anyone for bungee-jumping next?

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