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Havasupai Guardians

The Havasupai Guardians of the Havasupai Tribe stand in front of Red Butte on Oct. 8.

Many members of the Havasupai Tribe gathered in the shadow of Red Butte to hold a four-day gathering this past weekend to learn and heal those in attendance.

The event lasted from Thursday through Sunday and ended before Indigenous People's Day, a day celebrated federally as Columbus Day on Monday. Havasupai council member Carletta Tilousi saw many different people from tribes like the Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai, San Juan Southern Paiute, Cibecue and Shoshone present at the gathering to heal, eat food, sing, dance and learn about other cultures.

Tilousi appreciated the effort people took to be physically present at the gathering.

“I think it went really well. I think everybody worked hard and we were able to put this together to educate one another, support one another and bring healing to one another,” Tilousi said.

The gathering came on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the legal challenges to the Northern Arizona Mineral Withdrawal.

The withdrawal banned new uranium mining operations from opening in northern Arizona for 20 years to allow time for scientists to study the possible impacts on the Havasupai water supply. The Supreme Court decision effectively protects the 2011 withdrawal from a judge overturning the ban.

And while the current presidential administration could still revoke the ban, Muriel Coochwytewa, chairwoman of the Havasupai Tribe, still considers the dismissal a victory.

“We have shown that the Havasupai Tribe, although we may be few in numbers, speak powerfully when our voices are joined and amplified with other people who care too much to stay silent,” Coochwytewa said.

Many in attendance also spoke out against the way the Havasupai have been treated by the federal government and by corporations looking to mine uranium ore. Leona Morgan, Haul No organizer, was in attendance to speak out against the actions by local mining that could have a serious impact on the Havasupai.

“I think it’s a blatant disregard of the Havasupai presence of this land since time in memorium,” Leona said. “As Diné (Navajo) I’m just here to support the Havasupai.”

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Joseph Tessay, of the Cibecue Tribe on the Fort-Apache reservation, said he’s been invited to places like Standing Rock to share his songs about how the world came to be and different elements of life. He was happy to learn and share with other tribes at the gathering.

“I enjoy showing my culture, showcasing and letting the world that we as Apache still think our culture is strong,” Tessay said.

As the clouds rolled over the landscape during the gathering, Red Butte and the surrounding land stood as a reminder of what the Havasupai believe had been taken from them.

“This is our original homeland,” Tilousi said. “We’re basically just coming home and paying homage to our sacred places, and we invited other tribes to join us in this experience.”

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Scott Buffon can be reached at, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.


Senior Reporter - Cops, Environment

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