16 March 2007

Hualapai and the Skywalk

it has become a u.s. national story among mainstream headlines that typically don't welcome news from indian country. but this new headline, like most headlines in this "indian" gaming era of mainstream anti-"indian" gaming news, is sometimes not one that praises indigenous peoples. this time, the headline's about the Hualapai and their newly-built Skywalk in the Grand Canyon West area. (today, buzz aldrin was among the guests at the Skywalk opening ceremony.)

some critics say that the Skywalk (which 120 people can simultaneously be on at the rather "steep" (yes, poor pun intended) price of $25 each) is unnatural and is desecrating the Earth. the underlying message? that building the Skywalk onto the Earth does not fit with non-Native interpretations of "Indian." so many non-Native peoples (and Natives who internalize non-Native ideas/imaginings of "indianness") have difficulty in not equating all Indigenous Peoples with having oneness with nature, with Mother Earth.

why is it that many non-native writers cannot see native peoples as non-static beings? why can some people not see "indians" in economic ventures, in business, in doing what they can to benefit their elders, their young, their people? in line with the work of the bbb, some might ask, "are the Hualapai playing 'indian,' more specifically, playing a form of the white man's "indian"? in his opinion piece, writer john weeks would have you believe so, that yes, they're playing. yet who is john weeks or any non-Hualapai peoples (which would be everyone in the world except for the around 1,400 enrolled citizens) to say that the Hualapai should not do this? i haven't walked a mile in their moccasins (or shoes for non-moccasiners).

neither has the brady bunch. in the first 3 episodes of season 3 in 1971, including "grand canyon or bust," the brady family (soon-to-be brady braves) ventured to the grand canyon to learn, as patriarch mr. brady said, about the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, and Navajo. Peter, the middle son, asks the origins of “such strange names.” it sounds like many critics have peter's "strange" mentality as they find the Skywalk to be strangely at odds with how they view what "indians" should (and should not) do to maintain an image of playing their version of a white man's "indian."

for me, i like to hear from folks who know what it's like for the Hualapai, such as Robert Bravo [not greg "johnny bravo" brady], a citizen of the Hualapai Nation. in an interview with Kim Landers of ABC Radio, Bravo spoke on the importance of the Skywalk: "This is going to benefit, you know the Hualapai nation, Hualapai children, and that's the beauty of it. It's going to create jobs for us, it's gong to create the revenue that we need, you know, for schooling, different departments that our tribal government has. So it's definitely exciting." on a less critical level, i also can't help but think of the Skywalk as reminiscent of the carrier that Luke rides in at home on Tatooine early on in the original Star Wars. (and seriously, i thought of that carrier/transportation device before seeing that Skywalk is very similar to Luke's surname: Skywalker). may the force [of brady brave power] be with you.

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