In 1882 the federal government set aside 518 acres of land in Havasu Canyon, a side canyon of Grand Canyon, as the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The reservation was a tiny section of traditional Havasupai lands, which ranged over much of north-central Arizona south of the Colorado River. The Havasupai used this land as winter hunting grounds, and the entire tribe traditionally moved to the plateau above Havasu Canyon every fall. Now, they were confined to a canyon on a reservation too small to support their people.
For nearly a century, the Havasupai fought for the return of some of their traditional lands. Then, in the spring of 1971, the federal government proposed incorporating even more of the traditional Havasupai lands into the national park. At public hearings in Grand Canyon Village to discuss the plan, Havasupai Tribal Chairman Lee Marshall rose to speak. “I heard all you people talking about the Grand Canyon,” he said. “Well, you’re looking at it. I am the Grand Canyon!” Marshall made clear that the land and the surrounding plateau were critical to the tribe. Generations of Havasupais found voice that day through Marshall, and the speech laid the foundation for the 1975 return of thousands of acres of traditional Havasupai land.
I Am the Grand Canyon is the story of the Havasupai people, from their ancestral beginnings through the long battle with the federal government over their traditional lands to the tribe in modern times.
“This book is our Bible. We use it to teach our kids who they are.”—Fydel Jones, Havasupai