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Maybe it’s time for them …

... to leave the reservation and assimilate into American society ...

Tribe banking on bird's-eye view of Grand Canyon

HUALAPAI INDIAN RESERVATION, Arizona (AP) -- A struggling Indian tribe is hoping to change its fortunes by luring tourists out over the edge of the Grand Canyon on a glass-bottom observation deck 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. It's called the Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped walkway that will jut from the canyon's lip and offer the kind of straight-down, vertigo-inducing views that had previously been available only to the likes of Wile E. Coyote.

"We have to do something, and this is something spectacular," said Sheri Yellowhawk, a former tribal councilwoman overseeing the project.



But the $30 million Skywalk, financed by a Las Vegas businessman and set to open in March, has also ignited a debate among Hualapai elders who question whether the prospect of riches is worth disturbing sacred ground. The Hualapai (pronounced WALL-uh-pie) believe their ancestors emerged from the earth of the Grand Canyon, and the area surrounding the project is scattered with the tribe's sacred archaeological and burial sites.

"We have disturbed the ground," said Dolores Honga, a 70-year-old tribal elder who regularly travels to the rim to perform traditional dances. She said workers on the Skywalk site often complain to her about nightmares. Our people, they died right along the land there. Their blood, their bones were shattered. They blend into the ground. It's spiritual ground. This is why you're awakened," Honga said.

But other elders say the Hualapai have to do something to end the despair and joblessness that plague the tribe's 2,200 members, more than a third of whom live below the poverty line.

In 1995, the tribe's only casino folded after foundering for seven months. Tourists were in no mood to travel 21 miles over an unpaved road to gamble on the reservation -- especially not when Las Vegas is just 2 1/2 hours away by car.

iTunes is currently playing: Lost You In The Canyon from the album Burning The Daze by Marc Cohn.
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