Photo of “The Eagle” on sacred Indian Land in the Grand Canyon. By the way, I did not take this photo from the glass Skywalk as you will notice towards the end of this piece.
On my visit to the Grand Canyon Glass Skywalk, I noticed multiple Native Americans working at the ticket booth, the parking lot, in the gift shop and taking photographs for families on the actual skywalk. I wondered why, other than the logical explanation that I was surrounded by tribal land. But, I figured there was more to the story.
As recent as 2012, Native Americans have had issues with the Grand Canyon being used for different purposes. But this issue may have been placed in a negative light due to one tribe in the area.
The Skywalk is built on the lip of the Grand Canyon and juts out over the Colorado River. The land where it was built is on the Hualapai Indian Reservation in Arizona. The walk was built under a contract that the Hualapai Council agreed upon with a Las Vegas developer who funded the costly venture.
In 2012 the Hualapai Nation overtook the development company responsible for overseeing the skywalk. The company had a contract in place that did not expire until year 2037, according to an article in Reuters newspaper on March 19, 2012.
Evidently, the Hualapai Nation saw that the Skywalk had potential to keep their families alive and healthy as there is a hefty charge for tourist to walk onto the glass walkway. But, they did not agree with the management or development company and claimed a breach of contract.
5 Years ago, the Native Americans took over or seized the skywalk with the idea of putting their tribe members to work. Of course the original agreement showed that the tribe commissioned the project with an agreement to let the developer run it. After all, the Skywalk is built on land belonging to an Indian tribe while a developer is the one who came in and built the $30-million structure… under contract.
In 2013 a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Hualapai Tribe owed the developer from Las Vegas $28.6 million, according to the USA Today. The judgement came as a result of a contract that was signed with the tribe in 2003. The tribe contended that the developer did not abide by that 2003 contract, which is why they took over the management. The Judge did not see it that way.
The Hualapai tribe consists of 2,000 residents and a 50% jobless rate. Other problems that plague the tribe are reported to be widespread problems with alcohol. Plus, some members view the Skywalk as disturbing because it is built on sacred grounds.
Today, the Hualapai tribe operates the Skywalk. However, they must pay the developer of the project instead of the original contract which had the developer paying them.
As for making that walk onto the Skywalk, you have to pay to ride a bus about 2 miles down a paved road to the site. Then, you have to buy a ticket to make the walk. If you want a photo while on the walkway you have to pay for that as well because cameras are not allowed. The price to walk the walk… About $85 per person.
A Camera is a No-No: If you think you can sneak a camera or cellphone onto the walkway, you are wrong. I tried. You go through a metal detector first, which you can get through with a GoPro, but then you are frisked.
Now you know the rest of the story. Or at least a few more details.