SUPAI, Ariz. - Imagine living in a place so remote that mail, food, and supplies are delivered by pack mule. And where a hike to the village includes a two-mile stretch of switchbacks snaking down the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Supai village is just such a place.
The most remote community in the lower 48 states, it is also the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Havasupai is world-renowned for the spectacular waterfalls in Havasu Creek, and is an extremely popular tourist destination.
The Havasupai, which means people of the blue-green water, have lived in the Grand Canyon and north-central Arizona for more than 1,000 years.
In early January, two new district rangers reported for duty on the Kaibab National Forest: Danelle "D.D." Harrison on the Williams Ranger District and James Simino on the Tusayan Ranger District. They bring with them significant experience working with tribal partners.
Since reporting for duty, both rangers have traveled to tribal communities to consult on a number of ongoing issues, projects, and partnerships. Recently, Harrison and Simino completed the forest's annual line officer consultation trip to Supai, Ariz. This trip is notable because it involves a 16-mile round-trip hike to Supai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Much of what is now the Tusayan and Williams ranger districts on the Kaibab lie within the Havasupai Tribe's traditional territory. In the 1970s, the agency supported the transfer of 185,000 acres of land administered by the forest to the Havasupai Tribe. That transfer was enacted by Congress in 1975 through the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act.
Since that time, the Tusayan Ranger District has shared a boundary with the Havasupai Indian Reservation, and the forest and tribe have developed a strong working relationship to tackle management issues. In 2001, the forest and tribe developed a Memorandum of Understanding to highlight that relationship and establish standard consultation protocols including regularly scheduled consultation meetings in Supai.
This working relationship has been challenged recently by proposals for uranium exploration and mining on the forest, an issue of critical concern to the tribe. However, the forest and tribe remain committed to collaborative management goals, and the last consultation trip resulted in renewed progress on a variety of issues.
"It was an amazing experience to be invited to Supai to meet with the tribal council. What a wonderful backdrop to a productive meeting," Simino said.
"What an experience to visit with the Havasupai - the relationship-building amongst the tribe and the agency, the oasis that is Supai Village, and the gracious hospitality we received," Harrison said. "And hiking in the awe-inspiring beauty that is the Southwestern landscape, all in the name of duty. How fortunate am I?"