The Grand Canyon West and Understanding the Hualapai Nation
The Meaning Behind the Places of Grand Canyon West Knowing leads to understanding the Hualapai Nation
The Hualapai people regard Grand Canyon West as more than an attraction. The Canyon and the Colorado River are living entities infused with conscious spirit. From legends and myths to historical accounts, the main points of interest at the Grand Canyon each have their own stories to tell.
Grand Canyon and Eagle Point
At one point, the entity of what is now the Grand Canyon was all submerged underwater. The legend goes there was a big ice comet that landed in Colorado. After millions of years, the comet melted, and the water rushed through the rocks carving the Grand Canyon. The Hualapai myth says a giant eagle soared the skies before the flooding started, and swooped down to save the Hualapai people. This grand eagle flew the Hualapai on his back, depositing the tribespeople along the ledge of the west rim when the flooding stopped. The eagle itself turned into stone, where it remains to this day.
The Zipline and Quartermaster Canyon
Long before the Zipline was built at Grand Canyon West, the Hualapai were forced to take the “Long Walk to La Paz.” The Hualapai of all ages endured excruciating hikes up to fifteen miles a day, driven by soldiers. During the Long Walk to La Paz, elderly Hualapai overheard the Calvary saying they would gun the tribesmen down.
The elderly told the younger generation to run back home. They ran down an old sacred trail at Quartermaster Canyon all the way to the bottom of the Canyon and evaded the military. Today, direct descendants of these brave Hualapai live on and continue to tell their tales. This valley is named for a member of the Hualapai tribe who settled there in the early 20th century.
Guano Point and the Views
Guano Point was the catalyst for what was to come at Grand Canyon West through an interesting discovery. In the 1930s, two men floating down the Colorado River happened to land their boat along the bank near a cave. Upon closer inspection, they discovered guano,or bat feces, a popular ingredient back then for fertilizer, dynamite, and even makeup.
After hearing more than 100,000 tons of guano were in the cave, the U.S. Guano Corporation bought the property and constructed a $3.5 million tramway system to extract it. The aerial tramway was built from the mine to what is now known as Guano Point, with the cable head-house built on land leased by the Hualapai Tribe.
By 1959, all the cave’s resources were exhausted — it turns out the predicted 100,000 tons was closer to 1,000 tons. A U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed into the overhead cable system and permanently disabled it, never to be repaired. The remaining structures were left intact as a monument to man’s attempt to mine the Canyon. What also remained were the roads the miners built, now used for Grand Canyon West tourism buses.
For the Hualapai, Guano Point is sacred for another reason. Many Hualapai weren’t able to escape the “Long Walk to La Paz.” These tribespeople jumped off the edge to their deaths rather than be captured by the military. Hualapai call these the lost souls. When you visit the area, be sure to remember these Indigenous people and pay homage to their spirits.