On April 24, 2024, the Havasupai and Hopi Tribes, represented by the Native American Rights Fund, along with the Navajo Nation filed to intervene in two cases in the U.S. District Court, District of Arizona. The cases challenge last year’s designation of the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. The Ancestral Footprints region is the Tribal Nations’ homelands, and it includes places held sacred by the Tribal Nations and their members. The Tribal Nations have the right to intervene in these cases because they have significant legal interests that could be affected by the proceedings and that will not be adequately addressed by the existing parties in the case.

In Arizona State Legislature v. Biden, the Tribal Nations seek to intervene and dismiss the case. The court should dismiss because the Tribes must be included in the case to represent their unique interest in defending against the legislature’s direct attack on the tribal commission. However, Tribal Nations (like all sovereign governments) are immune from suit and cannot be joined in this case without waiving that immunity. In Heaton v. Biden, the Tribal Nations seek to intervene in support of the defendants to protect their unique interests in the litigation.

“The Havasupai people have never left the Grand Canyon. We are still here. It is our home. It is our culture. It is our source of life and existence. We are committed to protecting it. Establishing protections for Baaj Nwaavjo was an important and long-sought-after step. The Havasupai Tribe must be included in any decision-making about the care and administration of the region,” said Havasupai Tribe Chairwoman Bernadine Jones.

Because of their expertise, knowledge, and values, Tribal Nations were included in the commission tasked with the care and management of the Ancestral Footprints monument.

“The Ancestral Footprints designations is a top priority for the Hopi people. We consider this landscape not just beautiful, but sacred. Our Tribal Nation has put a lot of work into protecting this gift from the Creator and we will continue to do everything that we can to protect this area that we call home,” said Hopi Tribe Vice Chairman Craig Andrews.

Since time immemorial, several Tribal Nations have called the Grand Canyon region home. In fact, the monument receives its name from the Indigenous names given to the area by the Havasupai and Hopi. Baaj nwaavjo (BAAHJ – NUH-WAAHV-JOH) means “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai language, and i’tah kukveni (EE-TAH – KOOK-VENNY) means “our ancestral footprints” in the Hopi language. The Proclamation creating Ancestral Footprints details the history of how these lands were taken from the Tribal Nations, and the Tribes’ efforts to maintain a relationship with their cultural resources and sacred places embedded in the landscape.

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