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Volume 30, No. 3

Newly Dedicated, Havasupai Gardens Shows Words Have Power

Every year, approximately 100,000 people visit Havasupai Gardens while hiking the Bright Angel Trail, largely unaware of this history. Now, Havasupai history will be front and center.

Havasupai Gardens renamed

In 1928, the National Park Service forcibly removed the last Havasupai farmer living in Grand Canyon. Captain Burro resided in a lush oasis halfway down Bright Angel Trail called Ha'a Gyoh. The Park Service renamed the place "Indian Garden," and so it remained until recently.

In May 2023, that farmer's descendants attended ceremonies to bless and dedicate the sacred place, formally renaming the site Havasupai Gardens.

Havasupai Tribe Vice Chairman Edmond Tilousi, a descendant of Captain Burro, spoke of the significance of this part of the canyon, saying that "by renaming it Havasupai Gardens, it has finally made right what was done to the tribe those many years ago."

Despite policies that forced them from their land, Havasupai people continued to live and work within Grand Canyon National Park. The federal government established the Havasupai Reservation through an Executive Order in the 1880s. These lands, within Havasu Canyon, comprised 518 acres, a fraction of the lands previously used by the Havasupai people.

Every year, approximately 100,000 people visit Havasupai Gardens while hiking the Bright Angel Trail, largely unaware of this history. Now, Havasupai history will be front and center. The renaming marks a new era of collaboration between the park and Indigenous tribes that call the canyon home.

"It took some time to build some trust with the tribes because of the history of how this land was established as a national park, against the will of the peoples who have lived here since time immemorial," said Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Ed Keable.

A public ceremony was held at Bright Angel Trailhead on May 4th. Dozens of Havasupai and other tribal representatives, National Park Service staff, visitors, and bystanders came together to rededicate the site. A smaller ceremony was held the following day four miles down the trail at Havasupai Gardens, where signage has already been updated to reflect the name change. The park is working closely with the tribe to develop programming that will tell Havasupai stories in their words.

Originally Published: 12-19-2023