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Protected Forever

A new U.S. national monument includes land that is important to many American Indian groups.

Part of the Grand Canyon with a portion of the Colorado River shown.

© Doug Meek—Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

U.S. president Joe Biden has set aside almost 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of land around the Grand Canyon in Arizona as a new national monument, which means it will be protected permanently. The president chose this land because it is important to many American Indian groups.

The monument is named Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni. The name comes from the languages of the Havasupai and Hopi people, who live in the region. The words Baaj Nwaavjo mean “where Indigenous peoples roam” in the Havasupai language. I’tah Kukveni means “our ancestral footprints” in the Hopi language. The Havasupai, the Hopi, and many other American Indian nations have been working together for several years to get the U.S. government to protect the area.

Now that the land is a national monument, activities such as building and mining will not be allowed there. This is important to American Indians because companies have been interested in mining a resource called uranium in the area. Mining can pollute nearby bodies of water. The Havasupai people rely on a local body of water, Havasu Creek, for their drinking water. The land is also an important part of the history and cultures of all local American Indian peoples.

“Our ancestors were once spread far and wide throughout the region,” said Edmond Tilousi, vice chair of the Havasupai Tribe. “The canyon is a part of each and every Havasupai person. It is our home, it is our land and our water source and our very being.”

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Did You Know?

© Martin M303/stock.adobe.com

The Grand Canyon is a landform that was carved out of the earth by the Colorado River millions of years ago. The canyon is about 277 miles (446 kilometers) long and up to 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide. At its deepest, the Grand Canyon is more than one mile (1.6 kilometers) deep! 

The President’s Advisor

A woman leans out of a boat that is traveling on marshland with trees in the background.

U.S. Department of the Interior

As part of her job, Secretary Deb Haaland visits the nation’s government lands and waterways.

When President Biden was thinking about whether to create a national monument in the Grand Canyon, he probably got advice from Secretary Deb Haaland. Haaland is the U.S. secretary of the interior. That means she leads the U.S. government’s Department of the Interior, which makes decisions about government lands, wildlife, and other resources. 

Secretary Haaland is the first American Indian to serve as a member of the president’s cabinet, the group of people who are in charge of the different government departments. Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna. Before she worked for the U.S. government, she worked for the New Mexico state government. Haaland makes a point of focusing on issues like the environment and respecting the cultures of different American Indian peoples.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Three photos show people in traditional clothing celebrating by dancing and blowing into a conch shell.

Jessica Rinaldi—The Boston Globe/Getty Images, Joseph Prezioso—AFP/Getty Images

In the United States, the second Monday of October is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The photos above show just a few of the celebrations that have taken place. In the top left photo, Cheyenne Fox Tree-McGrath of the Arawak Nation dances a communal dance. On the top right, a man blows into a conch shell. In the bottom photo, Indigenous dancers from a group called Cetiliztli Nauhcampa perform.

This year, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is on October 9. You can learn more about this holiday, and why it’s celebrated, at Britannica.

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Word of the Day

Indigenous

Part of speech:

adjective

Definition:

: of or relating to the earliest known inhabitants of a place

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