Hidden forces shape our ideas, beliefs, and experiences of Grand Canyon. Join us, as we uncover the stories between the canyon’s colorful walls. Probe the depths, and add your voice for what happens next at Grand Canyon!
Jesse: Let's just start by introducing ourselves.
Kelli: Sure like do you want me to introduce myself as like you know park Ranger or do you like introduce myself like how I usually do it?
Jesse: What feels right to you?
Kelli: Saying, well, how we introduce ourselves is usually by our clans. It is just a proper way of saying who we are. Not just to like people who are non-native, but also to our ancestors because they hear us introducing ourselves in our language and they know where we are.
Yá’át’ééh shí éí Kelli Jones yinishyé, Ta’neeszahnii nishłí Kinyaa’áanii bashishchiin Tábąąha’ dashicheii dibe’ lizhni dashinalí. Tse’dezhaa ei shi’ nasha ak’woodí Dine’e asdzaa nishlí So I introduced myself and my four clans from my maternal and paternal side of my mom and dad. That's how I introduce myself as a Diné woman, a Navajo woman. So, what I do here at Grand Canyon National Park is I work in the Interpretation Division.
Jesse: And where do you work?
Kelli: Um, I work at Desert View.
Jesse: And my name is Jesse and I’m a park ranger on the North Rim.
Kelli: Because I guess a basic question I get from the visitors is “where are the indigenous people? How come they're not working here?” My whole thought was like we do work here and we work in all different divisions. We take care of the Canyon from the river all the way to the rim on the south and north side of the Canyon. I really wanted to elevate the indigenous voices here at the canyon.
Jesse: And so in addition to other projects, we’ve started the First Voices podcast series so that listeners can hear directly from people whose connections to Grand Canyon stretch back to time immemorial. In this episode of the First Voices series, we’ll hear from Mae Franklin. Mae has worked for the U.S. Forest Service, the Cameron Chapter of the Navajo Nation, she works with the Grand Canyon Inter-Tribal Working Group, and she works on issues like food sovereignty and cultural preservation in her community.
Mae: Mable Franklin yinishyé Hashk’ąąn Hadzhohí Kiinyaa’áanii bashishchiin Tsé Deeshgizhnii dashicheii Lók’aa’ Dine’é dashinalí aa dóó na’nihah asdzaa dei ei’ya a’íís nasha. To’ni’łiní nani’jí ei’ji shíghan a’kwoo ak’ei dóó ni’tee aa dóó Dine’e nishlí ahe’hee kwee’eé da’eí na iigí.
My name is Mae Franklin. I am from Cameron. I shared my clans with those that are Navajo and want to know their connections to me. I am grateful for just opportunity I have to live in a very unique, awesome place. The Little Colorado River is just in my backyard, so I pay attention to migrations that happen along the river. This is the corridor the birds use to fly back and forth. It’s pretty loud in the spring when they're back, and then it quiets down the rest of the summer and winter is really quiet.
Kelli: Wow she's just an amazing person to talk to. Mae Franklin, she's a local within this area, and she's from Cameron, and she's really trying to preserve a lot of resiliency through languages, stories, and history of the Canyon. I think that just makes me understand, you know, if she's doing that, I want to continue doing that as well. I look up to her as like a role model in that way.
Jesse: We wondered what Mae remember from her first time in Grand Canyon.
Mae: You know, the earliest memory of being up in the higher area, sort of where the trees the juniper trees are, I mean I was small, and I remember those trees were like way tall. And so, a forest was sort of a scary place for me. So yeah, at that time I didn't know where I was as far as like, park and things like that. But I do remember taking a ride out to Grand Canyon, the visitation area, as a student. We went out there on a bus from Tuba City public school. All I remember and I remember feeling the same thing was just an awe, and like I hailed, you know, just stopping and seeing the view. It was the same thing I did when I saw the ocean, you know. It was just amazing - the span of landscape before me when I went to Grand Canyon as a little student. It demands to be looked at. When you walk away you've experienced something. You know that you have experienced something and that you're not the same person that you were when you got there, so you walk away different, feeling different. Some people, you know, if they sit there for a while and contemplate, they probably unload a lot of things, you know. When I was brought up my father used to do offerings and I remember going off on the side while he did his offering along the river. Those kinds of things just sort of have created like this spiritual connection. And the same thing happens when I go down the river with the tribes and they sing the songs and they offer the prayers and it's a just a continuation of what I was raised with. When that happens there's a lot of respect and reverence for what's there.
Jesse: Mae also speaks a lot about home and the things that connect her to it.
Mae: We still heat our home with the stove and so I go out there on an annual basis. We go through the park and now I have like these boundaries in mind, you know, we go through the park and thank goodness we don't have to pay for a fee. I just feel like it makes it so that it's one continuous thing. You get into the Forest Service to pick up your firewood or sometimes when Grand Canyon makes firewood available. Pinyon picking, too. You know, those are resources that we use on an annual basis, and as far as pinyons it's like we never we have it available. Those connect me and it’s all part of the home experience at that I've always known and I've heard stories of.
Jesse: Mae also expressed a sense of loss of connection to home at the creation of Grand Canyon National Park.
Kelli: This is home and we should always call it home, and I understand the feeling of a sense of loss, you know, and a sense of self loss in traditional knowledge and traditional ways.
Mae: When the fence went up, obviously, there are people that were forced out of the park. And then the same thing happened for the vendors when they went in to sell their wares. They were escorted out by law enforcement. And those are some things that my community has not forgotten. It's still somewhat fresh.
Jesse: Another barrier Mae mentions is the barrier to employment. Mae: The gates haven't opened up to employment, still. We have this whole barrier of having to compete for these positions and here it’s in our own backyard. There's a sort of a certain number that they're willing to bring on and those are filled and so therefore you even though you compete you're probably not going to get those positions. And so, that was, I guess, one of the drawbacks. Anyway, I hope that being that the Superintendent is a lawyer that, you know, he's willing to be open to maybe taking a look at that some of those employment laws, or whatever they're called, that are barriers.
Jesse: Mae has invested a ton of time working to remove these kinds of barriers through her work for the Inter-Tribal Working Group and also other avenues, as well.
Kelli: She's part of this huge change that's going to happen here at Grand Canyon, and she's been really strong in this working group for several years.
Jesse: Yeah, she's seen some positive change through the years. Mae: And I've grown to understand, sort of, the employees - their passion, their desire to make the wrong things that happened to make them right. And one of the other things that happened was when Grand Canyon renovated the homes over at Supai Camp. I just thought that was a really, really profound effort on the part of the park to do that and to address those needs. And then, just taking some of the trips down the river and just the interactions that you see with park employees and the tribes. I felt like there was some genuine effort to really understand and connect and as they were being told the various stories. It's not like they just blew it off, they were actually engaged and so I thought that was, to me, a real good thing to go forward with. It gave me a lot of confidence about the actual desire to mend things with the tribes.
Kelli: Her saying that really gives a sense of hope that she does believe in Park Service here at Grand Canyon. To know that we are moving forward and she's really wanting to be part of this and I know that she's really hoping it is moving towards that way you know to a better future for Grand Canyon National Park.
Jesse: Yeah, she has hope but also recognizes there's still a ton of work to be done.
Mae: I guess I just, I'm very much wanting to restore things that have been made void. Maybe people now, even though the young people they don't know what we've lost, some of us still do. I hope we can come forward and make known some of these things that are that are missing, that we can we have an opportunity to put back in place so that we have as much of what we enjoyed in the past, like the trails. I hope that the tribes have enough information to share. I mean, I go down the Canyon and there are new English names coming up with sites. Which, you know, I think those things evolve but there is also the tribal names that the tribes can, you know, share with their youth so that those stay in their memory. And if they go there, you know, all the more. But those kind of things I guess I really would like to see to the tribes, but they have to have access. Right now I want to see folks down along the river telling their stories. There's Navajo stories of crossing the river and just the connected stories there. I think people have just sort of stopped telling those stories, or maybe it a lot of them have gone with the elders that knew the land so well, and because of the English and the kids going off the reservation that some of those things didn't transfer.
Kelli: She lives really close to a place that has really high volume of tourist attraction, and not being allowed for a lot of reasons to be even traveling this way for doing traditional things like she does, or just even walking through. But I think that what she said is just like it's just not here at Grand Canyon, it's pretty much everywhere. It’s not just us Diné people dealing with it, but all the tribes.
Jesse: Yeah, and Mae's really fighting for rights for all associated tribes. Let's give her the last word.
Mae: Our Inter-Tribal group that keeps meeting we want to move toward being home. We want to feel those connections without any kind of barriers. We want our children to come to know the park and be involved. To not be invited, but to say this is what we want, this is how we want our voices to be heard.
Jesse: The Behind the Scenery podcast is brought to you by the interpretation team at Grand Canyon National Park. A huge thanks to Mae Franklin for sharing her stories and perspectives.
We gratefully acknowledge the native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant native communities who make their home here today.
Mae Franklin has worked for the U.S. Forest Service, the Cameron Chapter of the Navajo Nation, the Grand Canyon Inter-Tribal Working Group, and she works on issues like food sovereignty and cultural preservation in her community. Learn more about Mae and her connection to the Grand Canyon in this episode of Behind the Scenery.