Visitors to Grand Canyon National Park’s popular Bright Angel Trail will soon find that a popular landmark has been renamed: An area once called “Indian Garden” will become “Havasupai Gardens.”
Nearly 100 years ago, the National Park Service (NPS) forcibly removed members of the Havasupai Tribe from the inner rim of the Grand Canyon. The tribe, which now resides on a nearby reservation, passed a resolution earlier this year to formally request the name change. (In the Havasupai language, the area known as “Indian Garden” was originally called “Ha’a Gyoh.”)
“Every year, approximately 100,000 people visit the area while hiking the Bright Angel Trail, largely unaware of this history,” says tribe chairman Thomas Siyuja Sr. in a statement from the NPS. “The renaming of this sacred place to Havasupai Gardens will finally right that wrong.”
The last known resident of the area was a Havasupai man known as “Captain Burro.” The NPS forcibly removed him in 1928. The lands he and his family used to walk and farm are now part of the park’s most popular hiking trails.
The Burro family later changed its name to Tilousi, which means “storyteller.” Carletta Tilousi, a former Tribal Council member, is a descendant of the family.
“I am glad to see that we will always remember and honor the true history of my family’s forced relocation due to the development of the Grand Canyon National Park,” says Tilousi in the NPS statement. “For that reason, honoring our ancestors and remembering our history is also very important to the Havasupai people. I hope this historic action will help other Tribes take similar steps and reclaim lands back by changing place names for historic and cultural preservation purposes.”
The name change is only the latest example of a larger effort to change the names of destinations that are offensive to Native Americans. Just a few months ago, for example, hundreds of federal sites across the country officially changed their names to remove a racial slur.
The NPS and the Havasupai Tribe are collaborating on a rededication ceremony, which will take place in the spring. In the meantime, staff will begin swapping out signs around the park as soon as possible.
“The Grand Canyon National Park team was proud to work alongside the Havasupai Tribal Council in our joint effort to rename this culturally significant location at the Grand Canyon,” says Ed Keable, the park superintendent, in the NPS statement. “The Havasupai people have actively occupied this area since time immemorial, before the land’s designation as a National Park and until the park forcibly removed them in 1926. This renaming is long overdue. It is a measure of respect for the undue hardship imposed by the park on the Havasupai people.”