It was voted unanimously (19-0) by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, in favor of the formal request submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Havasupai Tribe to change the name of Indian Garden to Havasupai Gardens. The Havasupai Tribe passed Resolution 29-21 earlier this year, which provided a formal request to the National Park Service to change the name.
Along the Bright Angel Trail, the Havasupai Gardens is a frequent stop for day hikers and backpackers exploring the backcountry of the Grand Canyon. This place was originally called Ha’a Gyoh, but the National Park Service (NPS) instituted policies that forced the Havasupai people to leave Ha’a Gyoh. And in 1928, Captain Burro, who was the last Havasupai resident, was forcibly removed, said the report.
Chairman Thomas Siyuja, Sr. said that “the eviction of Havasupai residents from Ha’a Gyoh coupled with the offensive name, Indian Garden, has had detrimental and lasting impacts on the Havasupai families that lived there and their descendants.” “Every year, approximately 100,000 people visit the area while hiking the Bright Angel Trail, largely unaware of this history. The renaming of this sacred place to Havasupai Gardens will finally right that wrong,” Siyuja, Sr. explained.
As for the signage, website, and other materials with the new name updates, efforts are already underway. Superintendent Ed Keable said: “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.”
“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,” added Keable.
A member of the Havasupai Tribe and former Council member, Ophelia Watahomigie-Corliss, said: “Park employees kept noticing a Native man walking up and down the canyon walls to Indian Garden, and they began to call him Billy Burro. After all, he could hike up and down those walls just like a mule.”
“This man and his family were pushed out of Indian Garden, forced to leave the land they had farmed for generations so the national park could make it theirs. Billy Burro’s daily trail was turned into what is most of Bright Angel Trail today,” Watahomigie-Corliss said.
Chairman Siyuja also said that “the people of the Havasupai Tribe have always called the vast Grand Canyon and the plateau lands south of it our homeland.” “The Creator made the Havasupai People the guardians of the Grand Canyon, and this is a role that we take very seriously. We are a small tribe. But our voices and our spirits are large,” added Siyuja.
The name Burro was changed to Tilousi by the family, which means “storyteller.” And in order to protect the history and culture of the Havasupai people, the Burro-Tilousi family has fought for generations. Carletta Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribe and former Council member, said: “As a descendent of the Burro-Tilousi 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.”
“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,” Carletta concluded. In early Spring 2023, the Havasupai Tribe and NPS are planning a rededication ceremony.