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Tribes Conflicted Over Grand Canyon Tightrope Walk

Geri Hongeva, a Navajo Parks and Recreation spokeswoman, says her department has met with the Hopi Tribe and heard their concerns.
Anne Hoffman
Geri Hongeva, a Navajo Parks and Recreation spokeswoman, says her department has met with the Hopi Tribe and heard their concerns.

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Tribes Conflicted Over Grand Canyon Tightrope Walk

Tribes Conflicted Over Grand Canyon Tightrope Walk

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The man known as “The King of the High Wire” will walk across the Grand Canyon Sunday, 1,500 feet in the air. But tribal members have conflicting feelings about the stunt.

Nik Wallenda has earned seven Guinness world records for his death defying feats. For this walk he has been training

Anne Hoffman

Geri Hongeva, a Navajo Parks and Recreation spokeswoman, says her department has met with the Hopi Tribe and heard their concerns.

with wind machines at 45 to 55 miles per hour. The winds at the canyon were gusting this week at 35 miles per hour. Wallenda told a group of reporters in Flagstaff he feels ready.

"I would love to get on that cable right now and walk across," Wallenda said. "You know my playground’s there and it’s almost set up."

Northern Arizona tribes believe this gorge on Navajo land to be sacred. The Hopi Tribe has said if he falls, his death is their spiritual burden. The tribe has requested Wallenda wear a safety harness, but he refuses.

"I truly hope when this walk is complete they will all be excited about this the fact that it happened there," Wallenda said. "And it really is shining the light of the world on this area."

Wallenda said his last walk across the Niagara Falls brought 25 million tourist dollars to that area.

"We’re right adjacent to Grand Canyon south rim and people from the Grand Canyon just pass us by," said Geri Hongeva, a spokeswoman for Navajo Parks and Recreation.

But when viewers see the program televised on the  Discovery Channel and it includes footage of the reservation’s landmarks, Hongeva anticipates more visitors to the reservation.

The walk will be televised on the Discovery Channel Sunday evening in 217 countries.

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.