Tightrope walker's stunt will cross Navajo land

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK , March 21, 2013

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W ithout wearing any safety devices, high wire artist Nik Wallenda will attempt to tightrope walk across a portion of the Grand Canyon this summer.

"It's just another one in the bucket list," Wallenda said Monday on NBC's "Today."

He plans to walk 1,500 feet above the canyon without a harness or tether and cross about 1,500 feet at the Little Colorado River Tribal Park, located along State Highway 64 west of Cameron Chapter.

"The only thing that stands between me and the bottom of the canyon is a two-inch thick wire. I'm looking forward to showing the audience a view of the canyon they've never seen before," Wallenda said in a statement released from the Discovery Channel.

It took two years for Wallenda, 34, to receive a permit from the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department.

Wallenda told "Today" that in order to maneuver through the shifting wind speeds, he has been using wind machine to practice at his training facility in Florida, as well as training at a hurricane re-enactment center in Miami.

The stunt will air live June 23 on the Discovery Channel.

In June 2012, Wallenda became the first person to successfully walk across Niagara Falls from the United States to Canada, 200 feet above water on a two-inch steel wire.

Performing such daredevil feats is in Wallenda's heritage. He is the seventh generation of the legendary acrobatic troupe, the Flying Wallenda.

Geri Hongeva-Camarillo, media representative for the tribe's parks and recreation department, said the tribe is honored to be part of the event and to showcase the beauty that exists on tribal lands.

"The Navajo Nation is home to more than a dozen national monuments, tribal parks and ancestral sites," she said. "Many visitors make Navajo Nation one of the top destinations for their travel plans."

Erny Zah, communications director for Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly's office, said the executive staff had a meeting March 7 with Wallenda and producers from the Discovery Channel and NBC about the event.

The group presented information to the president's office along with details about logistics, production concerns, and access to the site, which includes upgrading an existing dirt road to accommodate production crews.

Zah said the president views the event and the filming as a way to attract attention and potential tourism dollars to the Navajo Nation.

"It's going to be such a large viewing audience," Zah said.

Millions of television viewers watched the live broadcast of Wallenda's walk across Niagara Falls last year.

Despite the buzz surrounding the stunt, Bodaway-Gap Chapter president Perry Slim Sr. said the chapter was unaware of the event and as a certified chapter, which was approved in December 2010, chapter officials and residents should have been included in the planning.

"The tribe tells chapters to get certified, now they are going through our jurisdiction," Slim said. "We are putting a resolution together, stating we should have been notified."

Chapter members could consider resolution in April, he said.

As of press time Wednesday, Cameron Chapter officials had not returned a telephone call seeking comment about the event.

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