Grand Canyon National Park Changes Name of Indian Gardens in Honor of Havasupai Tribe

by Amy Myers
Photo by Alexandra Schuler/picture alliance via Getty Images

This year, the Havasupai Tribe near Grand Canyon National Park passed a resolution to change the name of Indian Gardens. Earlier this month, the National Park Service and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously in favor of the change. Now, Indian Garden, located along Bright Angel Trail, is known as Havasupai Gardens.

According to members of the Havasupai Nation, the formerly-known Indian Garden has a heartbreaking history that few visitors know. Originally called Ha’a Gyoh, in 1928, authorities forcibly removed the last Native resident, Captain Burro. Havasupai people continued to live and work within Grand Canyon National Park, but the pain of the eviction remained.

“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,” said Chairman Thomas Siyuja, Sr. in an official statement. “Every year, approximately 100,000 people visit the area while hiking the Bright Angel Trail, largely unaware of this history.”

Captain Burro’s name actually came from his ability to scale the inner canyon walls with great ease, every day. Park employees likened the man’s movements to that of a determined mule, deeming him Billy Burro. After they pushed out Captain Burro and his family, they transformed much of his route into the ever-popular Bright Angel Trail.

The Burro family has since changed their name to Tilousi, which means “storyteller.” Since the unjust eviction, the Tilousi’s have dedicated themselves to protecting and preserving the Native history behind Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park Restores Rightful Recognition to Havasupai Tribe Guardians

For the Havasupai Nation, the change of the attraction’s name isn’t just a formality. It’s a way to honor their ancestors that, like the current members, swore to protect the Grand Canyon.

“The people of the Havasupai Tribe have always called the vast Grand Canyon and the plateau lands south of it our homeland,” said Chairman Siyuja. “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.”

In early spring 2023, the Havasupai Nation and Grand Canyon National Park plans to host a rededication ceremony.

“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,” said Carletta Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribe and former Council member. “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.”