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Know the West

Tourists welcome, sort of

  Some Native Americans fear one of the dark sides of tourism - that this economic mainstay threatens the values of Indian life. In late spring, 150 people from 15 tribes gathered at the Yavapai Reservation near Prescott, Ariz., to discuss strategies for dealing with southwestern vacationers. Resort owner Gene Keluche said tourism needs a spiritual center, reports the Navajo-Hopi Observer, and it is up to the Native people to decide "what they want to share and how they want to share it." Hopi tribal members talked about a double bind they find themselves in. Hopi planner Fred Kootswatewa says tourists often ignore signs prohibiting photography, forcing tribal members to stop the intrusion by confiscating cameras and film. Tony Skrelunas, director of Native American programs at the Grand Canyon Trust, pointed out that although tourism is the fastest growth industry in the Southwest, few dollars reach Native Americans. Money usually ends up in the hands of bordering communities, he says. For more information, contact the Western American Indian Chamber, 1660 17th Street, Suite 200, Denver, CO 80202 (303/620-9292).