Packing down to Supai not as idyllic to some as it sounds

SAVE is fighting for the well-being of these Havasupai horses and mules. The Havasupai Tribe of Northern Arizona uses pack animals like these to carry supplies and people in and out of the canyon every day.

Photo courtesy of SAVE

SAVE is fighting for the well-being of these Havasupai horses and mules. The Havasupai Tribe of Northern Arizona uses pack animals like these to carry supplies and people in and out of the canyon every day.

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Havasupai pack horses and mules can carry four packs weighing up to 130 pounds.

The Havasupai Tribe in northern Arizona occupies a section of the Grand Canyon which holds one of the area’s most sought after tourist spots, the Havasupai Falls.

Because of the remote and secluded nature of the falls, the tribe has used pack animals for many years to aid in the labor of bringing supplies, mail and tourists to the falls. These horses and mules have been a part of the experience of Havasupai for decades, but several tourists have accused the caregivers of major mistreatment of these animals.

According to the advocacy group SAVE, Stop Animal Violence, public reports of cruelty toward the pack animals on the Havasupai reservation have been recorded for over 40 years. As found on their website, SAVE was organized in 2016 in an effort to, “help improve the lives of these animals by calling for the cessation of violence against them, and the adoption of care for them.”

SAVE is run by volunteers dedicated to this cause. Many of these volunteers have their own personal testimonials of witnessing the abuse first hand.

“They use these horse mules to carry people’s coolers and luggage down that are too lazy to carry it on the hike,” tourist Morgan Spainer wrote in a personal testimonial on the website. “These horses carry hundreds of pounds roped to them up and down a canyon multiple times a day with no water and no food.”

The Havasupai Tribe’s official website states that each pack animal can carry four bags weighing up to 130 pounds total.

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Travertine Terraces in Havasupai taken in 2008.

The Havasupai Tribal Council has stated that they are very much aware of the website and efforts made by SAVE, but that SAVE consists of false accusations and untrue statements.

“We believe it is a false representation of the vast majority of the horses in Supai,” said the tribal council in an email to the Daily Miner. “The health of these animals is important to us and we have policies in place for the protection of such animals.”

The council stressed that they do have specific measures in place to ensure the well-being and protection of these animals that have been a part of the tribe for years. These measures were created and are enforced by the animal control office located in the Supai Village.

The animal control office enforces the animal control laws set by the tribe. This includes the inspection of all the animals in Supai on a regular basis, and the education of horse owners on the proper care and feeding of the animals. The animal control office can also help with veterinarian care when it is needed.

“The Animal Control Officers in Supai regularly visit horse owners and take note of all horses and their health conditions,” said tribal council members in the email. “This is a time-consuming but necessary effort to ensure that these horses are in the best possible health.”

While the tribe recognizes that there have been documented instances where a horse’s health was compromised, in these cases the tribe has said that the horses were taken into the animal control’s care.

“If anyone is concerned about the health and well-being of an animal they should report it to the Animal Control Office,” said the tribal council.

While the tribal council says there are measures in place, SAVE volunteers are not convinced. The SAVE website states that one of the reasons the “abuse” continues is that the tribal council has failed to, “address the abuse with enforced standards of care and prosecution of the abusers.”

To get to Supai village and Havasupai Falls from Kingman, take Route 66 east to Route Indian 18, which is about six miles east of Peach Springs.

From there, you will travel roughly 63 miles north to Hualapai Hilltop. This is where the eight mile hike to the village begins.

More information on SAVE can be found at havasupaihorses.org, and more information on the Havasupai Tribe can be found at theofficialhavasupaitribe.com.