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The Shutdown News Isn't All Bad For A Few American Indian Tribes

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The Shutdown News Isn't All Bad For A Few American Indian Tribes

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The Shutdown News Isn't All Bad For A Few American Indian Tribes

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And now let's go to Arizona. The Obama administration says it will allow states to use their own money to re-open some national parks. Many Arizona tour companies have been clamoring to reopen the Grand Canyon, as you might imagine. The official entrances have been closed since the government shutdown began on 1st of October. The closing though has been OK for some Northern Arizona Native American tribes.

Laurel Morales, of member station KJZZ, reports from Flagstaff: Indians are seeing an unexpected windfall from the closure.

LAURA MORALES, BYLINE: Tourists determined to see the Grand Canyon can take in views from reservation land. The Hualapai Tribe owns Grand Canyon West, where visitors can venture onto a Plexiglas horseshoe walkway that stretches out over the chasm below.

On the east side of the Grand Canyon, visitors are flocking to the Navajo Nation, where Nita Rodriguez gives a tour.

NITA RODRIGUEZ: If you have any questions feel free to ask. OK? Let's go.

LAUREL MORALES, BYLINE: Rodriguez takes a dozen dusty travelers through a narrow opening in a wall of red Navajo sandstone. We step inside what's known as a slot canyon in the middle of the Arizona desert. Visitors point their cameras toward the light that shines down into Antelope Canyon - the often forgotten stepchild of the nearby Grand Canyon.

RODRIGUEZ: Out of the blue, there's all kinds of companies we've never heard of that's just popping up everywhere - tour companies. So they're booking like 40-50 people at a time.

MORALES: Tour companies have had to come up with alternatives to the Grand Canyon - one of more than 400 national parks shut down. Antelope Canyon is finally getting the attention it deserves. Gib Egge and his college tour group from Illinois has been planning for a year and a half to tour the national parks of the southwest.

GIB EGGE: A lot of us were pretty devastated. So as plan B went into effect, fortunately there's a lot of tribal land here, which - which is just as beautiful, I believe, as the national park land.

MARILUISA CARICCHIA: That was a pity because it was a long travel to come here only for once time in the life.

MORALES: Mariluisa Caricchia and her husband Andrea are also exploring tribal land for the first time. The newlyweds traveled from Italy to spend their honeymoon at the Grand Canyon.

CARICCHIA: I don't know if we will come back again here.

MORALES: At the moment the couple appears unfazed by the inconvenience as they giddily pose at every scenic photo op inside Antelope Canyon.

Another picture?

CARICCHIA: From there, please.

MORALES: Oh yes, yeah, yeah. One two three.

At Chief Tsosie's Trading Post. Owner Ray Tsosie says he and his Antelope Canyon guides are ecstatic about the spike in tourism.

RAY TSOSIE: We all get, you know, a piece of the pie and we all are hopefully going to be well fed this winter.

(LAUGHTER)

MORALES: Havasupai families will also be well-fed this winter. Hundreds of hikers are trekking into Supai Village to photograph the majestic waterfalls inside the Grand Canyon. Havasupai Vice Chairman Matthew Putesoy says he's seen four times the number of visitors than usual this time of year.

MATTHEW PUTESOY: Tourism is the backbone of the tribe. We really don't have any other economic development.

MORALES: Putesoy says the tribe's travel office was about to make a round of layoffs but the surge in tourism means workers can stay on the job a few more weeks.

For NPR News, I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff, Arizona.

INSKEEP: And that story came to us from Fronteras, a public radio collaboration reporting on the American southwest.

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