Respectful title...
by Respectful title...
Jan 10, 2013 | 1210 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am writing this letter in support of local efforts to rename Negro Bill Canyon. As a canyoneering guide, I hike down Negro Bill Canyon almost daily during the spring/fall tourist season with visitors to Moab.

As our route has its own name, (the infamous Medieval Chamber, or Ephedra’s Grotto) it is only once we’ve made the rappel off of Morning Glory Arch and find ourselves in this beautiful riparian canyon that our focus goes from high angle adventure to reflecting on the intimacies of the canyon. As I point out birds, plants and geologic formations, I am, of course, obligated to discuss human history. When I relate the name of the canyon, most people react with mild aversion to the term “Negro,” which I explain is better than what it was originally named. I feel that this name is socially awkward enough to put somewhat of a damper on my human history talk.

I have been fascinated with the movement to rename this canyon with a respectful title that Mr. Grandstaff and his family would appreciate. Despite the fact that the word “grand” is only coincidentally included in William Grandstaff’s name, I would like to point out that this is a “grand” canyon, and seems appropriate to have that reflected in the name.

For me, the best part of the movement to rename “Negro Bill Canyon” has been getting to know more about William Grandstaff and what life was like for an early black settler in Moab. Let’s take this opportunity to salute the man and the canyon by giving it a respectful and salutatory place name, Grandstaff Canyon.

After all, how does Whitey Tom sound as an alternative to Pritchett Canyon?

—Edward Oak


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