All has returned to normal at the Grand Canyon; its world renowned echo is back, loud and clear.
But is it thanks to a mysterious Native American group calling themselves The Blue Corn Rangers?
The canyon’s famed echo fell eerily silent nearly a month ago.
Visitors and rangers noticed the unprecedented phenomenon and also reported that birds and animals were acting strangely.
Park numbers dropped rapidly as tourists admitted being unnerved by the unnatural experience; instead of the booming return they’d expected – their shouts and songs were met with absolute stillness from the canyon floor.
A team from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, led by Professor Rod Handler, took audio samples at the canyon over a period of a week but failed to find the cause.
That all changed overnight with the arrival of four Native American men in a beaten up Dodge pickup festooned with hand-painted Hopi symbols.
“At first we thought they were just regular visitors,” says National Parks Service officer, Lesley Beehan.
“The Canyon is a sacred place to the Hopi,” she says “and most times they come to quietly say their prayers and so forth.”
“But this group asked if they could burn particular herbs – some kind of healing ceremony – and we had to say no because of the fire risk.”
“Turns out they did it anyway, according to other park visitors.
“But they were extremely careful, apparently.
“Next thing we know visitors are flooding the Information Centre saying the echo is back.
“We asked the other tourists who came across the group if they identified themselves.
“They said they were told simply, with a smile; ‘you can call us The Blue Corn Rangers.’
Officer Beehan says the four men then just piled into their truck and left.
While there is no official connection between the mysterious “Rangers” and the Hopi tribe – members live on a reservation some 150 miles (240 kilometres) east of the canyon – blue corn is a staple of the Hopi diet as well as of their spiritual practice.
Many traditional dishes, including the ubiquitous piki bread, are based on blue corn.
Blue corn is also used in Hopi religious rites – including infant naming ceremonies – and features in the tribe’s complex creation story.
Perhaps most significantly, blue corn represents a long, healthy life to the Hopi; years full of purposefulness, strength and vitality.
As officer Lesley Beehan reflects; “I’m guessing that’s their wish for the Grand Canyon.”