The AP’s Felicia Fonseca and Ty O’Neil were the only journalists invited to a private ceremony and blessing for a campground in Grand Canyon National Park that was renamed to Havasupai Gardens, nearly a century after the federal government forcibly removed the last Havasupai tribal member from the site.
Fonseca got a call from the spokeswoman for the Havasupai Tribe inviting her to the ceremony in the depths of the canyon to mark the renaming. Tribal representatives trusted her to be culturally sensitive, and she was able to get the invitation extended to a visual journalist at the AP, Las Vegas-based Ty O’Neil. O’Neil joined for the assignment, knowing it would require a challenging 10-mile roundtrip hike starting at 7,000 feet in elevation. He carried 50 pounds of gear in a backpack and a tripod in his arms on the hike that took almost three hours each way. He skillfully juggled equipment, switching back and forth from still photography and video, to beautifully capture the landscape, animals that the tribe considers ancestors, a Havasupai woman hiking the trail and the ceremony in which the tribe blessed the new name. The team worked with Richard Vogel and Steph Mullen on the photo selection for the package and Ron Vample on an audio piece with O’Neil doing the voiceover and alerted the digital team to promote it on social media.