After driving miles on windswept backroads, over meadows of tawny grama grass dotted with twisted junipers, the canyon edge looms into view. We bend through narrow cliffsides. After a brief descent, we arrive at Hulapai Hilltop, a stopgap weigh station adjacent to a paved road. A few natives sling-load pallets from a helicopter onto a small slab of concrete. Not much else around except an oversized gravel parking lot, a ramshackle trailer and horse shed, a couple porta-potties.
The chopper starts up as soon as everyone’s packed in, a booming whir that grits our faces. It darts away. We spot the trailhead down the slope and lope off. We’re heading for the most remote community within the continental United States, deep within the confines of the Grand Canyon. Past the hitching post and round the switchbacks, we start for Supai, the reservation’s single village.
Parched brittlebush mackles the valley along with sparse clumps of blackbrush and mariola. A couple small clouds stall overhead. We shuffle under their rootless scurf, burdened with rucksacks. The vista from the bluff, across so many boulders, drops away into a haze of tor and chaparral. Vast ruts and distances pour from the eye, dissolving into formless borders. Mesas raised up into ribbons, masses of rock scoured and razed. An edifice of sediment laces the horizon.
We pull off on the shoulder of the trail. A team of pack-mules trundle by. A sheepdog scolds the last slowpoke, nipping its heels as the wrangler nods us acknowledgement. We scuttle down through the scoria, gravel and travertine, down through the ancient stories, into the shadescape cast from the mountains. Above the bloodstained summit, the moon’s faint watermark punctures pale empty air.
We enter the canyon. Pockmarked outcrops along the rock-face. Fold on fold, a cascade of strata. Crease and crevasse. Lopsided synclines, lateral saddles, buckled warps and bunched-up benchwork. Millennia sifted into each sinuous landform. Stropped by water a few inches every century.
A sycamore spangles, forking the dry wash. A slight breeze trips each backlit, honey-spotted leaf like a shoal of goldfish. A scrub jay darts off mesquite. We study the mudpack for puma tracks. Avoid the horse plops and coyote scat. Stop to look at another chopper hooked up with hay bales dangling over us. Then back to clambering hardscrabble and backcountry scree. Runnels along the ferrous siltstone above us streaked black. Seams of grain groove the red walls. Same element of iron as swims in our bloodstreams.
The bight cast an umbra. We’re eclipsed, stepping down and down the narrowing cleft. A few fly-clotted lumps and traces of bowels stain the sandy channel. Pockets of stillwater fouled with slag and orts. I have the strange sense that the river that once flowed here was the River Time or the River Consciousness, and that we, too, our ragged forms, are but the brief residue that’s been left in its wake. Haggard and pit-stained, we lumber onward.
Upsweeps and shelves. Blocklike limestone, spine of a ridgeline, terraced and rifted. A trail of loose sand. Century-worn divots and pertusions; load casts and cross-bedding. Stumbling, we traverse timescales. Outsize cutouts. Scruff on the talus; prickly pear upstarts elbowing out from a bracket. Hanging gardens cling to a seep. Flush in a high shift, a lush glen dribbles down maidenhair fern. Below us, dark floodmarks brand the riverbed. Liver-hued scumpools filled with slurry and slush left from a flash flood. If the avenues of a metropolis feel like a canyon, this canyon spires upward like a wall of skyscrapers. A traffic of random, impenetrable ledges diminishing us in their shadows by water pockets and rock shallows.
In the eight miles since Hilltop, we passed only one person coming our way. An older native man who barely gave us a glance besides the train of mules carting US mail, which sauntered by us when we rested for lunch. Amazon packages, folders, and boxes jounced and jostled on cinched haunches.
We go lower into myth and memory, the glimmery edge where the slabs and entablatures slow us down through a pass. Sun leaps the gap in the outcrops as the whole canyon torques. Suddenly we face a stand of sycamores and cottonwoods lofted up all around us, dizzy with the late day’s dazzle. We wander in the foliage, through scrolls of winter-grass. Light slanting asunder. A lisping sibilance from the wind. Shivers of leaf. Deep within the canyon walls, we glimpse the river, its reverie of unearthly turquoise. Lime deposits from an ancient coral reef bleach it blue-green, as if the impure reaches of some interior crystal.
The village of Supai is a handful of tumbledown ranch homes and dilapidated trailers. Most every yard has a pen with a few horses or mules. Round 200 folks live here, the better part of the surviving tribe. A small Mormon temple and a Christian church stand at either end of a single dirt road through town. The churches feel like they enclose the village with outposts of white intruders.
We pass the tiny museum and visitor’s center which is condemned and cordoned off next to a backhoe and a bulldozer. Some rubble has been removed to the closed playground. How the construction equipment was transported down the canyon I wouldn’t know. Parts came in by helicopter and they reassembled it, is my guess. Nearby, people wait next to the helicopter landing pads much as if at a bus station; they shuttle on and off with bags and dry goods. A general store, attached to the post office, faces a small café in the square. We don’t know when it opens or closes.
Like most reservations, this is a food desert and the community is poor. It is estimated 37% of the tribe lives below the poverty line. Moreover, the remoteness increases food prices, especially name-brand items: a box of Cheez-Its goes for eight dollars, a package of Chips Ahoy for nine. Worse still, any trash must be burned, airlifted, or carted out by mule. Some larger pieces—an old satellite dish, a bike frame, the husk of a child’s swing—splay haphazardly in people’s yards.
There’s a new community center with a bank teller window adjacent to the one functional lodge for travelers. The sprawling campsite downstream is closed for winter right now. The natives shuffle and gloom around. I wave to a boy playing on the street; he walks by, ghosting me. A young woman averts her eyes from us as we pass.
Even the lodge receptionist, after we check in, barely gives us a glance. Tightlipped and private, theirs is not an effusive culture with outsiders. An estimated 25-30 thousand tourists crowd through their small village a year. They scatter beer cans, condoms, half-empty suntan bottles, camping gear, Frito wrappers. The combined entrance and environmental impact fees that each guest must pay seems to have entitled many to litter indiscriminately. But this is not tourist season. Money’s stopped flowing.
Walking the dusty path to the edge of town, we notice graffiti on the rock ledges. One message says, “Fuck the Police.” Next, we spot a tangle of yellow police tape hanging from some branches near the approach to Navajo Falls. As I would learn later, this was near the site where tribe member Randy Wescogame stabbed Japanese tourist Tomomi Hanamure in 2006, her body surfacing from the river riddled with 29 knife wounds. Wescogame’s father had been a member of the local tribal police, but he had been dismissed for sexually abusing women inmates. This precipitated his break- up with the woman he lived with, and soon Randy’s family structure had begun to disintegrate, leading to a cycle of abuse that ultimately resulted in murder. I don’t know if the stray bits of police tape dangling from the scrub had been left over from this incident or from a more recent one.
Later, while we dawdled on the other side of town, a couple federal agents zoom by us on a supped-up golf cart, their faces a frozen wall with one-way mirrors. The FBI, Feds, and DEA have a visible presence on the reservation since the local police have been unable to handle serious incidents; calling for backup in these inaccessible reaches of the Grand Canyon could mean waiting several hours, after all. Tensions can get high, both among tribe members and in their interactions with outsiders, not to mention among the thousands of rowdy tourists who visit each year.
Drugs, violence, crime. Sure, that’s all here below the surface, as they are in many poor remote places in the United States. Except this is and isn’t the United States. The conflict with law enforcement on the reservation rankles with the long unsettling rifts of settler colonialism and disputes about sovereignty. As the sun slips down, and a chill quickens the air, Megan and I head back to the lodge.
A threadbare light vanishes beneath the rim. Shadows lengthen and thin, then dissipate. Nobody’s outside. Some stray mutts yowl and spook the horses. The hum of a generator grumbles somewhere down the pitch-black throat of the street. Owls swoop. Bats scud. Six o’clock, a skull-dark pit. The canyons pinch in and unravel the stars from their source. Contours disintegrate. We give in to sleep.
For much of the nineteenth century, the hermetic interior of the Grand Canyon protected the Havasupai from the slaughter and forced relocations visited upon other tribes. A smattering of scouts, surveyors, and white settlers encountered Havasuapi tribespeople beginning in the 1850s. In 1865 Congress mandated reservations for the entire Indian population of the Arizona Territory soon after Kit Carson’s scorched earth tactics in Canyon de Chelly initiated the Long Walk of the Navajos. Also provoking interest in the Havasupai’s area, silver ore had recently been discovered in nearby Carbonate Canyon. The US government finally showed up in Havasupai Canyon, then called Cataract Canyon, around the summer of 1888. As Annette McGivney writes in Pure Land:
Havasupai Chief Navajo not only welcomed Lt. Col. W. R. Price and his men, but he assisted in deciding where the reservation boundary markers should be placed. A reservation was roped off at the bottom of the canyon that was approximately 12 miles long and five miles wide. It was a mere 518 acres, the smallest reservation in the United States.
Chief Jack Navajo had been abducted as a young boy by members of the Navajo tribe. A Hopi trader tipped him off one day as an adolescent of his true ancestry, and Jack traversed back to his ancestral home, eventually becoming a leader among his natal Havasupai people, though not a technical “chief” since the Havasupai didn’t recognize official leaders until white colonialism forced them to, only elders who held respect and sway among the tribespeople.
The reservation’s enclosure marked the small corridor of the canyon near the falls where the Havasupai farmed during the summers. During winters dating back at least since the 1300s, the tribe had been moving to homesites along the plateau in search of antelope, deer, and other game while foraging. Evidence suggest Jack Navajo had presumed that the reservation boundary was temporary and would help keep out the scads of miners who had recently invaded the area, rather than a permanent arrangement. The rangeland along the plateau had also been encroached upon by cattlemen starting in the 1880s. The Havasupai were already feeling boxed in and wanted a claim to their own space.
Additionally, the Havasupai people knew that the nearby Hualapai tribe had just been marched off their ancestral grounds. Increased traffic through the Hualapai rangeland in the Grand Canyon region resulted in the Hualapai War, a series of raids and revenge killings, from 1865-1870. The Hualapai lost approximately a third of their members during this time. Different groups of white settlers and prospectors had been agitating to eradicate the Havasupai, too. The Havasupai could little afford a genocide on a similar scale. The 1905 census recorded only 115 Havasupai. A series of influenza epidemics and floods had taken their toll.
The newly created Grand Canyon Forest Reserve, the predecessor to the famed National Park, proved another existential challenge. In 1898 the Office of Indian Affairs issued instructions that would “forbid their entering the reserve for any purpose.” Teddy Roosevelt visited and supposedly promised Big Jim, a Havasupai who lived at Indian Gardens, that the government would not banish him from his lands. Still, that promise was quickly broken as Big Jim and several other Havasupai were forcibly displaced from their homeland and ancestral hunting ranges. It was not until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, after all, that indigenous people were granted citizenship rights in the United States, following thousands of Native Americans serving during WWI.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Havasupai assisted with building infrastructure and clearing trails, including creating a suspension bridge across the Colorado and installing pipe and sewer lines near Grand Canyon Village and Indian Gardens. In fact, the Bright Angel Trail was one of their traditional footpaths. The large-scale, remote projects required intense labor—and who better to employ than the people who had inherited deep knowledge about the area’s land and water? Still, the Havasupai soon found the grazing permit given to them by Congress ignored by the Park Service.
Despite their labor to build the park, the traditional wikiups at Grand Canyon Village were burnt down one day in 1934 without warning. Tribe members returned from work to find their homes and goods destroyed. The administrators of the Grand Canyon feared that the Havasupai might claim the ground by squatter’s rights. The administrators erected cabins in their place, which they rented for five dollars a month. That same year, the US government required tribes to form representative-style forms of governance through the Indian Reorganization Act in order to sign, enforce, and negotiate legal arrangements and treaties.
In 1941, when the disputed land rights of the Havasupai and Hualupai were contested in United States v. Santa Fe and Pacific Railroad, white interests had conspired to advance the still-simmering tensions of the Hualupai War by means of litigation. Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court issued the majority opinion, stating, “The exclusive right of the United States to extinguish Indian title has never been doubted.” The government would not have to recognize any aboriginal claims to the land, and those natives who felt themselves deprived had no recourse to be compensated by the federal government.
The ruling furthered the system of extinguishment of title of indigenous lands instituted by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 under President Andrew Jackson. This is the determining precedent that still stands today, and it controls the rational of more recent laws regarding indigenous land claims such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. Yet, in the particulars of the case, Douglas “resolved in favor of a weak and defenseless people, who are wards of the nation.” Despite nominally winning the case, no actionable measures were taken by Congress favoring the Havasupai.
Instead, the Park Service kicked Billy Burro, his wife Tsojva, and Clark and Ethel Jack off their homesites within the parklands and only tolerated other Havasupai in the Grand Canyon who were actively employed in projects. After a conference with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Park Service began terminating jobs. People were evicted; more homes destroyed. Children were shipped off to the Fort Apache Indian School, three hundred and fifty miles away.
In the winter of 1955, the Park Service rounded up the remaining Havasupai people and dumped them at the top of Topocoba Hilltop, telling them they had to walk the freezing, fourteen-mile trail back. The Indian Relocation program of 1956 encouraged the Havasupai to move to cities or to relocate to the distant Colorado River Reservation, on the border of California and southern Arizona, with a mix of other tribal groups. In 1957, the Park Service purchased the remaining mining claims between Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls, annexing the area to establish an extensive campground adjacent to the reservation, including on land that was the tribe’s sacred burial site. The tribe wanted its land back, but a phalanx of powerful political forces—including the Sierra Club—had mounted opposition to the tribe, believing that the indigenous population would not be adequate stewards of the environment.
As Stephen Hirst documents in I Am the Grand Canyon, the National Park Service’s planned to engage in a “waiting game until the Havasupai—the ‘doomed race’—[would] die out” since they regarded them as “mere squatters.” Park maps didn’t demarcate the reservation at all. The Park administration’s policy was to lay siege to the Havasupai by sequestering them in their tiny reservation, which contained only 200 acres of arable land, until they starved. The Havasupai, unable to forage or hunt in the Colorado Plateau uplands, fought ongoing lawsuits to regain their lands as if in some jaundiced Dickensian court of chancery. The US government’s strategy, a calculated genocide, still festers in the living memory of many remaining tribal members.
The next morning, we loaded backpacks, hoping to traverse nearly twenty miles roundtrip to the confluence where Havasu Creek meets the Colorado River. The front desk at the no-frills, 30-room lodge—the only place to stay in winter months—provided us with a Xerox of a hand-drawn trail map. We started off, soon passing the campground. It had been long abandoned for the season. Beer and bug-spray cans, plastic bags and bottle-tabs, carabineers, an old pair of sunglasses, and scuffed gear lay strewn about. Detritus and scraps littered the ground like confetti. The mandatory environmental impact fee pays for clean-up crews to round up any trash and remove it via helicopter. Still, the damage by tourists left a visible scar on the terrain.
A picnic table stood lodged in the streambed, an improvised crossing. We spotted a few rope swings and stepping-stones elsewhere that allowed us to explore offshoots along the margins. However, the main trail seemed to dead-end near the overlook for Mooney Falls, the largest of the five main waterfalls on the reservation. This was the most “Instagramable” backdrop, the reason this remote area has now exploded in popularity and become a social media mecca. In fact, the breathtaking waterfall in Beyoncé’s recent music video “Spirit” for The Lion King wasn’t in Africa as the video implies—it was at this exact location. But how mere mortals like us could descend to the bottom was our next question. I tiptoed gingerly along the rim as if it were the top layer of crème brulée.
The Havasu creek plunged off a cliff, cascading into a pristine pool 60 meters below, significantly higher than Niagara Falls. The sheer sides of the travertine canyon fell away into a wrinkled drapery called paleokarst, formed by the work of flash floods and weathering on the soluble Kaibab Limestone. I noticed a nook built into the stonewall. I ducked in—a small tunnel had been excavated inside the bluff. Megan soon followed me. The tunnel opened out onto a lookout balcony balanced on the crag’s edge, where a fine spray shooting up from the falls misted my glasses.
Megan noticed a small makeshift wooden ladder at the foot of the cliff. We knew the trail went all the way to the confluence with the Colorado. What we didn’t know was that the path required one to scale the slippery rockface using a jerry-rigged system of handholds, boards, iron spikes, and chains embedded in the precipice wall, descending from the balcony. In fact, we later learned, the falls had been named for prospector D. W. Mooney, who fell to his death here; the tunnel was blasted and this claptrap of chains and spikes built when Mat Humphreys returned to bury him in 1883.
This would explain the large sign stating “Descend At Your Own Risk” we saw near the vista. We initially scoffed at the sign, assuming it had been placed there to warn climbers and daredevils of their personal liability. Now we were the ones clambering down a setup of rickety ligatures and rusty grips. With each step, I tested my footing since the sheer drop was dripping wet. When we both finally touched down on level earth, feeling elated at our accomplishment, we discovered a coffin-basket tucked discretely behind a boulder near the base of the cliff to airlift out any fallen bodies.
After admiring the view for a good ten minutes, we—like most visitors—were ready for the next big thing. The average visitor to the Grand Canyon, in fact, spends about 17 minutes glancing at the natural scenery. The rest of their trip is idled away with bus rides and bathroom breaks, museum visits and tours of gift shops. In an increasingly visual culture, we have lost patience with actually looking, it seems. We, too, wanted to move on. We had a goal to get to the Colorado. But we soon encountered a maze of footpaths that curlicued and cut back on each other through brush. The trail map was little help. The dotted line zigzagged back-and-forth across the creek several times around this point. Whatever trails marks or causeways there were had been washed out by the late summer monsoons. So instead, we took our time.
We noticed a ladder mounted high up on a cliff, leading to a mineshaft. Graffiti nearby proclaimed, “Enter the Dragon.” Upon our return home we learned this was an abandoned vanadium mine. The lower section of the ladder had been taken off when local Havasupai boys got hurt. But that didn’t stop intrepid climbers from lassoing the lowest rung for their own attempts. Another cave along a slot canyon’s wash was more accessible after some bouldering. Inside, quartz sparkled back at each tilt of our flashlight. Another old mineshaft near the back, likely for lead, sank down into darkness.
Elsewhere, I lizarded up a smooth-edged bowl of rock on my belly, balancing above a syrupy rock-bowl of old rainwater. Pitons and tackle had been lodged into an elbow of overhang above me, just out of reach. It seemed like the veins of this place had been extracted and collapsed—wormholes, midden wastes, unwritten maps. Rust traps and follies. The clandestine routes and soiled nooks had the joyful risk of a moldering playground.
We lunched along the riverside. A leaf-lit oasis. Though midday right off the main trail, we had this little patch of wilderness all to ourselves. Cut off by the steep drop-off of Mooney Falls on one side and moated by the river on the other, this sundrenched hideout near Beaver Falls felt like our own private island. After making sandwiches, we launched breadcrumbs into the stream and studied the bits as they drifted and vortexed in the swift-moving current.
Eddies pulled the pieces hither and yon into waterspouts, slipping and purling before they spooled away downriver over another small cascade. Idyllic as this pastime might seem, secret underwater grottos lurked beneath the water which were responsible for the flux of whirlpools and countercurrents. Swimmers in the summer came to dive down into these grottos called the “Green Room” and the “Blue Room.” Reportedly, you hold your breath and enter a crawlspace that opens out into an area with a just enough headroom to catch your breath again. Each year, swimmers drown trying to find these hidden caves.
Before heading back, we follow a tiny side crick back to its source. Slickrock opens into a box canyon, potholed ledges honeycombed with tafoni. Perhaps this is the place known as Ghost Canyon; perhaps this was some other spectral node. I traced the scum-coated trickle, its surface scattershot with algae like radioactive snot. Water boatmen paddle in these not-quite-standing pools, a bit of clotted foam purling down each landing.
I come across a wedge of boulders blocking my path, heaped rocks I scramble and cantilever up with legs akimbo. I kneebar a crevice, lockoff, and manage to sidle through a gap, gimping to the other side. Past the obstruction, it’s like I’ve fallen down a well. I face up to pure sky. I’m surrounded by steep escarpment and vast walls of scree on every side. Alone, I’m adrift under the cloudless space of limitless blue, a Ganzfeld field like those designed by the artist James Turrell. The huge chasm is an aperture sans spatial cues where I freefall upward through empty and vertiginous luminations.
On January 3, 1975, Gerald Ford signed a bill returning 185,000 acres to the Havasupai after a prolonged legal and political fight. The area included upland hunting and gathering grounds, the adjacent waterfalls, as well as the park-built campground which the tribe was enjoined to manage and leave open to the public. At the time the Havasupai people rejoiced. In retrospect, though, it might be viewed as a Pyrrhic victory.
By 1975, a few generations removed from their traditional way of life, the tribal members had accommodated themselves to a sedentary dependence on the annual invasion of white tourists. I don’t mean to imply their culture is dead. In fact, the Havasupai, due in part to their remoteness, have the only reservation in which a hundred percent of the natives living there speak their indigenous language. But the long struggle against the combined colonizing forces of miners, parks, government agencies, and tourism had changed the land and the people’s lifestyle forever.
Complicating matters, as Aiden Wood writes online for The Arizona Republic: “Havasupai Elementary stands out as the worst school in a U.S. Bureau of Indian Education system that has long let down Native American students. The school teaches only English and math, but ranks last among all BIE schools in both subjects.” Reportedly, a shortage of teachers means that the students often just draw, watch movies, or get sent home early. After such miseducation, the federal government forces Havasupai children to attend distant boarding schools since no high school exists on the reservation. There, they become isolated from their home culture and are routinely ostracized by other students. Teenagers who don’t fit in, they pick up bad habits, and then get dumped back onto the rez as adults.
The tribe won a lawsuit in April 2018 that recognized the intergenerational trauma caused by an inadequate education system, a total lack disability services, and the cultural deprivation brought on by forced removal from the students’ community. No high school has been built yet, and the elementary school has seen minimal improvement. So far, the changes on the ground feel illusory.
Another psychic scar was a byproduct of research conducted by Arizona State University starting in 1989. The research investigated Type II Diabetes, prevalent among tribe members, by conducting bloodwork and genetic testing. No genetic links were found for diabetes, but the researchers then used the blood samples and DNA they gathered for unauthorized studies on other topics, including schizophrenia, migration, and inbreeding, which are considered taboo subjects to the Havasupai.
When the tribe found out in 2004, they sued the Arizona Board of Regents for misuse of data, negligence, and the violation of informed consent, civil rights, and medical confidentiality. A procedural error initially caused the case to be dismissed before it was reinstated and then finally settled out of court in April 2010 for $700,000 in funds—a hundredth of what the tribe had requested. The university also agreed to return the samples and retract the papers.
The studies stigmatized the Havasupai for a high inbreeding coefficient, common for such a small and remote community, but misinterpreted as intrafamilial fornication which their complex kinship networks forbid. Furthermore, the implication was that the tribe had mental health issues due to their genetics and not factors such as poverty, administrative bullying, and isolation. Their indigenous origin stories were also called into question by the studies on tribal migration patterns. The affair is now a classic case study in bioethics.
Despite the nominal victory, the Havasupai have grown wary of outsiders claiming to help them. When a new hybrid generator system was recently installed by outside contractors working for government agencies, for example, the equipment kept getting hijacked or damaged. Little positive has resulted from the series of belated legal gains won by the tribe, through the Havasupai have grown more insular, more suspicious, due to the pattern of exploitation that shapes the everyday reality of tribe members’ lives.
The meaning of my visit continues to change long after I’ve left. As I learn more about the area and its indigenous peoples, a paradox strikes me: the same place can be both prison and paradise. For the millions of tourists who visit the Grand Canyon each year but know almost nothing about the peoples whom their vacations have displaced, the scenic wonders can feel sublime and liberating, offering a brief core sample into the ravaging, overpowering forces that have shaped the land over many ages. But for the peoples whose ground has been invaded—the Havasupai as well as the Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Paiute, and Hualapai—the overpowering forces that have ravaged the land over many ages might more likely resemble the weathered faces of those tourists themselves.
Long incarcerated on a tiny reservation, with sacred sites and ancestral habitations deemed off-limits, the Havasupai have been ironically conscripted to play host to the invaders in order to provide for their very livelihoods. One layer of subjugation accretes upon another, a sediment of colonization.
The places we pass through contain secret corners, eroded strata, buried histories.
The next day, I looked back while ascending the hilltop at the end of the long hike out. The heat past noon over the dry scrub blurred the levels of mesas and buttes. A mass of basilicas and silt-lined cavities. The most distant towers vapored into silhouettes. A watery apparition of my eye, the nearer traceries of rubble swam away. Mica glints incinerating rocky talus ribbons. It almost seemed like a mirage.