Sacred Sites, Sacred Water and Arizona Snowbowl
Update from: Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation
photos by: Tamra Brennan
It was a full house at the Flagstaff City Council meeting held on Monday night. The meeting agenda was Arizona Snow Bowl proposal to use drinking water to make snow on the sacred San Francisco Peaks. The meeting was held at Sinagua High School Auditorium with approximately 800+ people in attendance.
There was a very impressive turnout with five separate Tribes represented. Tribal Presidents, Vice Presidents, Elders and Spiritual Leaders were present from Hopi Nation, Navajo Nation, Havasupai Nation, Hualapai Nation and Yavapai Apache Nation. Each Nation spoke with opposition against approving water usage of ANY kind, in addition to skiing on the sacred Peaks.
An elder from Havasupai Nation located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, closed his comments with a very strong message “You can’t DRINK MONEY!”
Vice President Ben Shelly of the Navajo Nation’s comments related to our youth and those yet to come "Asking us if we are willing to negotiate our relationship with Doko'oo'sliid is like asking us to turn our back on a family member or an unborn child."
The Peaks are sacred to 13 different Tribes, including the ones in attendance.
The City Council, the Tribes and audience were very disturbed by the fact a representative from USDA/Forest Service sent last minute notice, they would not be attending the meeting. Council went on record with their statements of concern and questions, the minutes with be forwarded to the Director. The City Council added to the record, Forest Service has an obligation to the Tribes with the Federal Agency/Tribal Consultation process. The Vice Chairman for Yavapai Apache Nation stated they have never received notification from Forest Service requesting Tribal Consultation. Shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, he signed a proclamation reiterating Agencies of the United States are required to follow the Tribal Consultation process. It was addressed in the City Council meeting, now on record that this policy is not being enforced with the San Francisco Peaks issue. There have been several other meetings in which Tribes requested USDA’s presence, only to be ignored. They are in direct violation of the Tribal Proclamation.
Vice Mayor Celia Barotz, questioned Randy Pellatz, the Utilities Director of Flagstaff regarding the Snowbowls request for 1.5 million gallons of drinking water and the long term affect on the City of Flagstaff’s water supply. Her question very eloquently stated "Unequivocally, can you say that there is no way, without a shadow of a doubt, that this will not affect our water supply?" "How do you reconcile this proposal with the city's commitment to sustainability? It seems that they are not consistent." Her very clear and concise statement received an overwhelming applause of support. The end response was “NO, they can not make any guarantees.”
The Tribal Chairman of the Hopi Tribe asked the City Council if water was so abundant, why they seeking permission from the Tribe for access across Hopi lands to Red Gap Ranch, another water source the City is seeking to obtain. This was an excellent observation, which never was clarified by the Council.
There was a gathering and prayer vigil across the street at the park prior to the meeting with about 50 people in attendance. Klee Benally rallied the group of youth, elders and various organizations as they marched to the school with banners “Save the Peaks,” “Protect Sacred Sites,” and hand signs “The more you say 1% the more Racist you sound, No snowmaking”
The City Council meeting is expected to resume and hopefully announce their decision on Thursday.
For more information about the Peaks issue, please visit the following websites for organizations that are leading the fight to protect the sacred Peaks from desecration:
Isn’t it disrespectful enough the Snowbowl owners are degrading the sacred Peaks, now they want to add our sacred drinking water, the lifeline of the people to the desecration? When will it end, when the people are dying from toxic snow, or when water is so scarce there is not enough for survival? Which will come first?
Our organizations motto and it applies to this issue as well………”Our Sacred Land is NOT Your Playground!”
There is no greater atrocity than the continual violation of our religious freedom and inherent right to partake in sacred ceremonies without being spiritually violated, or suffering from the destruction and blatant disregard of our sacred lands.
Whereas the lack of a clear, comprehensive, and consistent Federal policy has often resulted in the abridgment of religious freedom for traditional American Indians……….……… “Joint Resolution American Indian Religious Freedom”, approved August 11, 1978 (42 U.S.C. 1996),