“I am disappointed but not at all surprised at this latest decision of the Forest Service to uphold the desecration of Nuvatukyaovi (San Francisco Peaks),” Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor said.
Southwestern Regional Forester Harv Forsgren affirmed the decision by Coconino National Forest Supervisor Nora Rasure, which approved expansion and snow production from recycled water at the Arizona Snowbowl on San Francisco Peaks.
Taylor said the Hopi Tribe is “deeply disappointed at the insensitive snub” by the Forest Service’s regional office’s affirmation of the earlier decision. The Hopi plan to proceed with action in federal court to halt the desecration.
“It became evident early on in the process that federal authorities were ignoring the deeply felt concerns of the Hopi Tribe and all Native nations. It is our duty and obligation to protect and preserve the spiritual integrity of Nuvatukyaovi and we will never give up in our efforts to do so.”
Taylor said the action will have an adverse effect on the environment and severely impact the ability of Hopi to maintain their spiritual connection to Nuvatukyaovi.
The Hopi Tribe and other Southwest tribes are nominating the Peaks to the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property.
Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, said: “Our place of worship is under attack. For the Hopi Tribe, and many other Native peoples who have a great affinity for the Peaks, our overwhelming concern is not about access, but in preserving our place of worship which for the Hopi is directly tied to our way of life.
“The Peaks are not just mountains: they are a fundamental and integral part of our religious beliefs and activities.”
The Hopi were joined by an array of organizations — Save the Peaks Coalition, Sierra Club, Flagstaff Activist Network, Center for Biological Diversity, the Navajo Nation and ECHOES — in condemning the Forest Service for rejecting the appeal.
Kelvin Long, Navajo and executive director of ECHOES (Educating Communities while Healing and Offering Environmental Support), said the Forest Service’s decision is a “historic perpetuation of violence on indigenous culture and the pristine natural environment in North America.”
Long said there are wholesome ways of attracting visitors to the area near the Grand Canyon while protecting sacred San Francisco Peaks, known as Dook’o’osliid to Navajos. ECHOES has begun efforts to nominate the San Francisco Peaks as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“It is a positive and healthy solution that will support and enable the creation of a year-round sustainable economy for the city of Flagstaff, while protecting and promoting cultural values and unique environmental landscapes,” Long said.
Earlier, medicine men from the Navajo, Hopi and Havasupai nations noted that melting snow from wastewater on the sacred mountain would contaminate the medicine plants used for sacred bundles and herbs used for healing ceremonies. The medicine men said the ceremonies are for all of humanity, not just for their own tribal members.
The Dine’ Medicine Men Association passed a resolution Jan. 14, 2004, stating that further development on the San Francisco Peaks infringes on and violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and Executive Order 13007: Indian Sacred Sites.
During a press conference with Rasure, Peaks District Ranger Gene Waldrip admitted that the Forest Service had received thousands of comments opposing the development plan. However, Waldrip said Forest Service officials had not read all of the comments received for the environmental impact statement and did not know the percentage for and against the decision.
As Forsgren denied the appeal in June, he said the Forest Service acknowledged tribal concerns for the spiritual values and religious beliefs on the Peaks.
“This decision does not preclude the continued use of the San Francisco Peaks for religious beliefs and practices, and does not violate First Amendment rights,” Forsgren said in a statement.
“To Native Americans, desecrating the San Francisco Peaks with wastewater is like flushing the Quran down the toilet,” said Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr.
“The federal government is ignoring the pleas and wishes of the Native people.” By Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today