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Tribal members face harassment on sacred Peaks

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  • ForCERTAIN62@aol.com
    Tribal members face harassment on sacred Peaks Tuesday, January 30, 2007 _http://www.navajohopiobserver.com/print.asp?ArticleID=5473_
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2007
      Tribal members face harassment on sacred Peaks

      Tuesday, January 30, 2007

      _http://www.navajohopiobserver.com/print.asp?ArticleID=5473_
      (http://www.navajohopiobserver.com/print.asp?ArticleID=5473)





      FLAGSTAFF - The Flagstaff Ski area, more commonly known as Arizona Snowbowl,
      officially opened at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 24. A number of concerned
      community members went to the ski area to offer prayers to the mountain and
      witness the opening day. While some individuals held a banner and chanted "No
      desecration for recreation," others made quiet prayers away from the lifts and
      runs.

      "As I have been taught, this mountain is the essence of our way of life as
      Dine people," said Klee Benally a member of the all-volunteer Save the Peaks
      Coalition.

      "I came here to offer my prayers for protection of this holy mountain,
      because it is threatened by Snowbowl's plan to make snow from treated sewage
      effluent."

      Snowbowl General Manager J.R. Murray eventually confronted Benally and
      demanded that he leave the area immediately.

      "I told the Snowbowl representative that this was my church, I would not
      leave my church because this is where I pray. I also told him that I was aware
      that the Peaks are public lands and that I had every right to be there.
      Snowbowl Official J.R. Murray didn't care, he just wanted me to leave and
      communicated this very aggressively, I felt threatened."

      He added, "Snowbowl is overreacting, today's aggressive encounter just goes
      to show that they have no respect for our culture at all."

      As Benally headed down the mountain, Snowbowl officials called the Forest
      Service law enforcement to falsely report that Klee and others that were
      praying were "littering" on the mountain.

      "A Forest Service law enforcement official followed us down the mountain,
      turned on his lights and stopped our vehicle to question us. It was very
      intimidating. I hope no one has to go through that when they go to their church",
      Benally said.

      No one was arrested, but the officer asked the group to be "professional"
      and to "be good about this and you'll be much better in the long run." He
      continued, "We don't want you hurt or anyone else hurt up there."

      Benally stated, "The Forest Service official stated that he was concerned
      for our safety, [which] illustrates that there is a threat of violence that
      exists for us when we want to go to our sacred mountain. He made it sound like
      it was dangerous for people that want to pray."

      This is not the first time individuals have been harassed and intimidated
      while offering prayers near the ski area. In two incidents last year, armed
      Forest Service Officials followed a group while they were making offerings at a
      site within the ski area boundary. Another group last year was detained at
      the base of the mountain and questioned by county sheriffs deputies as to what
      they were doing on the mountain.

      Numerous tribes and environmental groups continue to peacefully oppose
      Snowbowl's proposed desecration through legal appeals, education, demonstrations,
      and prayer gatherings.




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