Tribes Vow To Fight Ruling
Shirley and other Native American leaders from the Navajo and Hopi Nation, New Mexico’s Pueblos, the various Pai tribes plus conservationists and environmentalists have united on at least one issue: Not only should there be no snowmaking and other changes at the ski resort, they would like to see the ski area go away.
They say the Peaks should return to their natural state in keeping with their federal wilderness designation. If the approved snow bowl plan is not overturned or modified, months of federal lawsuits are expected spurred by Joe Shirley, the project’s most vocal opponent.
On June 9th, the U.S. Forest Service gave the Arizona Snowbowl the go ahead to make artificial snow and other improvements at its ski area concluding the economic benefits to Flagstaff outweigh Native American religious concerns. An expected avalanche of federal lawsuits from the state’s Indian tribes will have to be resolved, which could delay the project for months
“To Native Americans, desecrating the San Francisco Peaks with wastewater is like flushing the Koran down the toilet. The federal government is ignoring the pleas and wishes of the Native people,” Shirley said.
On the other hand, snow bowl operators have a legal right to operate the ski area which has been reaffirmed by federal courts. Because management for multiple uses is a guiding principle got federal land management. The ski area also provides about 400 jobs and puts some $20 million a year into Flagstaff’s economy.
Vince Randall, a former chairman of the Camp Verde Yavapai-Apache nation, argues that the Forest Service keeps saying they are reflecting the majority, the skiers, but there are more than 250,000 Native Americans north of Phoenix, and the snow bowl didn’t even draw 200,000 in its best year.
The San Francisco Peaks are especially profound to the Navajo religion because Humphrey Peak, the state’s tallest mountain at more than 12,600 feet and the other benchmarks – Mount Taylor in northwestern New Mexico and Mount Hesperus in southern Colorado - are in sight of most of the western and central part of the three-state reservation.
Navajo and Hopi medicine men travel to the Peaks to perform religious ceremonies and collect plants and herbs. Navajo medicine man Larry Archie states, “The Peaks have a lot of religious power when they are undisturbed. Putting waste water up there would be like turning our shrine into a toilet.”
The tribes face an uphill battle in getting the Forest Service decision overturned. Federal courts sided with the Snowbowl in the 1980’s when tribes opposed an expansion and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case,
This story has been edited for content and length from the
June 7th and 10th editions of The Arizona Republic. The articles were bylined Mark Shaffer.
ABRAMOFF LED TRIBAL MEETINGS WITH BUSH
When lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked the Coushatta Band of Louisiana and Mississippi Band of Choctaw for donations to a conservative tax exempt group, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the tribes were seeking to protect their casino-gaming revenues from tougher labor revenues and to block changes in federal gaming laws that might interfere with casinos.
It seemed logical for the Tribes to contribute $25,000 each, to the Norquist group for a brief meeting with President Bush. President Clinton was heavily criticized by Republicans for rewarding big donors with invitations to special White House coffees and overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom, but the donors usually contributed directly to the Democratic Party.
Norquist’s group has been fighting a subpoena from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee demanding documents showing its relationship with Abramoff and the tribes.
The arrangement with Abramoff has been conformed by tribal lawyers and documents showing the solicitation of money for a promise of a meeting with Bush.
Abramoff denies wrongdoing and argues his clients got their money’s worth for his work. He and his former partner Michael Scanlon, a D.C. public relations practitioner, are accused of bilking some $82 million for six Indian tribes.
This item has been edited from an A.P. story bylined Suzanne Gamboa.
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