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Save The Peaks

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Is the ghost of former President Andrew Jackson haunting the streets of Flagstaff, Arizona and the Whitehouse in Washington, D. C.?

Arizona already has become infamous for its state legalization of racial profiling, commissioning police to act as posses to enforce anti-Mexican prejudices. Now Arizona's Flagstaff, the gateway to the Grand Canyon, will extend the dominant culture's supremacism by complicity in the conversion of First Nations' sacred lands to a playground for the rich and powerful of Phoenix.

The Obama administration wisely has challenged the noxious Arizona law that allows the police to question the immigration status of individuals during everyday police encounters. But President Obama's Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, has missed an opportunity to repudiate Arizona's intolerance of First Nation's religious freedoms.

Arizona's San Francisco Peaks soar high above the Colorado Plateau, providing a volcano-born refuge for plants, critters, and humans in a desert environment beset with the vicissitudes of global warming and climate change.

The Sacred San Francisco Peaks. Photo Copyright © Cy Wagoner. Used with permissi
The Sacred San Francisco Peaks. Photo Copyright © Cy Wagoner. Used with permissi
(Image by Cy Wagoner)
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The San Francisco Peaks are sacred to at least 13 Native American Nations including Dine' (Navajo), Hopi, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, Apache, Tohono O'Odoham and San Juan Southern Paiute. According to Yavapai-Apache Chairman Vincent Randall, the peaks are one of the "sacred places where the earth brushes up against the unseen world." To the Navajo, the Peaks are the "Holy house of our sacred deities whom we pray to and give our offerings." The massif's name speaks of the poetry of other languages: Doko'oo'sliid (Dine') - "Shining On Top" and Nuvatukaovi (Hopi) "The Place of Snow on the Very Top."

In 1930, before Native Americans found a strong voice, the U.S. Forest Service permitted a ski lodge and an access road to be built on Mt Humpheys, one of the sacred Peaks. In 1969, opposition from several tribes and community groups put a halt to a full-on expansion with the usual Disneyland array of restaurants, shops, and lodges.

In 1979, consistent with its perceived mission to convert the natural world into ready cash, the Forest Service approved a new lodge, a paved road, additional parking, four new lifts, and 50 acres of trails. This expanded to 777 acres.

The chairman of the Hopi Tribe warned, "If the ski resort remains or is expanded, our people will not accept the view that this is the sacred home of the kachinas. The basis of our existence will become a mere fairy tale."

With a straight face, the Forest Service went on to claim that the ski lifts would facilitate the practice of Native American religious rights. Essentially the Courts concurred, finding that the Forest Service had faithfully met all the provisions of the existing laws.

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Paul F. Torrence is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA. His career spanned 30 years at the US National Institutes of Health where he was a Section Chief and then 8 years at Northern (more...)
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