Despite a long legal battle that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and despite secret talks held between the Department of Agriculture and Flagstaff city officials to find a last-minute compromise, it looks like the controversial expansion of the Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona has been approved and is going forward.
“Well, it finally happened. Despite objections from a number of tribes throughout the Southwest, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently approved Arizona Snowbowl to continue with their expansion efforts, which will undoubtedly include artificial snowmaking. It’s no surprise that Snowbowl owner Eric Borowski was thrilled, adding that he would make a request to the Flagstaff City Council to use potable water to make artificial snow since tribes had previously complained about the use of reclaimed sewage effluent to make artificial snow. But if left with no choice, he was prepared to use reclaimed wastewater.”
As I’ve reported here on this blog before, a coalition of 13 Native American Tribal Nations who consider the land sacred ground have been fighting to stop what they see as a desecration that would be “like putting death on the mountain”. Sen. John McCain has been pushing for this expansion approval, despite the protests, questionable economic benefits, and concerns over public health. A new organization, True Snow, has now formed to continue the fight against expansion and the prospect of pumping treated wastewater snow onto the peaks.
New court appeals are already in progress to challenge the use of treated wastewater, and to block the use of drinking water for the purposes of making artificial snow. As Wells Mahkee Jr. at the Najavo-Hopi Observer points out, if we ignore the warnings of the sacred deities, if we desecrate the sacred land simply so people can ski longer, what message will they send next?
“…as a compassionate human being, I instead implore Mayor Presler and members of the Flagstaff City Council and all other elected officials and supporters of Arizona Snowbowl to rethink Snowbowl’s request to use either potable water or reclaimed wastewater for the purpose of creating artificial snow. If the near-record snowfalls of earlier this year and the recent wildfires were any indication, our sacred deities are attempting to send you a message. It’s quite simply a matter of supporting the tribes and saying “no artificial snow.” If we’re not careful, our deities may choose to send us a few more messages – and this time, they may not be so subtle.”
Native leaders and activists are standing firm, blasting the Obama administration for what they see as a betrayal, and vowing to never give up fighting to stop further encroachment and destruction on their sacred mountain.
Former Hopi Chairman Ben Nuvamsa stated, “We Hopit (Hopi people) will always believe in the sanctity of Nuvatukyaovi. That is why we must fight … to preserve Nuvatukyaovi even if the legal and political odds are stacked against us. This is our way of life. Our tradition and ceremonies are the basis of our existence and they will continue. We will always pray to Nuvatukyaovi for the blessings it brings us.”
This issue isn’t over by a long-shot, and you can be sure I’ll be covering this story as it continues to develop.