There’s No Sacred Land in Arizona

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 7, 2011 — 16 Comments

It is becoming increasingly clear that government officials and politicians don’t believe any piece of land in Arizona is sacred. At least if that land is considered sacred by Native Americans. First, a coalition of Native tribes and environmental activists lost a long legal battle over the controversial expansion of the Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks (though some are pressing on), a move that involves creating snow from treated wastewater, what they see as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” Now, U.S. Department of the Interior office of hearings and appeals have rejected the latest appeal to a proposed shooting range in the Mohave Valley, despite challenges from the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and the Hualapai Tribal Nation.

“After 13 years, the attempt to secure a shooting range in Mohave Valley is drawing closer to reality. The U.S. Department of the Interior office of hearings and appeals rejected the latest appeal from two Tri-state Indian tribes. The federal Bureau of Land Management will transfer a 787-acre parcel to the Arizona Game & Fish Department, which has set aside approximately $2 million for construction. Of the total acreage, 470 acres will be used as a buffer zone. Game & Fish would own and maintain the facility, located on Boundary Cone Road, eight miles east of Highway 95. Bills have been introduced in Congress that would end further appeals by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and the Hualapai Tribal Nation, which maintain the land is sacred to them.”

Which Arizona politicians are introducing bills in the House and Senate to cut off any further appeals? Rep. Trent Franks, a hardline social (Christian) conservative who made headlines in 2009 for jumping on the “birther” bandwagon, and Sen. John McCain, who also pushed hard for the Snowbowl expansion.  While these Arizona politicians seem to care a great deal about expanding how many days in the year they can ski, or creating a new shooting range, they don’t seem to care all that much for the welfare of Natives living in their state. Not that this is surprising, in Arizona unemployment among Natives in rampant, and their issues all but ignored. When American politicians do listen to the concerns coming from Indian Country, they are just as likely to be attacked as praised for their efforts.

Last week, the “Director of Issues Analysis” for the Christian conservative American Family Association, Brian Fischer, wrote a blog post claiming that “President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords. Perhaps he figures that, as an adopted Crow Indian, he will be the new chief over this revived Indian empire,” Fischer wrote. “But for the other 312 million of us, I think we’ll settle for our constitutional ‘We the people’ form of government, thank you very much.”

The reason for this hyperbole and outrage? Obama’s willingness to support the (not legally binding) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. While Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States initially rejected the declaration, all have changed course in recent years. The United States was the last hold-out country to do so.

“While not legally binding, the declaration “carries considerable moral and political force and complements the president’s ongoing efforts to address historical inequities faced by indigenous communities in the United States,” the department said in a statement.”

One can see why some groups and politicians would fear any move that would give Tribal Nations more “moral and political force” to their efforts to protect and preserve what little they have left. To politicians like McCain and Franks, American Indians are simply obstacles. Irritants to be legislated into complete irrelevance. In their minds, there’s no such thing as sacred land in Arizona. Especially if it is not sacred land they can control. As the next generation of Native leaders emerge, we can only hope that a new respect, a new paradigm for relations, can be established.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Alex Pendragon

    We white people are here by "manifest" destiny. You see, a guy we murdered on a cross some several thousand years ago talked to us from the dead (no, he wasn't pissed at us; he loves us) through our own shamans and told us to rape and pillage the Earth, only make sure we save the souls of those whom we murdered before we moved them out of our way through holy genocide. Now that we have built a great nation on the carcasses of the native peoples, flora, and fauna, we cannot afford to have these uppity survivors waving decency and morality in our faces as we continue to go out of our way to insult them. Our own shamans will let us know when we have committed any sin of consequence (our convenient form of religean automatically forgives us for our transgressions so we're off the hook).

    • Crystal7431

      Maybe the local tribes should go on a church bulldozing spree. Hey, fair is fair. If there's nothing sacred in AZ, there's nothing sacred, right?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    It's bemusing that conservatives who hold a sacred-text attitude toward the Constitution regard Indian treaties concluded under that constitution as toilet paper.

  • Baruch's reply was the best I could possibly hope to see. Yeah, what he said. I wish I was shocked; but, sadly, I'm not.

  • I honestly didn't think it was possible for McCain to screw his image over any worse than he already has, with DADT; but boy, was I wrong!

    • Leea

      I'm just so sickened and..tired of all this. The (what seems to me) extreme conservatism, Constitutionalism as the increasingly verbal and powerful right wants it to be. I hope it ends, goes back to more mederation..but sometimes I wonder if we are headed, way down the line, for some sort of civil war, again. (More of those extreme mental gymnastics, I guess)..but if the Congress gives more power to the states? If people are even more disenfranchised, and the middle class starts to disappear…The native Americans have been pretty easy to sublimate, unfortunately. I hope their leaders get stronger. I hope others stop worrying about race (which i believe has a lot to do with the nastiest of the politics currently), and start to wake up and look around. I think I should just give up and move to Canada…

      • Crystal7431

        They don't treat their native peoples any better, sadly. I used to dream of moving to the friendly north but they have their own problems.

        • Thriceraven

          Absolutely true. We manage to escape some of the worst political insanity you all have to deal with in the U.S. but we have *not* been a shining example of how to deal fairly and equitably with an aboriginal population. It is one of our major failings thusfar.

    • chuck_cosimano

      Well, it depends on whom McCain is trying to work his image with. His constituents seem pretty happy with him right now and they are the folks who count. Besides, it may not be healthy to get some of them mad these days.

  • The_L

    When idiots starttalking about how white people have more claim to U.S. citizenship than Natives, I think the best response is to remind them that we did exactly what they’re afraid Latin Americans will do: we came here without their approval and took over their homeland, killing off the vast majority of their people through disease and warfare. Really, the least we can do is treat them like human beings!

    Hmm, I think I just figured out why the conservative crowd is against immigration reform!

  • Don't you know? If they really meant for that land to be sacred, they'd have built a Christian church on it.

  • Skye

    Boy am I glad to be part of Canada instead of the United States. Not that we're perfect but…. yeah. There's been too much bullshit leaking from across that border.

    • Rombald

      I'm a bit lost as to what the American Family Association has to do with Native American issues. I thought it was an outfit campaigning for "conservative" (ie. trad Christian or similar) sexual and marital values? Surely some Native Americans accept those types of values, yet also support land rights,etc.? Surely some people are OK about gays, porn, polyamory or whatever, yet have no time for Native American rights?

      I'm not being awkward here. I'm not American, and, although I see myself as keeping abreast of US politics, I'm genuinely confounded by this.

      • Nick_Ritter

        No worries, Rombald. American politics can be genuinely confounding, even to us.

  • Oh, if only that hyperbole were true — I'd gladly welcome our Native overlords. I nominate Buffy Sainte-Marie as Cheif.

    • Zebster

      I'm with ya … then again, I wish the same thing about 75% of the right-wing hyperbole out there.