Quick Note: Coverage of San Francisco Peaks Protests

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 10, 2011 — 35 Comments

For those of you who have been following my coverage of the fight over expansion of a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, a process that would pump treated wastewater snow on the mountain, I would like to direct you to Censored News and Indigenous Action Media, who covered a week of planned protests and actions that just took place at the peaks.

“The action we took today is one part of a series of events with the intent to stop Snowbowl, the US Forest Service, and other corporations from further desecrating the Holy San Francisco Peaks,” stated Haley Coles after being released from jail. “The pipeline will not be tolerated. Spewed waste water turned into artificial snow will not be tolerated. Clear cuts, slash piles, and burning of hundred-year old trees will not be tolerated. The Holy mountain will be defended, and the desecration will be stopped; at whatever cost. We have the mountain on our side,” said Coles.

The already in-progress construction is considered sacrilegious by a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations who see this as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” According to Brenda Norrell at Censored News 17 people have been arrested so far, some for civil disobedience, and some for no apparent reason at legal protests.

“Six people protecting San Francisco Peaks were targeted and arrested during a peaceful march for the protection of San Francisco Peaks. San Francisco Peaks defender Klee Benally, Navajo, was among those arrested. In front of Macy’s Coffeehouse on Sunday afternoon, undercover police infiltrated the hundred person march in an attempt to squash the growing anti-Snowbowl movement. The peaceful march by Native Americans and supporters was surrounded by police from the moment the march formed, marchers said.”

While the week of planned protests has ended, protest camps still remain. For those wanting to make their voice heard on this issue, Indigenous Action Media has sidebar on its site of all the relevant contact information. I will be periodically checking in on this issue as it progresses.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Norse Alchemist

    Now…forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t treated waste-water the same stuff we use to drink and shower with? As I recall, the stuff is purified and treated to remove all the “waste” from it and make it fit to be reintroduced to the environment.

    Also..not to put too fine a point on it, but from a certain perspective, all water is treated waste-water. The snow on that mountain has had plenty of waste in it (mainly from animals while it’s there) but it’s all come from somewhere else through the hydrological cycle. Am I to take it that the problem is that this new stuff is Man created water rather than Nature created water? I could understand if people were complaining about using untreated waste water, as that would be gross and unsanitary, but seeing as this water has been cleaned and treated, it strikes me that the only real issue is that his water has been used by humans (what water hasn’t?) and that it has been treated by humans to clean it after use.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      This wastewater has not been treated by Nature yet.

      • Norse Alchemist

        So you’re saying that because it is done by mankind, to make clean the water, in an act of restoration to the environment, it’s no good? Even if the waste-water treated by humans might be cleaner than the stuff cleansed by nature? 😛

        • Lintlass

          “Treated” wastewater can mean a lot of different things: they certainly aren’t *distilling* the stuff as the rain or snow up there normally would be: oftentimes it’s treated with *chemicals*and may be full of organic matter, pharmaceutical and agricultural and petroleum runoff, etc. Normally, ‘treated wastewater’ just means it’s acceptable to release into the watershed/ocean or whatever, to let nature do the rest, not that it’s ready for immediate re-use.

          • Welshwmn3

            Actually, most times, you can actually drink and use the water directly from the effluent (outflow) pipe of the waste water treatment plants. People have been using JUST the treated wastewater (with no extra water treatment) in irrigation on food crops IN THE US for years.

            There are federal and state regulations stating just how much “stuff” can be in the effluent, and it’s often cleaner than the water it’s being released into (after all the untreated natural water has fish peeing and crapping in it)!

            They are not turning water that is yellow and still has solids in it into snow! Really, people, get a grip! Yes, there are many reasons to oppose this, but the fact that they are using “treated wastewater” is NOT one of them.

          • “…the fact that they are using “treated wastewater” is NOT one of them.”

            To the 13 indigenous groups that call the San Francisco Peaks sacred it is, they say making fake snow from treated wastewater is a blasphemy. My personal feelings on the matter are immaterial to what the emotional and religious impact of this action will be for them. I can’t decide for them what is or isn’t blasphemous or damaging.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I’m saying what I said: The “treated wastewater” you’re extolling has been treated by Nature.

    • Crystal Kendrick

      From wikipedia:

      For the Hopi people, the San Francisco Peaks (Hopi: Nuvatukya’ovi) are associated with the cardinal direction southwest, constitute ritually pure sacred spaces, and are used as sources for ceremonial objects.[4] The alignment of the sunset from the Peaks to Hopi villages on Black Mesa is used to calculate the winter solstice, signifying “the beginning of a new year, with a new planting season and new life.”[5] The peaks are seen as the home of the katsinam or Kachina spirits, ancestors who have become clouds following their death.[5] Katsinam are invited to Hopi villages to serve as ethical and spiritual guides to the Hopi community from midwinter to midsummer. Aaloosaktukwi or Humphrey’s Peak holds particular religious significance and is associated with the deity Aaloosaka, a symbol of the Two-Horn Society, a religious group among the Hopi dating to the occupation of the Awat’ovi village on Antelope Mesa.[5] Depiction of the peaks in association with calendar-keeping is attested in a kiva at the Hisatsinom settlement of Homol’ovi, which was occupied between AD 1250 and 1425;[5] katsinam imagery dates to the thirteenth century as well.[5] Other Native American peoples also relate Kachina spirits to heavy snowfalls on the Peaks.

      • Crystal Kendrick

        If this were YOUR ritually pure sacred space would you want to cover it with straight-from-the-pipe treated water? I’m guessing no. Baruch is right when he says nature hasn’t treated it yet and just because a large portion of our society is okay with that doesn’t mean we should force those lackadaisical values on others. We often drink treated water but ask a doctor about that. My physician has told me not under any circumstances. But also, isn’t Arizona short on water to begin with? Seems like they’re just asking for a water crisis.

        • Good points, Crystal. I’d also like to remind readers that this is not only an issue of what *type* of water gets dumped on the mountain. In order to expand the ski resort and create the pipeline that carries the sewer water to the slopes, the Snowbowl (aka Snowbowel) developers are clearcutting on the mountain. They are clearcutting and bulldozing through ceremonial sites.

          This may be hard to grasp for urban or suburban Pagans who don’t have that longstanding connection with the land. But think of the places you’ve gone for rituals. Maybe a place that has held a Pagan gathering for many years, where you’ve sat under the stars and listened to the wind. Imagine the grove of trees where you chanted and drummed… now clearcut, bulldozed, paved over. Imagine the meadow where you stood in circle with friends and family with bulldozers scraping away the soil, all just so wealthy tourists can come and snowski on sewer water.

          Think of how attached you are to some natural sacred space of your own, then imagine that it is a place you have gone for sustenance your entire life, and that your ancestors also have ritualled upon, going back through the generations into time before time. Imagine growing up with the stories of the spirits and ancestors of that place, and the belief that it would be there for your grandchildren as well.

          Then picture the chainsaws and bulldozers and sewer snow. That is what is at stake.

          • Pictures of the destruction taking place on the sacred site right now. This is what people are putting their bodies on the line to sop. It’s not just about people wanting to ski on pee. Reports in today that many of the trees being taken out are old growth. Many of the trees being cut are not even being used for lumber. They are constructing twenty foot high slash piles and simply burning them. See for yourself: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.107132462717182.14577.100002612872609

          • correction: “putting their bodies on the line to *stop”

            And, another Week of Action is in progress, with street actions and direct action on the mountain continuing.

    • Nick Ritter

      I think that the people who hold this area to be sacred are the ones who get to decide what is and is not appropriate to have on the mountain. Regardless of how you, or anyone else, might be able to rationalize the decision to put treated wastewater up there, their rationale is very likely different from yours. Different worldview, different reasoning.

  • Charles Cosimano

    Doesn’t matter. They aren’t going to stop it.

  • Vllooney

    it is the tourist stuff that comes with the expansion that causes some of the damage i think plus this quote
    “The pipeline will not be tolerated. Spewed waste water turned into artificial snow will not be tolerated. Clear cuts, slash piles, and burning of hundred-year old trees will not be tolerated.”
    explains the native view. looks like the law is against them and money is winning this fight right now though.

  • Initially the events were planned as a week of action, but the actionists are not stopping. There are more events already scheduled, and some are discussing a Month of Action. Many have vowed to not stop until the destruction of the Holy Mountain is stopped for good.

  • Lori F – MN

    Is there a special park or sacred place that you have? Can you imagine it being ‘watered’ with treated wastewater? What about the everglades? yellowstone? Vale? the rocky mountains?
    Honestly I had never heard of the San Francisco Peaks until TWH brought them up. But just because they aren’t My sacred place doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care. They care. This is sacred land to these native americans. The government has taken away too many of their sacred places and territories for no other reason than ‘they are savages and we are not’.
    I wouldn’t want to know treated waste water was being used and filtered into some of the local parks or the boundary waters area.

    • Norse Alchemist

      Lori? do you think your body is sacred as well as the land? If so, then perhaps you should stop showering or drinking or using this human treated waste-water. After all, if it is not good enough for sacred nature, if it is truly a pollutant no matter how biologically clean it is, then I doubt it is good for your spiritual health to interact with this human treated waste water.

      • Anonymous

        The situation you describe would be a personal choice Lori makes about her own body. The analogy that would actually work would be if someone were to come to Lori and force her to ingest or bathe in that water against her will. The people who hold these peaks to be sacred ground are not being given a choice, they are being forced to accept it. Somehow I doubt you’d be too keen about being on the receiving end of such a deal.

        • Lori F – MN

          Thank you MertvayaRuka. I was thinking exactly that.

  • Alex Pendragon

    It hardly matters. Humans, especially Caucasian humans, as a matter of course, soil their own nests, and commit atrocities towards each other, most often in pursuit of the almighty dollar (or whatever currency they happen to use). Now the end result of all this is piling up and soon enough the entire planet will be “desecrated” and rendered unlivable by anything other than the most hardy life forms. I ache for you, brothers, but the Great Spirit does not defend your holy places because he has already given up on his children. We have all become abominations.

    • Guest

      Not that you’re excessively cynical and bitter or anything. Racism aside.

      • Aquila ka Hecate

        Alex *is* a Caucasian human. I don’t see anything overly cynical or embittered in his comment – fairly realistic. actually.

        • Guest

          “but the Great Spirit does not defend your holy places because he has already given up on his children. We have all become abominations.”

          I guess we have different standards of cynical, bitter, and realistic. Also, you can criticize governments and societies which destroy the environment and promote racial privilege without condemning people who had nothing to do with it simply because of the color of their skin.

          I also take issue with the idea that humans are so inherently evil and/or stupid we can’t possibly do anything other than destroy everything around us, especially the environment and that environmental work is a lost cause. I thought we left notions of original sin and fallen nature of man back in our old religions (those of us we were ever of those religions anyway) but apparently not.

          Btw, I wouldn’t consider a racist comment to be any less racist if it came from a person of the particular race in question but maybe that’s just me.

        • Norse Alchemist

          A self hating racist is still a racist.

    • Norse Alchemist

      Wow, and no body else ever does atrocities except “Caucasians” or “Europeans.” Oh, I’m sorry, it’s all Humans, but especially “Caucasians.”

      Right. Because no one else chases the “almighty dollar” or does anything bad. Only white people. No body else has cause massed slaughter, genocide, desecration, or anything else. It wasn’t the Muslims that used takes to blow up the Buddhas over in the Middle east. It wasn’t the Chinese and other Asian communists who slaughtered more people than the Nazis in the name of Communism (which by the way has no almighty dollar).

      You say the Great Spirit doesn’t defend our holy places? You’re right. The Aesir and Vanir do. And the other peoples have their Gods. It is our homes, which you seem to have so much trouble with and find so abominable, that are our holy places. You say “Caucasians” Desecrate this planet and make it unlivable? There are soon to be 7 Billion people on this planet. Caucasians aren’t even a Majority in the world population. So take your “great spirit” that hates us humans and walk. I have my Godkin, and my Mortal Kin, and that’s good enough for me.

      But hey, it’s okay. Still the Caucasians fault. Maybe you’d like to wipe us out? Maybe that would solve the problem? After all, the world would be perfect without Caucasians wouldn’t it, Alex?

      And you’re right. Humanity is a bunch of b@stards. But you know what? That’s as much a good thing as our ability to love and be merciful, because if we were so horrible, we’d have never managed to go from being a bunch of armor-less, weaponless pieces of snack food on the foodchain, into the dominant species on this planet. We wouldn’t be able to wipe out sicknesses, heal the sick, or tend to the young and old. We would cower and watch as we were devoured by all the other creatures on this little blue ball of death.

      Take your racist, ignorant, dumb @$$ out of here, Alex. You hate humanity so much? Well you’re human. Want to solve the problem?

      Start with yourself. otherwise, shut up.

  • Patricia Mathews

    You don’t understand. Considering the land sacred conflicts with the goal of maximizing profits. Therefore, how can one take them seriously? They’re cutting into the money that could be made! And there’s the real religion of our age, kids.

  • Greek Pagans protested at their government trying to destroy a temple for a new roadway; why is this so hard to understand from the First Nations’ perspectives?

    • Norse Alchemist

      Because there is a difference between destorying historical artifacts of religious significance, and complaining about the use of water that has been cleaned by human means and intelligence, and made safer for biological consumption than natural rain water, rather than by the natural hydrological cycle. One is irreplaceable, the other would have ended up there eventually by nature’s on hand.

      In other words, the first is an issue of humans destroying what human’s built, and the later is the issue of Human’s creating what nature would have created, only faster and more directly.

      • Redpatcher

        Treated sewage isn’t safe; also the mere fact of additional construction and clearcutting for the pipelines has destroyed sacred sites and killed plants medicine men gather from the mountain.

        “For me this fact arises from both the nature of the pollutants and the reactions they can undergo, and also from the fact that they’ll be imbedded during the winter in snow as well as how the snow melts,” says Torrence. “One chemical compound of concern to me is triclosan, which is found in a number of different products such as antibacterial soaps, clothes, deodorants, and shampoos. While some of it is changed in the sewage treatment process, it actually does survive the treatment process.”

        s described in a number of different scientific papers, triclosan has been shown to be converted by UV light into a dioxin, according to Torrence. It’s not the most deadly dioxin, but it is on the EPA list of carcinogenic agents. Also, anytime there is chlorine in a process, this can affect the Triclosan so that further UV light may convert it into higher chlorinated dioxins with higher toxicities.

      • Your framing of this is entirely wrong-headed. This isn’t just about the water, though that is part of it. As Redpatcher noted, this is NOT as safe as rainwater, and with it being channeled through so many chemicals, there are so many unintended consequences to human, animal, and plant life, that to me, it simply isn’t worth the risk. Why another ski resort on a sacred mountain? Why?

        Why does the sacred get to be trumped by economic expansion? As if there aren’t enough ski resorts? As if the land there was not beautiful and useful prior to development?

        When humans use chemical means to speed up, or in your words, ‘creating what nature would have, only faster and more directly’, we tend to get results like the dioxin Redpatcher mentioned. You ask me why this is a problem?

        You ask why the First Nations have a problem? Because they’re dumping chemically-treated piss and shit on their sacred mountain, and calling it safe, when it very well may not be. They’re clear-cutting and otherwise destroying habitat for their economic development, while wiping out lands sacred to these First Nation peoples.

        • Nick Ritter

          “As if the land there was not beautiful and useful prior to development?”

          Part of the problem, part of the underlying cultural miscommunication inherent in the whole mess, is the idea that things exist solely in order to be useful. This idea ignores the inherent being of things, denies that things, such as this mountain, are ends in themselves. This is the modern view that attempts to make the mountain “useful” by making it turn a profit as a ski resort. This view, ultimately, is the result of the distancing of the Holy from the World that occurs in Abrahamic religions.

          The other view, the older view that things have their own being, and do not exist merely as material upon which to impose human will, is not only a Native American view. It is at the root of all of our religious traditions. I find it odd that a Heathen would argue against it.

          To Norse Alchemist, I would recommend you read the essay “Knowing the Gods” by Collin Cleary, and use that as a jumping-off point into the study of the philosophy of Martin Heidegger: his “Entlassenheit” is just precisely this “letting things be,” or “letting things have their own being.” I consider his philosophy much more important and informative from a Heathen perspective (although it is equally important for any form of Paganism), than, say, the philosophy of Nietzsche that so many Heathens seem to enjoy.

  • LordFanny

    In other news, FIRE IS HOT!!! OW!

  • Daniel Kestral

    This isn’t an isolated case either, sadly. Tribes across North America (and other Indigenous peoples the world over) are threatened by corporate interests.