Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
SAN FRANCISCO - Numerous carloads of American Indians, representing various American Indian tribes, caravanned from Flagstaff, Arizona to San Francisco this weekend to demonstrate their support for the plaintiffs in the Save the Peaks Coalition vs US Forest Service court case that will be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this morning.
Attorney Howard Shanker Last Night in San Francisco
Last night, some 150 people gathered for dinner and reception where several speakers discussed the merits of the case at The Women's Building in downtown San Francisco.
In 2005, the Snowbowl Ski Resort and Coconino Forest Service's expansion plan was approved for reclaimed sewage water from Flagstaff's Rio de Flag Sewage Plant for the use of snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort.
Opponents maintain the San Francisco Peaks face imminent danger of being used as a toxic recreation area exposing citizens to hazardous contaminants from the reclaimed sewer water.
“Unfortunately, there really is no law in place to protect holy places or sacred sites of American Indian people,”
stated Flagstaff based Howard Shanker, attorney representing the Save the Peaks Coalition at today's hearing.
"I have twenty minutes to make my case," Shanker told the Native News Network, immediately after he spoke to the crowd.
The case argues that under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, the Forest Service failed to adequately consider the impacts associated with ingestion of snow made from reclaimed sewer water in its federally mandated environmental review process.
“This is really a public health issue. There was not a proper study done to see the implications of usage of the reclaimed sewage water to make snow,”
"We are confident we will prevail with the ceremonies and prayers that are going up to protect the San Francisco Peaks," commented Len Foster, Navajo, representing the International Treaty Council from Window Rock, Arizona. "I am here to show my support. We are here in solidarity. We know what we are up against," continued Foster.
“The rights of Indigenous people will be recognized.”
"It is deplorable that the United States Forest Service would allow known endocrine disruptors to come into contact with our children," said Berta Benally, Navajo, a plaintiff to the case and a grandmother who traveled to California to witness the hearing. "At one point DDT, BPA and asbestos were all considered safe. Years later, after many people suffered, we now sadly know that they created a health hazard."
"I support the efforts of the Indian tribes, environmental groups, and community members who will be in attendance during the 9th Circuit Court hearing to express their concern over the public health, environmental, and cultural impacts that will result from using reclaimed water that may not be properly treated. We need to look more deeply into the impacts of using the treated sewage water provided by the City of Flagstaff," stated Wenona Benally Baldenegro, Navajo, who is running for Congress in Arizona's Congressional District One, in a written statement prepared for the Native News Network.
Prior to the hearing today, supports of the Save the Peaks Coalition will meet for a sunrise prayer vigil at a park near the Federal Courthouse.
posted January 9, 2011 7:30 am est
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