Direct Action to Protect Holy Peaks Continues

By Klee Benally – www.IndigenousAction.org

On Saturday, August 13th 2011, after a prayerful gathering on the Holy San Francisco Peaks, my friends Mary Sojourner, Rudy Preston and I were arrested by “law-enforcement” agents for standing against desecration and eco-cide caused by Arizona Snowbowl ski area.
Since June 16th, 26 arrests have been made during protests when Snowbowl started furthering desecration and eco-cide on the Holy Peaks.

As a Snowbowl hired excavator operator tore into sacred earth, plants and boulders to extend the wastewater pipeline trench further up the Holy Mountain, 40 people gathered in prayer in a meadow directly across from the excavation. At times, bulldozers and the excavator were no more than 200 feet from the gathering, so the machinery made it nearly impossible for elders to speak. The noise completely disrupted statements and prayers made by those in attendance.

Although I am not sure how it started, shortly after the prayer gathering a group of 30 people started pushing rocks and dug-up dirt into the pipeline trench. As I watched from a distance, every rock being placed back in the trench–to heal the scarring of desecration–appeared more powerful than any petition I’ve ever read.

Two Forest Service agents, who had apparently been monitoring the prayer gathering, emerged from the woods as the spontaneous action unfolded.

At that point I approached the excavator operator and stated, “Stop. You have interrupted and interfered with our prayers. You must stop.” I then chained and handcuffed myself to stop the excavator.
I was joined by more than 30 people who began chanting and singing. We sang in a way that was a continuation of our prayers. I was chained to the machine for approximately 2 hours.
Forest Service and Coconino County Sheriffs ultimately cut me out after Louise Benally, from Big Mountain, agreed that it was OK for me to do so. I was charged by a sheriff for “trespassing” and “disorderly conduct.”

How can I be “trespassing” on this site that is so sacred to me? This is my church. It is the Forest Service and Snowbowl who are violating human rights and religious freedom by desecrating this holy Mountain. Although an appeal is in the court system Snowbowl is attempting to undermine judicial process. Additionally, Snowbowl and the Forest Service are violating the 2004 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that was signed with Indigenous Nations. This MOA stipulates consultation must occur prior to any construction, this has not meaningfully occurred, if at has occurred at all. Not to mention, the Forest Service and Snowbowl are in violation of the Environmental Impact Statement, as they have followed none of the mitigation measures either. Their actions are far beyond “disorderly.”

After my arrest and release, Mary Sojourner who is a local author and activist, confronted Forest Service and Coconino County Sherrifs. She walked up to the excavator in an effort to stop pipeline construction and was immediately cuffed and put into a police van.

Mary stated, “I took action not just for the Mountain, but for my friend, Klee Benally, who I saw chained to a monstrous extractor, the pipeline trenching machine that had been ripping into the mountain and the peaceful morning air as thirty of us prayed for the Mountain; and so that older women and men would see that one doesn’t have to be young to stand up for a place and community that you love.”

Rudy Preston, local Peaks advocate, was also arrested and charged with two counts of “disorderly conduct” and “trespassing”.

Rudy offered this statement, “I feel like the world changed forever yesterday. Our actions on Nuvatukya Ovi (San Francisco Peaks in Hopi) have led to me seeing the true horrors perpetuated on the Indigenous cultures of our community every single day. Even without sewer water on the mountain, the desecration is a systematic perpetuation of genocide on local peoples for centuries and it is just as strong now as when peoples were forced onto the Longest Walk. My eyes will never again close to this injustice. And my body will not perpetuate it.
”
All that has happened in the last month was made possible by like-minded individuals taking action of all kinds. I hope that others move out of their comfort zone a bit and create actions that reflect their part in this. Not everyone can march in the streets, not everyone can lock down, not everyone has a car. But we all love the mountain and you don’t need to wait for a ‘known organizer’ to tell you what to do next.”

As I, Klee, was chained to the excavator I said, “This is not a game. This is not for show. This is not for media. This is to stop this desecration from happening.”

While construction was only stopped for just about 2 hours, it was stopped nonetheless. This is power.
This is a power that we all share. If one person, three, six, or nine, can stand in the way of machinery and say “enough,” imagine what would happen if it was every one of us who cared?

What is at stake is our prayers, our ways of life, our cultural survival. This is why this has to stop. This is why we say, ‘No desecration for recreation, protect the peaks!’

For more info, action and to donate for jail support: www.indigenousaction.org or www.truesnow.org.

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  12 comments for “Direct Action to Protect Holy Peaks Continues

  1. Marty
    August 15, 2011 at 6:48 AM

    ntense!your in my thoughts bro, even after this long, im gunna try and make it out there over winter break, Thank you mountain defenders!…

  2. August 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM
  3. August 16, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    I forward a comment from a friend who got the article by mail and replied to me:

    Jacques Petit, Mûr-de-Bretagne (Fr):
    Pour parler de créations dérisoires et grotesques comme cette station de ski (on peut bien penser que la disproportion des moyens – intervention des flics, par exemple – exprime surtout une volonté de briser toute résistance, quelle qu’elle soit; une manière de dire : “notre loi est LA LOI, et vous vous y soumettrez de toutes façons, quel qu’en soit l’absurdité – qui a vraiment besoin d’aller faire du ski là ou il n’y a pas de neige ? – et l’arbitraire”), qu’est devenu le projet de Kevin Kostner, d’installer un parc d’attraction dans les Black Hills ?

    And my translation of it:
    Talking about pathetic and ludicrous creations as that ski station (we can think that the use of disproportionate means – such as that police intervention, for instance – mainly expresses a will to break any kind of resistance, whatever it is; a way to say: “our law is THE LAW, and you will submit to it anyway, no matter how absurd – who really needs to ski where there is no snow? – and arbitrary it is”), what happened with Kevin Kostner’s project to create an entertainment park on the Black Hills?

  4. August 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Video by MT, subtitled by me / vidéo sous-titrée (Fr):
    http://www.chrisp.lautre.net/wpblog/?p=305

  5. Joan Chissie
    June 12, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    My prayers are with you, although I cannot be there in person, I am there with you in spirit! May the Great Spirit guide you as you represent our entire Dine Nation!! I am currently traveling in Europe to bring awareness to the issues of Water and the Peaks which are sacred to us, I hold you all in my heart and prayers as we continue our fight to keep what is sacred to us!! Thank you for standing up for our HUMAN RIGHTS, as our place of sacred belief is being threatened, continue to resist!!

  6. Diane Prigge
    June 12, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Almost one year ago on the 14th of June I was abducted from my apartment in Mesa not alowed to bring any identification with me nor even allowed to put shoes on my feet and then handcuffed behind my back so tightly that I screamed out in pain as they pushed me out my patio door and into the parking lot where they made me stand in my bare feet on the hot pavement. Then I was handcuffed to a ring on the farr side of a bench outside what I assume was the Mesa Police Department for approximately 45 minutes. My wrists are very damaged from that day and for the following 6 months in a Phoenix jail system where my constitutional rights were being violated.
    My charges were dimissed on September 14th but I didn’t discover that until I wrote tocou the court in Mesa myself and got a reply mailed back to me in November…!!! I was prevented from using a telephone for many weeks and the only numbers I could reach were nuumbers who would accept collect calls: that being the Maricopa County Public Defender’s office who kept me there until December 29th.
    Since then I have been cooresponding with The Department of Justice in Washington DC and mailed the police report to them concerning that day. My name seems to have have been transposed onto someone else’s documents with the date of birth blackened out. A female who has an extensive criminal record. Sex-trafficing or human trafficing is illegal in this country and so is excessive physical force done by law enforcement officials.

  7. Diane Prigge
    June 12, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    I was not allowed to pay a bailbondsman either because Judge Warner removed my bond and there was no way to get out of jail….SO I CONTINUALLY PRAYED AND MUCH OF MY PERSONAL PROPERTY HAS NOT BEEN RETURNED TO ME INCLUDING MY HOME SECURITY ALARM SYSTEM THAT I paid the Mesa Police Department 2 permits to have permission to have it installed. One for BURGLARY and the other for PANIC.
    I am in Mojave COUNTY now suing Maricopa County and the City of Mesa and waiting for another letter to be mailed to me by the Department ofb Justice. Just recently 2 days or so ago I was able to get some of my contacts back through Facebook and learned that that it was Klee who was chained to the bulldozer…My friend Sergio who is a member of the Hualapai Tribe told me someone did that but he doesn’t know Klee yet. Sergio works for The Skywalk and I saw him when I went there on Mother’s Day, last month. My prayor’s are with God to protect the mountain as always. Please let me informed.

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