Forest Service Threatens Legal Implications and Assault of Sacred Fire at Sacred/Holy Peaks Ceremony




Friday, July 6, 2012

Brett Ramey
Phone: (928) 310-8059
Email: brett@liverealnow.org

Forest Service Threatens Legal Implications and Assault of Sacred Fire at Sacred/Holy Peaks Ceremony

*Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council Statement attached.

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — U.S. Forest Service officials have threatened Indigenous spiritual leaders, medicine people, and elders with legal implications if they keep alive the sacred fire at a ceremony on the sacred/holy San Francisco Peaks.

Although a voluntary closure order for the Traditional Cultural Gathering was previously granted by Coconino Forest Supervisor M. Earl Stewart, Stewart apparently changed his position and issued the threat as the four day ceremony was initiated on July 4th, 2012.

When confronted by Forest Service officials, members of the Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council, the group hosting the Traditional Cultural Gathering, invited Forest Service officials to sit with elders to resolve the Forest Service’s concerns with the ceremonial  fire. Coconino Forest Supervisor Stewart stated in a letter dated July 5, 2012, “non-compliance will result in citations for having a fire during restrictions and/or camping in a closure area without a special use permit.”

Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council had worked to inform the Coconino National Forest of this ceremony since December 2011 and again met with Coconino Tribal Relations on February 27 and June 21 of 2012 to answer questions and to make sure the Forest Service was fully aware of the Council’s activities.

On May 17, 2012, the Forest Service was notified that a sacred fire was central to the Traditional Cultural Gathering.

The Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council is calling for support to address this serious disruption and violation of the Traditional Cultural Gathering. Please call and email the following Forest Service officials and urge them not to assault and desecrate the sacred fire:

M. Earl Stewart Coconino Forest Supervisor
Phone: (928) 527-3600
Email: estewart@fs.fed.us

Corbin Newman Regional Forester
U.S. Forest Service, Southwest Region
333 Broadway SE Albuquerque, NM

Janie Hipp Senior Adviser for Tribal Affairs USDA
Email: janie.hipp@osec.usda.gov

Contact President Obama and urge him to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to support “legal protections for sacred places and cultural traditions, including Native ancestors burial grounds and churches.”

President Obama:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Online Comments: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments



Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples

Formal Statement

July 6, 2012

“The Creator gave the Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People Laws to follow and responsibilities to care for all Creation.  These instructions have been passed down from generation to generation from the beginning of Creation.  It is the Law that no one can overpower the Creator’s Law, you are a part of Creation, thus if you break the Law, you are destroying yourself.


We speak on behalf of all Creation: the four legged/those that swim/those that crawl/those that fly/those that burrow in the Earth/the plant and tree Nations.  This one life system includes the elements of fire, water, earth and air, the living environment of “Mother Earth”.


The Sanctity of the Creator’s Law has been broken.  The balance of life has been disrupted.  You come into life as a sacred being.  If you abuse the sacredness of your life then you affect all Creation.  The future of all life is now in jeopardy.


We have now reached the crossroads.  As Aboriginal Indigenous People we ask you to work with us to save the future of all Creation.”

The Holy/Sacred Ceremonial Fire unites us as Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People on our threatened Holy/Sacred Mountain (San Francisco Peaks) on July 4-7th 2012.

The holy/sacred ceremonial fire renews our connection to all Creation, it carries our prayers and represents all life. When it pertains to our ceremony or ceremonial fire it is imperative for the Forest Service to acknowledge that the Indigenous Peoples are the sole authority on our culture and way of life and any decisions that do not attain our free, prior and informed consent are not consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A great urgency is in our midst with the wind, water and fire showing it’s power because of the imbalance from over management. As these fires burn, throughout the west and around the world, they are forever disrupting and destroying not only homes of the two-legged, but also many lives and homes of the animal, plant and tree Nations.

After much time spent on educating the Forest Service on the importance of our role as the Original Caretakers of this Land. We feel great sadness for the Forest Service as they have given the Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council no choice. The choice to violate our own cultural protocols or face legal implications is not consistent with creating a working relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The holy/sacred fire will continue. We refuse to participate in this atrocity; it is up to the Forest Service to determine whether they will disrupt these prayers. We will have no part in this act! Our prayers are to protect the sanctity of the threatened sacred/holy mountain including forgiving those that continue to desecrate life. We are spiritual people and we maintain peace through our ceremonies.

We are united under the Creator’s Law. We are from various Indigenous Nations and are spiritually related. We have been placed on our lands as Aboriginal Indigenous Nations of the People with sacred instructions and responsibilities placed within us by the Creator to follow the Laws of the Creator. Federal agencies use terms like federally recognized and federally unrecognized. We see this as your way of dividing the Indigenous Peoples.  We are united under the Creator’s Law, as United Indigenous Nations, to protect and extend Life for all future generations.


Chief, Arvol Looking Horse
19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
Spiritual Leader
Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations


Bobby C. Billie
Clan Leader and Spiritual Leader
Council of the Original Miccosukee
Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People


  1. Christine Prat

    July 6, 2012 at 9:38 AM

  2. jpwade – For What It's Worth


    July 10, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Thank you for your letter and inquiry regarding the Indigenous Elders and Medicine Peoples Council and actions taken by the Forest Service to restrict use of fire during a recent ceremony held by the Council.

    The Coconino National Forest became aware of the July 4-7 ceremony several months beforehand, and immediately began working with Shawn Mulford, the key organizer of the ceremony, to coordinate logistics and possible times and locations for the ceremony.

    Upon arriving, Mr. Mulford insisted on a specific location, which was located in an area that was associated with the Schultz Fire and closed in June 2011 due to a large buildup of hazardous fuels and increased threat of a wildfire.

    As is the normal protocol for any person or group desiring to camp in a closed area, the Coconino National Forest worked with Mr. Mulford to develop a Special Use Permit that would allow them to camp in the closed area for their ceremony. Mr. Mulford refused to sign the permit, so no permit was actually issued.

    Due to extreme fire danger and dry forest conditions, many national forests in the southwest, and also tribal lands, entered Stage 2 Fire Restrictions in June (Stage 2 is an increased level of restrictions due to extremely dry conditions that prohibit fire of any kind across the forest, as the smallest spark or ember in such conditions can create a wildfire).

    Knowing of the importance of the ceremony, the Forest Service notified Mr. Mulford in June of the restrictions, and numerous attempts were made by the Forest Service to work with Mr. Mulford to accommodate the Council’s ceremony and offer alternate locations and times—in a place and during a time when extreme fire danger and threat to the surrounding community was not a concern. Mr. Mulford resisted any offers and maintained that the ceremony must be held at the closed location and that fire be allowed.

    When told that he could not have a fire, Mr. Mulford refused to notify the rest of the Council of the fire restriction and insisted that the Forest Supervisor notify the Council in person when they gathered for the ceremony. The Forest Supervisor did meet with the Council and notify them of the fire restrictions and reasons for such, also delivering a copy of the Closure Order and Fire Restrictions, once again offering to work toward an alternate location where perhaps the fire might not be a threat.

    For weeks, and even for the first two days of the ceremony, the Forest Service tried to engage in discussions, requesting that the Council follow current fire restrictions for the safety of the community, as there was a current 7,600-acre wildfire in the southern part of the national forest and conditions were still extremely dangerous. Mr. Mulford and the Council insisted on maintaining a fire, and since all offers were refused, the Forest Service had no choice but to extinguish the fire and issue a citation to Mr. Mulford.

    We respect and honor the Council’s desire to hold their ceremony as well as their cultural and religious rights, and we have worked to try to find an alternate location and time for the ceremony since it includes fire during a time of extreme fire danger and fire restrictions to the public.

    In addition, there have been multiple ceremonies held by different tribes in the last couple of months that the Forest Service has worked closely with who have refrained from using fire due to the extreme danger.

    We must often make tough decisions such as closing an area to any camping and fire and understand this is a difficult decision for the Council to accept. However, the protection of the Coconino National Forest and public health and safety is our goal. We are duty bound to protect and preserve our country’s forest and the communities that live in and around it.

    Craig J. Johnson, M.A.

    Tribal Relations Specialist / Archaeologist

    Coconino National Forest Supervisor’s Office

    1824 South Thompson Street

    Flagstaff, Arizona 86001


  3. robyn langford

    July 12, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    this cannot be allowed. The American Indians have been treated very badly from when settlers first appeared in their country. The invaders have systematically taken the land, the language, the very essence of the Indian Nations. This is the 21st century. the world is watching . Time to stop these atrocities. You are living in a dying culture (white) and will only survive if you work and cooperate with the Native peoples of the land.

Add your comments (racist, sexist, & trans/homophobic comments will not be published) Cancel reply

Popular Posts

Exit mobile version