Indigenous Peoples Denied Access to Sacred Site as Ski Area Opens with Sewage Snow
Friday, November, 16, 2018, from www.protectthepeaks.org
Flagstaff, AZ — Continuing years of ecological destruction, threats to public health, and desecration and assault on Indigenous Peoples’ ways of life, Arizona Snowbowl ski area opened with snow made from millions of gallons of 100% treated sewage today. Police blockaded parts of the San Francisco Peaks, a mountain in Northern Arizona held sacred by more than 13 Indigenous Nations and managed by the US Forest Service as public lands. They threatened to arrest anyone without a ski pass who attempted to access the area. Snowbowl supporters also attempted to assault demonstrators.
Approximately 20 people gathered to offer prayers at 7:30am this morning at the base of Snowbowl Road while four law enforcement vehicles patrolled and surveilled the prayer circle.
As the group went up the mountain they were followed by law enforcement. Multiple people were pulled over and harassed for supposed minor traffic offenses.
A little more than a mile from Snowbowl ski area, people got out of their cars and walked up the mountain singing, carrying banners and prayer staffs.
Ray Ray, who lead the demonstration in prayer up the mountain, stated, “Am I not allowed to pray and go to the Sacred Mountain that my ancestors and that my people have been praying to long before this was considered America? That a sacred space can be privatized by a company that pays for my religious rights to be taken away, for my freedom of speech to be taken away, is tyranny and malice from the company, the employees, the security and patrons of Snowbowl.”
Support vehicles were pulled over and threatened with tickets for “impeding traffic” even though they were following the walkers to ensure their safety.
More than 20 law enforcement agents from varying agencies including the “State Gang Task Force” were patrolling the ski area as the group arrived.
Law enforcement agents including a US Forest Service Ranger blockaded the walkway with a sign to the only ski run Snowbowl was able to open and threatened anyone without a ski pass with arrest for “trespassing.” The sign read, “Ski pass required beyond this point. All sledding prohibited. No pedestrians on ski slopes.”
“This is our sacred mountain, our church, how can we be trespassing? How can you restrict access to public lands?” asked Klee Benally, volunteer with Protectthepeaks.org, to Coconino County Sheriffs and the Forest Service Ranger, “Where does the public land end? What gives you the right to restrict access to my church?” Benally asked but the agents refused to respond to the question. The County Sheriff replied, “If you cross that sign, you will be arrested.”
When asked again where the public lands ended and why Indigenous Peoples couldn’t freely walk on the mountain, the Forest Service Ranger stated, “You can figure that out in court.”
Sheriff’s then started checking if everyone walking through the area had ski passes.
Vontrivia Zee, a Flagstaff resident who joined the prayer gathering and demonstration stated, “The cops really didn’t have the knowledge of why we couldn’t go on the mountain. They were violating our rights.”
“At 25 and as a Native woman, I see and feel the struggle of my people and racism within Bordertown Flagstaff.” stated Tylene Halfmoon, “I felt I owe it to my ancestors, and all the indigenous people out there suffering from homelessness, drug and alcohol dependence, broken homes, domestic violence, people being targeted by police for simply being brown, and for my grandmas who lived that hard life back then. All in all, today gave me hope that there are still people out there that care and this is something that will need to continued and taught to our future generations, so that they can understand we are not a weak people: we are strong, tough, resilient, and we are still here even after they tried to kill us all off with mass genocide.” stated Halfmoon.
“From our water, to our earth, to our air to the very stance that we take upon the earth. They want to take that away.” stated Ray.
“As a Muslim, I recognize the value of sacred sites because we have our own in my religion. To see this mountain be continuously desecrated for capitalist profits and to totally go against wishes of 13 Indigenous Nations who have been here for tens of thousands of years or more before this so called country was ever created.” stated Sumayyah Dawud, who came from Phoenix to offer support. “It’s unacceptable what they’re doing and so this is why I came today and why I’ve come in the past and will keep coming to stand up against this colonial abuse and state violence and capitalist oppression. We are facing catastrophic climate change and what they are doing to this mountain with this sewage snow is contributing to the violence against the earth.”
Snowbowl supporters yelled racist statements at the group throughout the morning.
As the group stood their ground holding banners and chanting, two Snowbowl supporters attempted to push through the crowd and assault the demonstrators. They responded quickly by defending their friends and chanting.
“I experienced at this event so many levels of violence and oppression against people standing for their survival.” stated Mary Begay, a lifelong Flagstaff resident and volunteer Mountain Protector, “We were walking through the desecration as we were restricted from our movement by law enforcement who were there only protecting the company and their profit. Mountain protectors were constantly being verbally assaulted by skiers and two female mountain protectors were assaulted physically by a man who forcefully swung the sharp edge of his snowboard at our faces and would have seriously injured them if they had not blocked it with their hands in time. We will not be intimidated by police or racist Snowbowl supporters. When sacred sites and cultural survival is under attack, we must fight back.” stated Begay.
Snowbowl is the only ski area in the world to make snow from treated sewage. They are allowed to use 180 million gallons of treated sewage per season by the US Forest Service. The effluent is piped up the mountain from the City of Flagstaff who maintains a contract to sell the wastewater to the ski area.
“That people are choosing to pay to ski on what amounts to a frozen river of treated sewage is ridiculous.” stated Eva Malis. “This wastewater has been proven to contain harmful contaminants and cancer causing agents, and the EPA does not require testing or treatment for pharmaceuticals or hormones that have been found in this effluent.”
Snowbowl has long been controversial due to their presence on the San Francisco Peaks. The ski area operates under a special use permit on public lands managed by the US Forest Service. For decades they have been subject to multiple lawsuits that have shaped legal precedent for Indigenous religious freedom and sacred sites.
The Forest Service approved ski area expansion and treated sewage snowmaking in 2005.
Lawsuits by environmental groups and Indigenous Nations ultimately failed and Snowbowl started making treated sewage snow in 2012. The Hopi Tribe is currently in litigation with the City of Flagstaff over the city’s contract to sell wastewater to snowbowl with an Arizona Supreme Court decision on the case coming any day.
For more information: www.protectthepeaks.org
Photos credit: www.protectthepeaks.org
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Ox Sam Camp Raid Update: One Arrested as Prayer Tipis Are Bulldozed and Ceremonial Items Confiscated
Thursday, June 8th, 2023
Contact: Ox Sam Camp
THACKER PASS, NV — On Wednesday morning, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s department on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation, raided the Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun (Ox Sam Indigenous Women’s Camp), destroying the two ceremonial tipi lodges, mishandling and confiscating ceremonial instruments and objects, and extinguishing the sacred fire that has been lit since May 11th when the Paiute/Shoshone Grandma-led prayer action began.
One arrest took place on Wednesday at the direction of Lithium Nevada security. A young Diné female water protector was handcuffed with no warning and loaded into a windowless, pitch-black box in the back of a pickup truck. “I was really scared for my life,” the woman said. “I didn’t know where I was or where I was going, and I know that MMIW is a real thing and I didn’t want to be the next one.” She was transported to Humboldt County Jail, where she was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest, then released on bail.
Just hours before the raid, Ox Sam water protectors could be seen for the second time this week bravely standing in the way of large excavation equipment and shutting down construction at the base of Sentinel Rock.
To many Paiute and Shoshone, Sentinel Rock is a “center of the universe,” integral to many Nevada Tribes’ way of life and ceremony, as well as a site for traditional medicines, tools, and food supply for thousands of years. Thacker Pass is also the site of two massacres of Paiute and Shoshone people. The remains of the massacred ancestors have remained unidentified and unburied since 1865, and are now being bulldozed and crushed by Lithium Nevada for a mineral known as “the new white gold.”
Since May 11th, despite numerous requests by Lithium Nevada workers, the Humboldt County Sheriff Department has been reticent and even unwilling to arrest members of the prayer camp, even after issuing three warnings for blocking Pole Creek Road access to Lithium Nevada workers and sub-contractors, while allowing the public to pass through.
“We absolutely respect your guys’ right to peacefully protest,” explained Humboldt County Sheriff Sean Wilkin on May 12th. “We have zero issues with [the tipi] whatsoever… We respect your right to be out here.”
On March 19th the Sheriff arrived again, serving individual fourteen-day Temporary Protection Orders against several individuals at camp. The protection orders were granted by the Humboldt County Court on behalf of Lithium Nevada based on sworn statements loaded with misrepresentations, false claims, and, according to those targeted, outright false accusations by their employees. Still, Ox Sam Camp continued for another week. The tipis, the sacred fire, and the prayers occurred for a total of twenty-seven days of ceremony and resistance.
The scene at Thacker Pass this week looked like Standing Rock, Line 3, or Oak Flat, as Lithium Nevada’s workers and heavy equipment tried to bulldoze and trench their way through the ceremonial grounds surrounding the tipi at Sentinel Rock, and water protectors put their bodies in the way of the destruction, forcing work stoppage on two occasions.
Observers stated that Lithium Nevada’s head of security was directing the Sheriff’s deputies where to go and what to do during the raid.
Lithium Nevada’s ownership and control of Thacker Pass only exists because of the flawed permitting and questionable administrative approvals issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM officials have refused to acknowledge that Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred site to regional Tribal Nations, and have continued to downplay and question the significance of the double massacre through two years of court battles.
Three tribes — the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, and Burns Paiute Tribe — remain locked in litigation with the Federal Government for permitting the mine. The tribes filed their latest response to the BLM’s Motion to Dismiss on Monday. BLM is part of the Department of the Interior which is led by Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo).
On Wednesday, at least five Sheriff’s vehicles, several Lithium Nevada worker vehicles, and two security trucks arrived at the original tipi site that contained the ceremonial fire, immediately adjacent to Pole Creek Road. One camper was arrested without warning, and others were issued with trespass warnings and allowed to leave the area. Once the main camp was secured, law enforcement then moved up to the tipi site at Sentinel Rock, a mile away.
There is a proper way to take down a tipi and ceremonial camp, and then there is the way Humboldt County Sheriffs proceeded on behalf of Lithium Nevada Corporation. Tipis were knocked down, tipi poles were snapped, and ceremonial objects and instruments were rummaged through, mishandled, and impounded. Empty tents were approached and secured in classic SWAT-raid fashion. One car was towed.
As is often the case when lost profits lead to government assaults on peaceful water protectors, Lithium Nevada Corporation and the Humboldt County Sheriffs have begun to claim that the raid was done for the safety of the camp members and for public health.
Josephine Dick (Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone), who is a descendent of Ox Sam and one of the matriarchs of Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun, made the following statement in response to the raid:
“As Vice Chair of the Native American Indian Church of the State of Nevada, and as a Paiute-Shoshone Tribal Nation elder and member, I am requesting the immediate access to and release of my ceremonial instruments and objects, including my Eagle Feathers and staff which have held the prayers of my ancestors and the Ox Sam camp since the beginning. There was also a ceremonial hand drum and medicines such as cedar and tobacco, which are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
In addition, my understanding is that Humboldt County Sherriffs along with Lithium Nevada security desecrated two ceremonial tipi lodges, which include canvasses, poles, and ropes. The Ox Sam Newe Momokonee Nokutun has been conducting prayers and ceremony in these tipis which are also protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. When our ceremonial belongings are brought together around the sacred fire, this is our church. Our Native American church is a sacred ceremony. I am demanding the immediate access to our prayer site at Peehee Mu’huh and the return of our confiscated ceremonial objects.
The desecration that Humboldt County Sherriffs and Lithium Nevada conducted by knocking the tipis down and rummaging through sacred objects is equivalent to taking a bible, breaking The Cross, knocking down a cathedral, disrespecting the sacrament, and denying deacons and pastors access to their places of worship, in direct violation of my American Indian Religious Freedom rights. This violation of access to our ceremonial church and the ground on which it sits is a violation of Executive Order 13007.
The location of the tipi lodge that was pushed over and destroyed is at the base of Sentinel Rock, a place our Paiute-Shoshone have been praying since time immemorial. After two years of our people explaining that Peehee Mu’huh is sacred, BLM Winnemucca finally acknowledged that Thacker Pass is a Traditional Cultural District, but they are still allowing it to be destroyed.”
Josephine and others plan to make a statement on live stream outside the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office in Winnemucca on the afternoon of Friday, June 9th around 1pm.
Another spiritual leader on the front lines has been Dean Barlese from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Barlese led prayers at the site on April 25th which led to Lithium Nevada shutting down construction for a day, and returned on May 11th to pray over the new sacred fire as Ox Sam camp was established.
“This is not a protest, it’s a prayer,” said Barlese. “But they’re still scared of me. They’re scared of all of us elders, because they know we’re right and they’re wrong.”
Thacker Pass is located in northern Nevada near the Oregon border, where Lithium Nevada Corporation is in the first phase of building a $2 billion open-pit lithium mine which would be the largest of its kind in North America. The lithium is mainly destined for General Motors Corporation’s electric car batteries, which the corporation laughably claims is “green.” Mine opponents call this greenwashing and have stated that “it’s not green to blow up a mountain.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has granted Lithium Nevada corporation and all other business corporations a whole variety of constitutional “rights” that were never meant for business entities. Without these special so-called corporate “rights,” the mine owners would never have been allowed to construct this mine.
Three Native American tribes filed a new lawsuit against the Federal Government over Lithium Nevada Corporation’s planned Thacker Pass lithium mine on February 16, 2023, the latest legal move in the two-and-a-half-year struggle over mining, greenwashing, and sacred land in northern Nevada.
The Tribes notified the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 19th that they mean to appeal their Motion seeking a Preliminary Injunction which was rejected by a lower court in early March. Four environmental groups which lost their case in January have also appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and are expected to be heard in June.
O’odham Executed by Border Patrol: Statement by Raymond Mattia Family
Raymond Mattia of the Tohono O’odham Nation was executed by US border patrol agents on May 18th at his home. He was reportedly shot 38 times.
A peaceful gathering to support all victims of the
unmonitored violent actions of the Border Patrol and other agencies will be held at The Border
Patrol Station in Why, Az, and Tucson on Golf Links Road this Saturday, May 27th, from
For more information please visit: https://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2023/05/us-border-patrol-shoots-tohono-oodham.html
Statement by Mattia Raymond’s family:
We have been trying to find the strength to write this statement. This tragedy is so
grievous because it is apparent what had happened. Raymond called for help and, in turn, was
shot down at his doorstep. Raymond’s rights were violated by the authorities whom we trust to
protect our Nation. Improper and unprofessional actions of the agencies involved were witnessed
by family members present near the crime scene. Loved ones sat in agony, not knowing of
Raymond’s condition until they were told that he had passed hours later. Raymond lay in front of
his home for seven hours before a coroner from Tucson arrived.
In our eyes and hearts, we believe that Raymond was approached with excessive and
deadly force that took his life. He was a father, brother, uncle, friend, and an involved
community member. Raymond always fought for what was right, and he will continue to fight
even after his death. This is not an isolated incident, but it should bring awareness of the
oppression our people live through.
We want to thank so many of you for your condolences and support. A GoFundMe for
defense funds will be available soon. A peaceful gathering to support all victims of the
unmonitored violent actions of the Border Patrol and other agencies will be held at The Border Patrol Station in Why, Az, and Tucson on Golf Links Road this Saturday, May 27th, from 10:00am-Noon.
Contact for support: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Intercept and Grist begin release of 50,000 TigerSwan spy documents
Article by Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Reprinted with permission.
April 14, 2023
The Intercept and Grist began releasing new TigerSwan spy documents in new coverage of the mercenaries hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline. They now have 50,000 TigerSwan spy documents, and another 9,000 are held up in the court battle for now. The documents reveal TigerSwan spying on Water Protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota, Bold Iowa, and at other locations.
Reporters Alleen Brown and Naveena Sadasivam expose the new spy documents in their article, After Spying on Standing Rock, TigerSwan Shopped Anti-Protest ‘Countinsurgency’ to Other Oil Companies.
The article follows an expensive court battle by The Intercept seeking the release of the documents. The North Dakota Supreme Court ordered the release after TigerSwan was found operating without a license in North Dakota.
“The released documents provide startling new details about how TigerSwan used social media monitoring, aerial surveillance, radio eavesdropping, undercover personnel, and subscription-based records databases to build watchlists and dossiers on Indigenous activists and environmental organizations,” The Intercept writes. Read the article at The Intercept: https://theintercept.com/2023/04/13/standing-rock-tigerswan-protests/
Paiute journalist, drone activist and filmmaker Myron Dewey was among those that TigerSwan spied on and stalked at Standing Rock 2016-2017, as revealed in the new documents that were ordered released by the court.
On Tuesday, the driver that killed Myron Dewey on an isolated road near his family’s home in Yomba, Nevada, entered a surprise plea bargain deal that was cut with a new prosecutor assigned to the case in Nye County, Nevada. John Walsh pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter.
This TigerSwan spy document, showing TigerSwan stalking Myron Dewey and Prolific the Rapper at Standing Rock on Dec. 17, 2016, is from the new documents at The Intercept. Document link: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23773105-tigerswan-document-daily-intelligence-update-20161217
Below: From the TigerSwan spy files just released: The power of the global movement, with its heart in Standing Rock.
Below: The first flood of documents show how rattled DAPL was over the involvement of celebrities, the Standing Rock Chairman at the United Nations, Bernie Sanders, the Palestinian flag flying, and big orgs. The doc is from a pitch that TigerSwan made for more work, hustling another pipeline to spy on resistance.
|Above: TigerSwan surveillance used drones and helicopters.https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23773104-tigerswan-document-daily-intelligence-update-20161014|
Above: TigerSwan spy file at Bold Iowa. The mercenaries hired by the Dakota Access Pipeline called Bold Iowa Water Protectors “belligerents.” Document link:
TigerSwan spied on, and stalked the media, including Paiute journalist Myron Dewey, Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, and myself, publisher of Censored News, as revealed in the newly released documents by The Intercept and Grist. TigerSwan used its surveillance on the media in its pitches for more spy work to other oil and pipeline companies.
TigerSwan turned its surveillance at Standing Rock into a potential money maker, using it for powerpoints in its pitches to other oil and pipeline companies for spy work.
TigerSwan even stalked the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in its high-stakes spying for dollars.
TigerSwan’s Opposition Model, shown below, was used as a potential maker in PowerPoints to other oil and pipeline companies.
The Intercept described the battle for these documents.
“A discovery request filed as part of the case forced thousands of new internal TigerSwan documents into the public record. Energy Transfer’s lawyers fought for nearly two years to keep the documents secret, until North Dakota’s Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the material falls under the state’s open records statute,” The Intercept said.
“Because an arrangement between North Dakota and Energy Transfer allows the fossil fuel company to weigh in on which documents should be redacted, the state has yet to release over 9,000 disputed pages containing material that Energy Transfer is, for now at least, fighting to keep out of the public eye.”
TigerSwan spy documents on Water Protectors
Note: The documents show that TigerSwan spied on Censored News, as shown in today’s article at The Intercept.
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